When it comes to musical creativity there seems to be a certain je ne sais quoi about certain regions which continuously produce a specific genre defined talent.
For example, when we look cross-channel it tends to be England’s harsh and industrial North which springs to mind – Liverpool and Manchester historically at the forefront. On our side of the pond we only need venture across the border to tap into the natural spring of musical inspiration, whether by way of wonderful geographical quirk or genetic twist which emanates outward from Belfast, they just have it – it’s in the blood.
Ciaran Lavery hails from the sleepy country hamlet of Aghagallon. With two successful EPs in the shape of You Will Be A Stranger Now and The Making Of Things, plus the highly acclaimed Not Nearly Dark album already under his belt, it’s blindingly clear to see that wherever this pool of inspiration is, it ain’t about to run dry anytime soon.
Lavery, described recently as an ‘alt-folk troubadour’, has just released his third EP, Kosher – a superb five-track collection which highlights beautifully exactly what the Northern Irishman is all about. Wonderfully upbeat, laced with those summary clanging guitar sounds and the trademark hushed vocal, Kosher will leave you wanting to know more about its origins and the man behind it. It’s the kind of music which more than lends itself to the festival scene – it has an overriding expressive quality which becomes a raw, captivating charm when performed live. And when it comes to expression, look no further than the video for lead track Left For America. Starring the brilliant Ro Graham, its functionality springs from the fact that it is (from perhaps a sideways view) completely relatable, and the same can be said for every track in terms of delivery and meaning.
The EP feels extremely personal from start to end. Lavery writes from his own perspective, but more than a lyrical master class, there’s a unique flow to his writing which suits his soft, hushed – almost regional tone perfectly. The result is a chemistry which is quite resounding. Stand out track Orphan rounds off the record with an energy and excitement which has been building from the onset. It’s upbeat, uptempo and to the point – perhaps the perfect illustration of the artist.
And so, if Kosher does indeed leave you wanting to know more, then it’s a case of mission accomplished for Ciaran Lavery. And as we wait expectantly for the next offering, Live and Die in Music have managed to track down the Aghagallon man to get his take on the EP, video and everything behind both!
Here’s our Ciaran Lavery interview in full:
LADIM: We really enjoyed Kosher! It feels wonderfully descriptive and personal. When you compile an EP such as this, do you sit and write with a direction in mind, perhaps following on from your previous work? Or is it more a case of seeing where the record takes you?
CL: There were a few certainties that I had before I went in to work on Kosher. One was that I wanted it to sound different to anything previous, the other was that it had to make people’s head nod or feet tap. The songwriting was already different, brighter than anything I had before. Months before going in to record, I knew whatever songs made the cut for Kosher had to all be beat driven. I was on a strict diet of hip hop and Beck during the whole process just so I didn’t stray from the original idea.
LADIM: If you were to reflect upon Not Nearly Dark, You Will Be A Stranger Now and The Making Of Things, where do you think you are now in terms of your development with regard to writing and performing, especially when it comes to the new EP?
CL: I guess I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I always admired artists who didn’t have a filter on their lyrical content but never thought I was ever brave enough. It doesn’t bother me now – although I’ll likely never release anything as close to the bone as Sun Kil Moon’s Benji. I spent a year playing solo shows, really homing in on working with an audience and using space to my advantage, and now working with a full band the sound is a whole lot bolder. So I try to marry both elements of what I’ve been doing. If anything, that’s interesting!
LADIM: I’d like to ask you about the video to Left For America. Many of us will relate to the opening and closing scenes as we sit daydreaming in offices and classrooms around the country! Was that an idea which came from a personal experience of your own?
CL: I think everyone can relate to that kind of situation at some point in their life. As a songwriter I live a lot in my head anyway, so it’s not alien to me. I just wanted to work with a simple idea that could hold people’s attention for three minutes to be honest – the response has been overwhelming!
LADIM: The video is wonderfully expressive, everything from the dancing right through to the tattoos. Can you tell us a little about what the video means to you? Also, I wondered if the mirrors carried any significance?
CL: The star of the video is Ro Graham, no doubt about that. The way he expresses himself is class. The work done by him and director ROC was first class and I’m entirely indebted to both lads. I think it’s wonderfully expressive, and though it has no direct link to the lyrics of the song, they do work perfectly together – perhaps it has a lot to do with how it’s shot. I’d love to say there’s a hidden meaning behind the use of the mirrors but it was just another angle to capture Ro’s slick moves!
LADIM: We touched upon how personal the EP feels to the listener, but just how personal is it to you? Are you writing from your own perspective?
CL: To some extent I am, it’s hard not to. At the same time I rarely sit down and plan consciously, say certain things. Kosher is based a lot around memories I have of growing up and there are references here and there. I have to leave a little bit of mystery in there too of course.
LADIM: You come from a part of the world which keeps on producing musical talent, this has to be more than coincidence! What’s in the water up there?!
CL: I have no idea but I agree with you 100% – music up here is very much going through a purple patch. What’s even more interesting is the fact that a lot of it is based outside of the city. Being based in the country, there’s a certain amount of pride in that too.
LADIM: Finally, you already have a hugely impressive body of work under your belt, but what can we expect from Ciaran Lavery in the future?
CL: I will be busy with festivals over the summer and likely adding shows to the schedule over the next few months. I like to stay busy, so recording won’t be too far away either!
Catch Ciaran Lavery this summer at Forfey Festival, Stendhal Festival of Arts and the Hilden Beer and Music Festival amongst others!
The superb new EP Kosher is available right now – in the meantime, check out that superb video Left For America right here!