IT HAS been yet another eventful year for Donegal band In Their Thousands as they prepare to bring it to a big close with a homecoming concert at An Grianán Theatre to launch of their fourth EP, Ends. Seán P. Feeny caught up with brothers Declan and Aidan McClafferty to talk about the year that was, moving instruments in the van and new experimental sounds.
Fittingly titled Ends, this EP is the fourth and final instalment in a project that began nearly two years ago when In Their Thousands released their first EP Cellars at Rathmullan House in February 2012.
DN: How does it feel to be bringing your 4-EP project to a close?
DMC: I’m excited more than anything. We had a great time in Attica Audio in Termon with Orri (McBrearty) and the songs came together really well. I can’t wait to tour the record and hope people enjoy it.
AMC: I am happy that the project has come to fruition, I really enjoyed the whole creative process and am looking forward to releasing this final EP to the world.
DN: How do you feel your music has developed as a band over the course of the four EPs?
AMC: I think that the development of ‘In Their Thousands’ sound from the first EP to the fourth EP has been immense.
I am not sure if it is because we have matured as recording artists or as songwriters but think it is down to a bit of both.
When we started this adventure we had never set foot in a recording studio before and did not know what to expect or how to approach turning what we do together live into a recording.
This has changed dramatically now that we have gained experience and we know what we want to achieve with the songs we are recording.
This has changed our sound but this is a never ending process for us and we are continually trying to create unique sounding music that hopefully people will understand, associate with and most of all enjoy. I don’t think we will ever be a band who are happy to be categorised by one single genre of music, notwithstanding the inevitable similarities that are drawn among a lot of the music out there, I think we achieve something alternative to the norm.
DMC: I think the change is huge. To the point where writing out a set list for a show requires a lot of thought. We don’t really have a genre that the music fits into I think.
The first EP (I like to call it The Steeples tapes after the housing estate in Ramelton it was recorded in) was home recorded and produced with no real outside influence or help (Billy Robinson Mastered it on the agreement I move an organ for him with my van) but that was about it. Cellars: This was a quantum leap for us. It was the first time as a band we’d been in a real studio and we had to make decisions about the songs. That record was recorded live in full takes (except vocals) and that was a real learning experience for us. Certainly made me more of a critical listener and raised my expectation of what is a good take and what isn’t good enough. It was great to be the third act ever (I think) to get to work in the new Attica and to have Tommy Mc Laughlin himself work with us was really great. Musically this was another step forward with better songs in my mind. 0400 and War of our Worlds were songs we hadn’t intended to record and both songs were finished in the studio I think. I still have the lyric sheet for 0400 written on a yellow bit of paper from the studio somewhere.
Between the Waters: This EP definitely captured a moment in time for me. I fought with this one I must admit. Mainly because of the songs I’d written like the Swell and Carrikatine. I didn’t know if I should have done that or not, if it was my place to speak about these things. They were hard songs to write even though the stories were already there. Musically I think we learned a lot about the studio on this record.
How much work, effort and money it costs to produce a record that’s produced to a radio standard.
We recorded half of this record in RTÉ studios and the other half in our producer, Dave Christopher’s house in Dublin.
Ends: We went back to Attica in Termon. The simple pleasure of spending a day in the studio and go home to your own bed and eat at home is priceless. This was a pretty relaxed process.
We wrote, rehearsed, recorded, mixed and mastered in a pretty full on 7 weeks but it didn’t seem stressful. I’m really happy it’s finished and I think it’s the closest thing to how In Their Thousands sound in my head if that makes sense. Again we went back to recording pretty much live again and I think that has a lot to do with it.
Orri Mc Brearty deserves a shout out for his part. He kept everything calm and stress-free and fun.
DN: What can fans expect from the new EP, Ends?
AMC: I think that this EP is different to the rest as we explore different elements of music incorporating new instruments and electronics into our sound.
The core of the record is still the four of us contributing to all aspects of the creative process and there are hints to the past on some tracks, particularly ‘The Calm Before’ but it is safe to say that people who listen to the ENDS as a whole will be surprised at some of the more experimental elements contained within it.
DMC: This EP process wasn’t like any of the rest. I think we gambled a lot on this record and took chances. Chances with how we played things, not always going for the easiest chords or parts. Chances on the songs and sounds, particularly on Vive la Revolution and Cheer Up, It’s Only a Dream.
I think even six months ago we wouldn’t have come out with those songs. I only play acoustic guitar on one of the six tracks on the new EP and I play acoustic lots on the rest of them which is a nice change for me.
Cover your ears, there’s some big guitars coming!
DN: You worked with a local artist on each cover, are you pleased with how the collage of all EP covers has turned out?
DMC: It was really interesting how that worked out. Annette Gallagher is the artist in question and she’s made it seem really simple.
Nothing is ever a bother. We came up with that concept what seems like a lifetime ago over a cup of coffee thinking about designs for the first EP. From thinking on artwork for one EP we came out of a 30 minute meeting with an undertaking to write, record and release three more. That was scary. Just yesterday (December 16th) did we receive that last installment of artwork that tied it all together. Thanks to Annette for having the vision and skill to design what was in our heads from very poor instructions on our part.
AMC: I am excited to see the final piece of the puzzle in place, The whole piece ties in well together encapsulation the themes relevant to the music in each EP.
DN: It’s been yet another busy year for you, what were some of your highlights?
DMC: Seeing the band name on the bills and web sites for festivals like Electric Picnic, Westport, Glasgowbury and a whole host of others.
The people we met and seeing familiar faces from Donegal in big crowds. 2013 was also the first year we made it into the chart with Tear It All Apart which was really special.
Heading off to the UK with the van for the first time.
Ruairi’s mum sent sandwiches with us. It was like a big adventure and a lot of fun driving through London in a DL Transit van I thought was hilarious. The small things seem to stand out more sometimes.
DN: What has the new year in store for In Their Thousands?
DMC: We’re looking into heading to new places like Scandinavia and central Europe to do some shows and play as many festivals in Ireland and the UK as we can.
We also want to make more videos, not forgetting the never-ending job of writing for the next thing.
We’re going to shoot for an album, but I’m afraid to put a time frame on it. Knowing us we’ll try and do it in a few weeks and throw ourselves at it. There’s plenty to be doing.
AMC: The emphasis for me is on getting the bones of a strong debut album written and recorded during the course of 2014 which will be challenging if we are as busy as 2013.
In Their Thousands launch their new EP, Ends, at An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, Monday, December 30, 8pm. NB: The box office will be closed for phone bookings from 3pm on Christmas Eve but you can book online anytime with no booking charge. The box office will be open from 6pm to 8pm on the day of the show.