BLURT’S BEST KEPT SECRET #15: Preachers Son

The luck of the Irish; how to channel Led Zep,
Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen; and… the bed Michael Jackson slept in?!?

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

As previously
announced, the latest selection in our Blurt/Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret”
series
of new or under-the-radar artists is Preachers Son, from Dublin, Ireland
– our 15th BKS, in fact, since commencing the program back in 2008.

 

Preachers Son
comprises multiinstrumentalist/vocalist Brian Hogan (also bassist with Meteor
Award-winning band Kila) and drummer/vocalist Emmaline Duffy-Fallon (late of
Engine Alley, who also notched considerable acclaim in the early/mid ‘90s). The
name refers to Hogan’s father, who was a singer and a preacher, incidentally.
They got together in 2009 and quickly started picking up press for their
hi-nrg, at times atmospheric, at other times rootsy, sound, which the musicians
themselves describe as being “like a David Byrne, Scott
Walker collaboration, or Queen’s greatest hits circa 1980 vs Morrison Hotel. A Led Zeppelin / Leonard
Cohen crossover sort of Johnny Cash, Duane Eddie, Bowie doing Talking Heads
kinda thing.”

 

It’s
a truism that one should never trust an artist to describe his or her music,
but in this case – wow. Among the key tracks dotting their spectacular Dave Bascombe-mixed
debut Love Life and Limb (released
last October) are “26 Years,” which does indeed suggest the improbably Led
Zep/Cohen blend (due in no small part to Hogan’s impossibly deep, resonant
voice); first single “X For Sandra,” which marries Bowie drama to a kind of
Exene/John Doe vocal parry-and-thrust vibe; “Should Have Been Gone,” a
minor-chord, strings-powered country twanger which taps the aforementioned
Johnny Cash influence; and “Lipstick,” a moody, swampy slice of gothic noir
featuring guest vocals from Gavin Friday. And wait’ll you hear their raucous,
street rumble of a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”
(Duffy-Fallon takes lead vocal on that one, natch).

 

The
band is reportedly a dynamo in concert, frequently joined on stage by guest
musicians including Tabby Callaghan (X-Factor), Kieran Kennedy (Black Velvet
Band, Hothouse Flowers) and Shane Fitzsimons (Lisa Hannigan, Damien Rice, Paddy
Casey). Here’s hoping we can get them over to these shores in the near future.

 

More
recently Preachers Son unveiled a new video for the track “Time of Life.” It was directed by BAFTA
award winning Neasa Hardiman, art direction by IFTA award winning Anna Rackard,
director of photography Daniel Balteanu, edited by Nathan Nugent at Screen
Scene and shot at Dublin’s
Hello Operator studio with an eclectic cast of 30 performers spanning the ages
of one to seventy eight years of age. Check it out, below, following our
interview with the band. Meanwhile,
you can get more details on the band and hear song samples at their official
website
as well as their MySpace page and Facebook page. They’re one of the
good ‘uns, trust us.

 

***

 

BLURT: First
of all, Brian, could you tell us a little about your musical background,
including your preaching/singing father who I assume was an influence, about
KILA, and how things are standing with that band and your brother Lance?

BRIAN HOGAN: I
started off with a Doors album, a Queen album, a tennis racket and a mirror. My
brother Lance had been in a band for a couple of years, so as soon as I got my
first electric guitar…. they put me on bass. I was eleven! We gigged around Dublin and soon after my
dad conscripted us into his own outfit. With my father’s band, including my
brother, cousin and sister, we gigged around Europe
at various Christian festivals, which afforded me many experiences, not all
good, but experiences never the less!

        My first professional gig was with a
country band, then, after a brief time in animation and various bands with
various successes, I joined Kíla and saw the world. Nine albums later we have
taken a well needed break for everyone to get on with their own projects – my
brother Lance is involved with several film soundtracks and some of the others
have solo projects too.

 

How about you, Emmaline?

EMMALINE
DUFFY-FALLON: I started playing drums when I was 14 years old. Up till then I
had been raised on classical music, having studied cello and piano from the age
of 7. I was becoming a teenager, I needed to hit things, so drums it was; cellos
don’t take much of a beating.  I joined
my first band Engine Alley at fifteen, auditioning in my school uniform! We got
signed to U2’s label Mother Records and went on two years later to record an
album with Steve Lillywhite which was a great experience – plus, he plays a
great game of dice. I have played in about six other bands as both a member and
as a hired gun.

 

How did the
two of you meet and start to collaborate musically?

BRIAN: I knew
about Em, as did every other musician in Ireland – she was the hot drummer
from Engine Alley and I was very interested in her. As was every other musician
in Ireland!
Later we met up in a funk band, The Pussy Assed Mutherfuckers, and engaged in
each other’s talents. When I was demoing some songs I had been writing, I
needed a hot drummer and asked her if she knew any – joke! – so at last we
hooked up, and what goes on in the rehearsal room stays in the rehearsal
room… except the music of course!

