Hope is Noise Interview: “Inspiration comes to you in some mad ways.”

hope is noise interview

New album Demons is out now.

If Hope is Noise were a person, they would be old enough to have finished the Leaving Cert, headed to college, gone on a J1, and conjured up some kind of dodgy fake I.D. so that they could get scuttered on the other side of the world. Which is quite an achievement to be fair. They’ve recently released their fourth album Demons, recorded by the legendary and sadly missed Lawrence White, and seem to be at their peak of their tuneful alternative rock powers rather than on any kind of decline. Darth Vader would say, “Impressive.”

We had a chat recently with Dan Breen, vocalist with the group, about reflecting back on twenty years as a band, working with Lawrence White, and what the future holds.

Overblown: You recently enjoyed twenty years together as a band. Does it feel like that long since you got together?

Dan Breen: The time has flown to be honest. Though Joe, Pat and I were messing around with guitars since early 1996, it was the purchase of a drumkit by Louis in January 1997 that signalled the start of what would eventually become Hope is Noise. We went through some different names such as Arcane, The Terranauts, and the The New Messiahs before we became Hope is Noise in early 2005. We’ve always been friends so we have never really had any ‘difficult’ periods in the band where we never got on so I think it goes to show that time flies when you’re enjoying the hell out of it.

O: How has band practice, writing, and recording changed for the band since you started?

Dan: At the beginning we started jamming in my bedroom in Ballincollig with two 20/25 watt guitar amps and a shitty mic going through a 15 watt amp. Pat and I grew up in the same estate and I still can’t believe we got away with jamming in my house for as long as we did. When we did finally move out and found our own jamming space, we had mixed results. We used various friends’ garages for a few years but always had to eventually move on because of the noise and how bad we were… ha ha.

I think the first real space we got in Cork City was at the Sunbeam factory but this burned down in 2003 and we lost all our gear in the fire. We have jammed in shipping containers on Centre Park Road, upstairs in Nancy Spains on Barrack Street and the Kilbarry Industrial Estate in Blackpool. We now jam in the city centre in a studio/jam space where we recorded our last two albums.

Our writing process has not changed a great deal in the twenty years we have been playing together. I usually write the riff or the basic outline of the song and bring it to the band. We work on it together, making suggestions, removing parts. Pat is generally our shit-filter, if he doesn’t like it we just don’t play it (though I do reserve the right to ignore him…Ha)

So far as a band we have recorded two EPs and four albums and each one has been different. It is ten years since we released Applaud Friends, the comedy is over (our 1st album) and we were clueless when we worked with Ciaran O’Shea on that album but over time we have got more comfortable in the studio and actually produced our last album.

One of the main reasons we have stayed together for so long is the fact that we never think we have learned everything and we genuinely get excited every time we write/record a song that is new and different approach or style for us. We’ve always done our own thing and will continue to do so until we run out of ideas or have that huge band argument we’ve never had… ha.

O: Are you relieved that your band name still sounds good after such a long time?

Dan: I never thought about it until you asked the question but I guess we are relieved. We’ve had the name 11 years now and we still love it. Naming a band is the hardest thing to do because you rarely get agreement between all bandmates or you have ripped some other band’s name off. The name came from a text I sent after my drink got spiked one night. It was a long rambling surreal text but it ended with “Noise Noise, All Hope is Noise”… inspiration comes to you in some mad ways.

O: One of the tracks I really like on the new album is ‘Gnarlsburg’. The guitar riff kind of reminds me of something off ‘The Holy Bible’ by Manic Street Preachers. What inspired the song thematically and musically?

Dan: The original plan for this album was to record in blocks of three songs. We had originally hoped to record nine songs but with family commitments, money and time constraints we only ended up doing two recording sessions, one with 3 songs and the other with 4. ‘Gnarlsburg’ was a song I brought to the second session that had no structure or lyrics but had the verse and chorus riffs. Within two takes, we had the basic structure and it became a song on the album. All the other tracks of the album we had worked on over the previous 6-12 months if not longer so ‘Gnarlsburg’ was a very spontaneous song and would not have happened without the help and collaboration of Lawrence White

The song is simply about touring on the West Coast of America which we have done twice (2007, 2011) and I hoped to capture the really great time we had on those tours. The lyrics refer to various aspects of the tours such as ‘Gnarlsburg’ which grew from ‘Gnarly’ which we heard all the time or ‘Miss the Target’ which was the shop where we always stocked up on socks and jocks before the tours began. Looking back, we miss those days and the freedom we had then to leave Ireland and spend 3 weeks travelling and playing music with some great bands/people. ‘Gnarlsburg’ is a way is sad song because deep down we knew that another chance to tour like that again may never come along.

O: You recorded the album with the legendary Lawrence White who sadly passed away this October. What was it like to work with him?

Dan: We were shocked at Lawrence’s premature passing as he had been such an important part of our recording lives for the last 5 years or so. We had literally just put the final touches on the new album a few weeks before he died. He was a very knowledgeable and intelligent man who you could have great discussions with about a range of subjects. The stories of his childhood/teenage years in South Africa always fascinated us. He was a multi-instrumentalist and had an amazing voice. I can hit high notes but Lawrence could always go a few notes higher.

Working with him was a pleasure. He was more talented than all of us in the band but never made you feel inadequate and instead encouraged you to perform. He was the first to admit that he didn’t understand what Hope is Noise’s sound or style was, but he embraced what we were trying to do. He was a child of the 70s and 80s rock/metal/pop era but he was very open to listen to new music.

A week or so before his death for example, we had a great discussion about Shellac’s new album, a band I had got in into a few months before. We had also discussed recording the 5th album with him this year and I believe we would have stayed working with him for years to come. We miss him very much.

O: You appear on the new Terriers album. Specifically the track ‘Clean My Bones’. How did that collaboration come about?

Dan: Mini (singer/bassist with Terriers) is really obsessed with us. He follows us around like a lost puppy, hanging on every word we say. An example of a conversation I have had with Mini is as follows:

Mini: ‘You’re great Dan, I just wanted to tell you that’
Dan: ‘Mini, it’s half six in the morning! Why are you at my front door?’
Mini: ‘Oh sorry Dan, I was hoping to see you sleeping….’

I was so afraid that his ‘fatal attraction-esque’ tendencies would harm me or my family so I agreed to sing on their album. Mini did a similar thing to get Pat to take part in the video… HA HA.

No really, we have known the lads for years and respect the hell out of everything they have done. I was honoured to be asked to sing on their great song. Mini returned the favour by singing on ‘In Case You Fuck Up’ which is on the latest album. I have no doubt we will collaborate with the lads again in the future.

O: What are your plans for 2017?

Dan: We will be releasing a documentary on the band in April. This has been a long collaboration with the amazing Gobstar Films and we are happy with the results. You could call it a vanity project but no one else was going to record our 20 years together so we believed it was important to record our history before it was all totally forgotten. We hope to record again this year. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of our first album “Applaud Friends…the Comedy is Over”, so we will play a gig to commemorate that.

Next up however is Leap-ington 17 on February 18th in Connolly’s of Leap with Rest, Horse and The Liminals. THis should be a great night as this is an amazing venue to see such great bands.

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