Naoise Roo, 'For You'
Info: Irish artist Naoise Roo recently released her debut solo album Lilith and will be launching it this weekend at The Twisted Pepper on Saturday night, 27th of June, with support from Galway musician Laura Sheeran and Armagh singer-songwriter DANI. Lilith has been an album that has stuck to me since its initial release. I often find that at the end of the year that my favourite music of the past 12 months is split into two camps, relatively big established international artists (within my tastes) and independent (a mix of Irish and international) acts, it's a subconscious and perhaps odd division between two self-imagined categories, I don't know why I think of the music I've listened to in the preceding year that way but there you go. Lilith happily and easily has no time for my personal neurosis and refuses to sit in either, if I didn't know Naoise Roo had just released her first album, she would end up sitting in the former, the fact that I do, should see Lilith residing in the latter, and therein has lay my intrigue and interest with the album. I was very happy to pick Naoise's brain about the new album, music in general and what the immediate future holds, and in case I forget, get your asses down to the album launch this weekend!
Naoise: I started writing songs in my teens and I had a band at one stage but
nothing fully formed came out of it. I had taken a couple of years out from gigging, then this album started to pour out bit by bit. None of the songs I wrote prior to that made it on the album bar ‘Sing To You’ which is a relatively old song that I felt deserved another shot at recording. I’ve always written alone but I feel like that could change now, I’d love to start collaborating with other artists this summer, a couple have approached me already so fingers crossed!
Remy: Your debut album Lilith came out last month and there has been a unanimous consensus from reviewers that it is a high quality work of music. Before its release how did you feel about how the album would be received, quietly confident, anxious, fingers crossed?
Naoise: Oh jeez, I was nervous. But at the same time it had been finished for
so long I’d had time to sit with it and get comfortable. Having that time meant that when the album actually came out I had adopted the attitude that whether people hated it, loved it or were indifferent to it I was secure that it was the album I wanted to make. It was beyond wonderful to read the reviews and feel like people had really enjoyed listening to the album. I am so appreciative! But at the end of the day you have to believe in the work first and try not to think too hard about how it’ll be received, just hope for the best without letting it interfere.
Naoise Roo, 'Sheets'
Remy: Your sound and that of your band has been compared by others to the likes of Radiohead, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, while I myself found strands of Anna Calvi and even Annie Lennox, to what extent to you agree with those comparisons or are there any others haven't spotted yet?
Naoise: It’s funny you mention Annie Lennox, I just picked up a ‘The Lover Speaks’ vinyl in a charity shop which has the original version of ‘No
More I Love Yous’ which is pretty much my fave AL song. I had no idea it was a cover! I plan to spend this weeks mornings drinking coffee and getting my new wave on. Everyone you listed has definitely influenced me in some way. Pablo Honey was the first album I bought (followed by every other Radiohead album), PJ Harvey I discovered in my teens and became obsessed with starting with UH HUH HER ,such a great record. While I was writing the album I was actually listening to a lot of Anna Calvis first album so good spot! I didn’t even realize it influenced me so much! I definitely do feel I’ve drawn a lot of influences from The Pixies as well. I always liked the simple repetitive nature of a lot of their basslines. Like if you listen to something simple repeated and accented in the right way, it continues to transform throughout the song. The bassline in ‘Hey’ seems to do something to my chemical make
Remy: There are many moods to be found on Lilith from dark and grungy ('Stand In Black') to softer ballads ('Almost Perfect'), uplifting anthemic rock ('Oh Son') and soulful blues ('Tie Me Up - Tie Me Down'), that's quite an array of styles which gives the impression that creative output isn't something you struggle with?
Naoise: Hahahahaha, oh I struggle! The songs just tend to be influenced by whatever im absorbing in my environment at the time. Whatever I’m listening to, watching or reading. There are a couple of tracks on the album that are film titles or adopted from film titles by directors I love. The songs probably seemed more close in style before we got into the studio. After that they sort of dictated their own individuality. They went rogue! I love so many different styles that I just cant imagine writing an album that doesn’t jump from one to the next, it
would be a wasted opportunity for me personally. But then again never say never!
