Cork had an impressive music scene in the early 1990s, with groups like The Frank and Walters, The Sultans of Ping and Emperor of Icecream all having chart success, it also had a great live scene with venues like Sir Henry’s and The Village regularly playing host to top acts like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Mercury Rev and The Palace Brothers, to mention but a few.
Although Cork has always produced great acts it has to be said that the current crop of Cork bands that constitute the Cork music scene of today have a swagger, an edge and an ability to write and create music that would lead you to believe there’s something special in the water of the people’s republic as it likes to be known. Add to the mix Cork independent labels like FIFA Records, Ruby Music and Art for Blind and there is a real scene developing.
Although the bands are diverse and cover a wide range of genres there is an underlying element of Garage, Alt guitar and Psych to the scene, with The Vincent(s) raw recordings, noise and psych are the orders of the day.
Their roots lie in surf sounds and early ’90’s US alt-guitar groove, which sit alongside an unmistakable Irish vocal, their debut Asked Her To The Dance has echoes of some music that pre-dated and influenced that First Psych Wave.
The Altered Hours, for example, might come at this question from a My Bloody Valentine perspective – although filtered through a classic ’60’s psych sensibility – while in the case of The Great Balloon Race it could be Krautrock drones.
Elastic Sleep who exist in a swirl of all things ethereal, just listen to the dreamy but haunting interpretation of the Nancy Sinatra classic You Only Live Twice. With shimmering vocals, explosive cymbals and euphoric drones.
Even bands like O Emperor (on the basis of the lovely motorik beat and prismatic guitar tones of their single Holy Fool) and Saint Yorda (coming at this debate more from a dream pop angle, say) can be included in this at a stretch.
Then we have Dissolutes, from the whiskey-soaked gutters of Rock n Roll comes a howl of defiance & bloody minded bravado.The anguished growl rising from Paul Power’s ravaged soul owes a debt to Howlin’ Wolf and Jim Morrison, while the band’s sound fuses the shuddering riffs of Led Zeppelin with the unorthodox, fractured spontaneity of Captain Beefheart.
And to reach a little bit more, let’s include the heavy riffage of Rest (touching space rock) and Hope is Noise (punk for sure but with a definite garage fuzz undercurrent).
Then we have Grave Lanterns whose soundcloud tagline reads “garage dust from a 4-track mind”. A nod then to garage rock, the First Psychedelic Wave and some of its offshoots maybe?
Then you have the labels which are almost as diverse as the bands that make up the ready-to-explode Cork music scene.
Since its founding in 2005, FIFA Records with a policy it seems of unearthing gems, have worked with some of the most exciting new Irish talent (Fight Like Apes, The Vincent(s), Hope is Noise, Dead School, Saint Yorda, Dae Kim) as well as releasing material from legends of the Irish indie scene such as The Frank & Walters, Whipping Boy and The Would Be’s.
The label has also had an international dynamic, forging links with several independent record labels around the world – Elefant Records (Spain), Vinyl Junkie (Japan), Secret Crush Records (US), Smallroom (Thailand) Pop Lane/Ra N Bo (France), Stargazer (Germany) – ensuring releases for some of its catalog in a variety of territories.
Ruby Music are a Cork based label that has a roster which includes Italian band The Vickers, who have just released their 7″ single She’s Lost with Italian labels Foolica Records /Cybertree Records, and will be licensing their next single to Ruby Music for sale, distribution and promotion in the Republic of Ireland.
Another recent addition to their roster is two piece Italian Psyche Punk band Gozilla who’s forthcoming album Grabbing a Crocodile will be released as a collaboration between Warner Chappel Music, Black Candy Records and Ruby Music, distributed in Ireland by Ruby Music and throughout the rest of Europe, by Rough Trade. Other notable acts on label the include Irish band Ka tet and new signing Liverpudlian band älter.
Art For Blind Records is a DIY record label and distro based in Cork City that have been releasing indie, punk & hardcore records since 2004 on vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes and digital downloads.
The label have worked with Irish acts such as The #1’s and September Girls and have just announced that they’ll be working with Cork’s own The Altered Hours and will be releasing a 7” vinyl/digital download of the track “Dig Early” in Sping 2014.
On the live front, Cork is probably healthier than its ever been with venues like The Cork Opera House, The Pavilion, Cyprus Ave, The Crane Lane Theatre and Triskel Arts Centre catering for local, national and international acts.
As well as a host of smaller venues like An Brog, Fred Zepplins and Charlies running regular live events.
Also the Indiependence Music & Arts Festival continues to grow each year and The summer Marquee Series attracts some of the biggest international acts to the city.
As well as the three above mentioned labels putting on regular gigs showcasing the best talent from the local and national scene with UK and European acts also being invited over on a regular basis, you have independent promoters such as Bandicoot, Alliance Promotions, G Man and Tearaway Music bringing the best of alternative talent into the city for shows.
This is an introduction to the Cork music scene and is by no means an exhaustive list of the bands, venues, labels and promoters operating in the city but it will hopefully give you a feel for the rich and diverse music scene that is now so vibrant in Cork…
All words by Eddie Kiely & Conor O’Toole.