36. We Cut Cor­ners

Hot Press - - Contents -

The Dublin talk about cre­ative growth and their eagerness to re­turn

to live per­for­mance.

When I meet the We Cut Cor­ners, just min­utes after their photo shoot in the Hot Press bunker, they’re lug­ging around boxes of vinyls and CDs. Con­all Ó Breacháin ex­plains to me that this is the first time they’ve been able to look at their new al­bum. As we sit in the cosy con­fines of the Li­brary Bar, the pair ad­mit that it’s only when they have their hands on the hard copies that it all feels real.

But be­fore delv­ing into The Ca­dence of Oth­ers (an al­bum which is their strong­est, most am­bi­tious of­fer­ing yet), we re­visit their early days, when an un­likely en­counter with Hot Press’ own Roisin Dwyer led to them be­com­ing the out­fit they are to­day. “We played The JD set, which was a band com­pe­ti­tion back in 2009, and Roisin Dwyer was the judge,” says Con­all. “That was the first gig we ever played as the in­car­na­tion of what­ever we are now, be­cause we’d just been do­ing the singer-song­writer thing be­fore, not tak­ing it se­ri­ously. Then we saw the com­pe­ti­tion ad­ver­tised in Hot Press and de­cided to record songs for it.”

“We wrote a du­bi­ous press re­lease for it,” John con­tin­ues, “and got ac­cepted onto the com­pe­ti­tion. We didn’t think for a mo­ment that they’d con­sider us, so when they did we said: ‘Shit, now we need a rhythm sec­tion.’ So we were forced into us­ing drums and elec­tric gui­tars and from that, we started play­ing the way we do now. Ba­si­cally, we lied our way into be­ing that way!”

Bluffers they may have been, but seven years on, no one can deny the ef­fort they have put into their mu­sic. Both Con­all and John are full time teach­ers, yet still man­age to fit al­bum-mak­ing and tour­ing into their busy sched­ule.

“It does get very pres­sured,” ac­knowl­edges John. “There are times where it comes to a head, but we al­ways try to find the bal­ance.”

Dublin duo We Cut Cor­ners are back with their strong­est al­bum yet. They dis­cuss cre­ative growth, the chal­lenges of fa­ther­hood, and their eagerness to re­turn to live per­for­mance. “We want to go out there and en­joy it,” they tell Peter McGo­ran. Pho­tos: Kathrin Baumbach

“It gets over­whelm­ing when you’re about to put out a record or when you’ve got a record­ing dead­line to meet,” Con­all chimes in. “But those times are in­fre­quent, and it’s a bit of an adren­a­line buzz to jug­gle all th­ese things at once. I mean it’d be weirder for us to not be work­ing at this point. It’s just a very nat­u­ral sort of state.”

Con­all in par­tic­u­lar has more than enough on his plate, hav­ing re­cently be­come a fa­ther. But the singer light-heart­edly bats away my ques­tions about fa­ther­hood surely hav­ing an ad­verse ef­fect on their abil­ity to make mu­sic.

“Time will tell what it does,” he sug­gests. “I think there’s fear that with fa­ther­hood, you’ll not be mo­ti­vated any­more and that you won’t want to write, or worse, that you’ll just write shit. But that cer­tainly hasn’t hap­pened. If any­thing I’m more mo­ti­vated hav­ing more to worry about. (“Worry, John in­ter­jects, “the cor­ner­stone of all song­writ­ing…”). If you lose that ker­nel of angst in­side of you, you won’t be able to make good mu­sic any­more. So fa­ther­hood is in­cred­i­ble, but equally ter­ri­fy­ing. As a re­sult, I’m find­ing my­self more than ever pick­ing up the gui­tar at a rou­tine time be­cause my daugh­ter goes to bed at the same time every night. It’s also al­lowed me to ap­pre­ci­ate more what I have with We Cut Cor­ners. You get a re­newed sense of things. You even lis­ten to mu­sic dif­fer­ently. You say: ‘Every song is about me.’ Ever since be­com­ing a dad it’s like I’m listening to the songs again and start­ing to hear the lyrics anew.”

Listening to lyrics anew is an ex­cit­ing prospect for a duo who al­ready have a fan­tas­tic ear for lyri­cal qual­ity. In The Ca­dence of Oth­ers, they con­tinue to ex­plore and ex­pose new song­writ­ing depths with songs about relationships, reclu­sive­ness and iso­la­tion fea­tur­ing heav­ily in the mix. I try to tease out where th­ese songs find their ori­gin. “We nor­mally start off with the melody,” John ex­plains. “The melody dic­tates what the me­tre of the words is go­ing to be. Then after that, you’re try­ing to work out con­cise streams of thought to suit that melody.”

“I think a lot of mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing us, try to find that mo­ment when the lyrics and melodies come to­gether si­mul­ta­ne­ously,” says Con­all. “When the lyrics first come they might not make sense, they’re just a stream. Then our work is chis­elling them into some sem­blance of a song. We’re also try­ing to find the bal­ance be­tween mak­ing the lyrics work and not chang­ing them too sub­stan­tially that it takes away from the essence of why a song came into your head in the first place.”

What­ever their cre­ative process, We Cut Cor­ners have arrived at an al­bum which will surely go down as one of the high-points in their ca­reer. There’s a marked con­trast with their pre­vi­ous two al­bums, a sense of co­he­sion which is en­tirely re­fresh­ing. The band credit the in­flu­ence of out­siders, like Vil­lagers’ Conor O’Brien, with this new ma­tu­rity.

“This was a record where we re­ally em­braced work­ing with other peo­ple,” says John. “We’ve been very con­trol­ling in the past, but this time we felt less in­hib­ited. We’ve grown away from those kinds of wor­ries that you have when you were younger about how you’re per­ceived. We’re less self-con­science, and I sup­pose this is the re­sult.”

And what a re­sult it is. Con­all sums up their achieve­ment per­fectly when he says: “We feel like we’ve been crys­tallis­ing what we’ve been do­ing over the course of three al­bums. Now we want to go out there and en­joy it.”

Their next step will cer­tainly give them a chance to en­joy them­selves as they pre­pare to tour again and bring their new al­bum to a live au­di­ence. The lads rel­ish the thought of be­ing on the road.

“We haven’t played an al­bum launch in two years,” notes Con­all. “So we’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to hav­ing three al­bums worth of songs that we can choose from. In terms of hav­ing a se­quence of songs that can work, we’re fi­nally at that stage.”

The Ca­dence of Oth­ers is avail­able now. We Cut Cor­ners play the But­ton Fac­tory, Dublin on Novem­ber 19.

“I think there’s fear that with fa­ther­hood, you’ll not be mo­ti­vated any­more and that you won’t want to write.”

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