Remy: Tracks like the excellent Pixies-esque 'Whore' (one of my favourites) and 'Sheets' nod toward the underbelly of human behaviour behind closed doors, is that a theme you enjoy exploring, characters that would be perhaps shunned by some elements of society?
Naoise: I find the subject of sex fascinating in all its facets. Psychologically sex is something that affects us all differently and something our attitudes may change with situationally. It’s a cover for many things, intimacy, power, frustration an expression of love. These all get played out. In 'Sheets' and 'Whore' I wanted to explore different aspects of this. Sheets is about band aid intimacy. Trying to replace an intense relationship with something meaningless. That desire to treat sex without reverence with the secret need for something deeper. 'Whore' is more about power plays. That sometimes to resign yourself to a submissive role is to be equally powerful. I wanted it to be aggressive and unrelenting in its tone while the lyrical content contrasted that. We lose our minds over what we think is appropriate in exchange for sex, we objectify women and get angry at them when they decide to capitalise on that situation. When I first saw the mugshot images of the 1940’s female prostitutes from Montreal that I used on the album cover, I saw such a wide range of emotions from being in the same situation. Defiance, defeat, boredom, anger, humour, all there, all in the face of being subject to punishment. Someone turned around and said to me ‘But they’re not attractive women’, that threw me for six because I thought, how do you get to decide who’s a sexual being or not. No one's asking you to time travel and have sex with these women! Why do you get to decide whether their position is valid based on the fact YOU don’t want to objectify them personally.
Remy: At the single launch for 'For You' at The Workman's Club back in March it was evident there is a great chemistry on stage between all of the band members, is that reflective of your relationships off-stage too?
Naoise: Absolutely! I have the serious feelings for my band, Im so lucky! They’re all talented and insanely funny. It’s a big love in really!
Remy: There's been much debate over the last few month regarding independent Irish artists and their (lack of) access to radio
airtime, have you found this to be the case in the run up and post-release of Lilith and what are your thoughts on it?
Naoise: I think its been challenging for sure. I think it’s easy to feel defeated before you begin in regards to radio if you don’t have major label backing or aren’t able to afford a PR company which myself and many others unfortunately aren’t. I’ve seen people get great success with PR and also seen it fall flat, no PR company can guarantee anything. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but considering how much money goes into the recording, mixing, mastering, duplication, etc etc it’s sometimes hard to justify that kind of money.
The problem is without that PR, it feels like radio is out of reach. Some radio
stations do great Irish shows but the fact that we live in Ireland and Irish bands are often being featured in an hour long show once a week is pretty ridiculous. It’s a merry go round that never stops. People don’t want to pay bands cause the act can’t guarantee an audience, they cant guarantee an audience because they can’t get the right exposure, they can’t get the right exposure because the major label bands get first priority. Those labels arent taking risks and mainstream media tends to follow suit. I feel like we’re fed the idea in a positive light that ‘Success can happen to you! Look at these people who’ve catapulted into fame’. That doesn’t really interest me. I feel being able to survive off your art shouldn’t be a lottery. I’d rather hear from industry heads about fifty artists being able to pay their bills rather than one artist who becomes a household name worldwide. It’s a more complicated problem that requires a careful overhaul of how we value the arts in Ireland.
Naoise Roo, 'Sing To You'
Remy: Where can we expect to see Naoise Roo and band playing over the
next while, any summer festival spots arranged yet?
Naoise: Yeah! The album launch is this Saturday 27th June at Twisted Pepper! I'm having two of my favourite artists support, Dani and Laura Sheeran. We’re gonna do the full album and have some visuals and lights, the whole shebang. Festival wise I’ll be down at Valentia Isle the 12th of July with Radiomade which is going to be beautiful!
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