 

EMMALINE: I met
Brian and we clicked.

 

Since both
of you were already familiar to the public when you started, was it easy
getting Preachers Son off the ground and landing gigs?

BRIAN: Sometimes
it was and other times not. We’ve started from scratch, but saying that the odd
door has opened due to our past experiences, but honestly… like every new
band there is the element of paying your dues. With ten phone calls you get one
that lands a really great opportunity but that’s the business. It’s a question
of looking for ways to get yourself out there, promote the band, the music and
not to get defeated.

        The early gigs were small affairs – and
still often are – in well established low key venues, acoustic sessions where
the crowd are loyal to the venue and that particular night. We’re playing
bigger venues now, which we prefer, but sometimes just guitar and drums in a
very acoustic setting is real sweet. However, we are happiest when it’s loud.
Recently we were invited over to Canadian Music Week in Toronto
and played two really cool rock clubs with our full loud show, but on the other
hand we were brought over to Italy
for a cool indie festival where we played an acoustic set.

        It’s really important as a band to be
able to easily adapt to the musical environment.

 

Tell me a
little about the album – how it came together and the musical guests.

I’d been
writing for years, making various recordings along the way. In 2008 I just
decided to take the bull by the horns. I set up shop in the ballroom of my
great friend Marina Guinness where several Kíla albums had been recorded.
Emmaline and I had been playing together with TPAMF, and with the obvious
chemistry I asked her to join the project.

        I met Gavin Friday through a mutual
friend who was working with him, and when arranging my version of Doctor Millar’s
song “Lipstick” I thought his voice would add gravelly drama. I loved
it when he came on board. Liam Ó Maonlaoí I’ve known and played with for years
with Kíla and there is no one better on Hammond and cool vibes. Kieran Kennedy
I’ve also known for years and he had played some gigs with Preachers Son. His
Les Paul, Marshall
stack and “Son of a Preacher Man”… a terrible beauty was born!

        Song-wise, they’re all my babies, but
there’s something special and visceral about “Should Have Been Gone.”

 

What’s the
response from the public and the critics been thus far? Any famous fellow
Irishmen – Bono, for example – that have signed on as fans?

I think the
response to us has been great everywhere, though crowds do differ per country.
In Spain and Italy, for
example, they let you know if they’re into it pretty soon and if they’re with
you they’re with you. In Ireland
and England
they generally need a couple of pints before they commit emotionally… or
move! But then they’re the best. In Canada, they really like to rock
and roll so they were really responsive. Overall, press-wise it’s been very
positive, which is great.

        Everyone wants a nod from Bono. I’ve
met the chap and he’s a dude, but I don’t think he knows much about Preachers
Son, although he admired my father who interviewed him on his religious radio
show many moons before U2 were big. I know many people in the biz over here – some
are friends and some ain’t! I met Mother Theresa once but she was more into The
Carpenters…

 

How about
plans to come to the U.S.?

We’ve both
spent time in the States and love it, it’s a very big and diverse place.
Earlier this year we teamed up with a guy in LA who is actively shopping our
music for placements. It’s very exciting but we can’t give any more details about
that just now. Touring would be great and it’s on the cards. We shall see what
the gods offer us, U.S.-wise.

 

What’s in
store for the next record?

The second
album is shaping up just grand and we’ve loads of material ready with a couple
of songs being written as you read this. This album is much more of a
collaboration with Em and I. We’re also excited to be working with three-time
Grammy Award winning engineer, producer and mixer Marc Urselli, who’s based in New York City. Work
starts in Ireland
this June. Also, our most regular guest and guitar hero Tabby Callaghan is very
involved in the next album and the three of us have been working the new
material together at gigs and in the studio.

 

I’m assuming both of you are native Dubliners – has being from there been a help, a
hindrance or otherwise?

I live in the
inner city of Dublin,
it’s great and vibrant. I suppose Dublin is
where most of the music business exists in Ireland and is great for rehearsal
rooms, studios, venues etcetera, which makes it easier to pick up gigs or meet
other musicians. So definitely, an advantage growing up here, but these days
you could probably do just as well anywhere in Ireland. It’s a small place.

 

EMMALINE: I was
born in Dublin
but now live in the Wicklow countryside. Had too much of city life and felt
like I needed fresh air on tap and green grass as far as the eye could see. It
suits me and I’m not in any hurry to move to another city anytime soon.

 

Tell me
something about Ireland
or Irish bands that our readers might not know.

BRIAN: Well…
“The Irish talk in riddles, so as not to commit to having to know about a
thing, but to still have the facility to talk expertly about it.” But maybe
that’s not surprising. Bands-wise, people tend to leave famous rock stars alone
over here, whether they like it or not! Bono and his famous mates frequent his
local bar usually unmolested, some movie stars too. That’s why many have come
to settle here or take time out.

        I believe there is a regular tour set
up where you get to see the four poster bed where Michael Jackson stayed for
several months a few years back. I’ve sat on it – it’s very bouncy.

 

 

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