Ahead of their Offset Festival stage in Dublin last week, I caught up with alt-folk-rock quartet, Orchid Collective (consisting of David O’Shea, Shea Tohill, Brian Rooney and Hugh O’Neill), to gain an insight into their band, their thoughts on what it means to be original in music today and how Dublin is one of the greatest cities on earth.
Orchid Collective caught my attention the other week when music venue, Whelans, announced a sold-out show for the launch of their latest single: ‘Lay As Stone’. I don’t know about you, but following music venues on social media can sometimes be an excellent way of discovering new artists. Especially when there are hundreds of flipping strong acts out there, going frustratingly unnoticed, though I doubt I’m alone in feeling aggravated by this?
So when I discovered I was missing out on Orchid Collective’s gig I was pretty mad, you only have to have to listen to their organic, textured single: ‘Lay As Stone’, to feel these are very much a live band. Their guitaring hooked me from the start, convincing me these were a band to keep tabs on.
Would you mind talking me through the band’s origins – did you all meet at Dublin’s music college (BIMM)?
Yeah we all studied together in the music college BIMM Dublin, three of us are graduating this year and I (Shea) graduated last year. It’s funny looking back now but Dave our singer posted a thread looking to start a band in the BIMM Facebook forum when we started the course. I replied and me and Dave started meeting up and writing songs and jamming a few ideas. Soon we started gigging the local open mic circuit. We soon got our drummer Brian on board and built a seven piece band around us. We toured Ireland and played a few festivals with this line up but quickly realised that touring with such a big band was impractical. Last year we found our bass player Hugh and we haven’t looked back since!
What was that experience like, do you think that the training always had you unconsciously aiming to ‘make it’ as a band?
BIMM Dublin is a great college and it provides advice and training on all area’s of the music industry. Without studying in BIMM we would never have became a band! It helps you carve a path to “making it’’ as a band but not in a Fame Academy sense. The tutors make us very aware that the music industry is a very difficult industry to make a career in, but if you put the work in and with the right amount of luck things can start to take shape. They provide great advice and encouragement and what we are doing now as final years is to try and apply that advice in the real world.
Have you all been in similar sounding outfits pre-Orchid Collective? Or have you jumped about the genres? Would you say the sound you’ve got today has taken a while to shape and how would you describe your sound?
Our singer Dave used to be in a pop-punk band, Brian and Hugh are heavily influenced by Michael Jackson and John Mayer. Hugh is a songwriter in his own right and I used to play in a grunge band! Don’t ask how we came to sounding like Orchid Collective… We all bonded through a love of folk music and harmonies, we are all big fans of Fleet Foxes, Local Natives and Bon Iver. The sound we have comes quite naturally, we all gel really well as a band. Our press release says we’re an alternative folk band but we’ll let you, the listener decide. There’s too many genres to choose from these days!
When it comes to the writing process, what do you find comes first, the lyrics or the musical arrangement?
Quite often Dave comes with the bare bones of a song on the acoustic guitar and a handful of lyrics. As a band we build around that, adding our own ideas and shaping it into an ‘Orchid Collective’ song. Other times we bring our own melodic ideas and we write around these. We have a back log of little ideas we hope to turn into songs, you might hear some on our next EP who knows!
Do you find that there’s any difference between writing poetry and lyrics?
I’ll let Dave answer this one…I think the only difference between writing poetry and lyrics is that when I approach lyrics they are written to fit the melody therefore having to say more or less depending on the structure of the song. With poetry you have more freedom on how much you want to say in the piece of work by not being restricted by any length of time or rhythm.
In Dublin, you’re so fortunate to have everything on your doorstep; the city, the mountains and the beach…plenty of space to escape to, is there a favourite sanctuary you go to write?
Yeah Dublin is a beautiful city. We would probably venture out to the Dublin Mountains to write if the weather was a bit better but usually we just find we write in our bedrooms looking at the rain from our windows!
Do you find that living amongst such beauty is almost taken for granted, sometimes?
Yeah definitely! We always chat about this, we think if you were a tourist visiting Dublin it would definitely be up there with the greatest cities on earth. It’s a beautiful city with lots of things happening but living in it we often take it for granted.
Congratulations on selling out Whelans for your first single launch the other week! I bet you can’t wait to share your first EP? I’m itching to know when we can expect that?!
Thank you! Yeah that was definitely our favourite show to date. You can expect the new EP in late September/ early October. We are currently in pre production and we’re hitting the studio this summer. We can’t wait to share it all with you!
That’s fantastic news, and for the year ahead, what else can we look forward to?
We have a few festivals confirmed for this summer ahead of releasing the new EP in the Autumn. We’re planning on touring pretty hard until the end of the year and I think a trip across the pond to the UK is on the horizon later in the year. We have loads of exciting things in store!
If you were to tour with a band of choice, who would be up there and why?
Bon Iver, Half Moon Run, Local Native’s, Fleet Foxes, The Tallest Man on Earth… any of our influences really, it’s hard to choose one!
What do you think it takes to be original in music today?
There’s so much music these days and so many genre’s and sub-genre’s it’s quite difficult to be ‘original’ anymore. Our outlook is taking something that is already there and putting your own stamp on it is enough to create originality in this day in age.
How difficult do you all find it is to get recognised as a musician? Surely it’s harder than ever, and everyone is after the same end goal, there must be moments when you become disillusioned, but what/who has given you the most confidence to pursue ‘Orchid Collective’?
It’s very difficult but we’re all quite focused on trying to make something of this band! We’ve had our down days but the highlights hugely outweigh these. We’ve recently started working with a manager who has encouraged us even further that there could be a career in the Orchid Collective for us.
That’s really positive, aside from working with a really great manager, what other moments have been particular highlights for the band?
Releasing Lay As Stone to a sold out Whelan’s if definitely up there. Just the reception to our latest single has been pretty amazing so far!
What advice would you give to budding musicians, like yourselves, needing to get the recognition they deserve?
Just be yourselves! If you put the work in it really does pay off and hopefully it will continue to pay off for us!
Absolutely, being true to yourself is probably the best recommendation you could give! And finally, before you go, are there any musical recommendations you’d like to share with us?
There’s some brilliant Irish music coming out at the moment. Check out Saint Sister, Wyvern Lingo, Ex – Magician, All Tvvins. There’s loads of new Irish music, it’s a great time to be part of the scene.