Ye Vagabonds Interview: “We seek out space & silence when we want to be creative.”

Ye Vagabonds

Self titled debut album out October 13th via Inglenook Records.

Overblown first saw trad folk brothers Ye Vagabonds perform as support for the always enchanting Lisa Hannigan in St. Luke’s Church in Cork about a year ago. It was one of those wonderful surprises where you know nothing of a band, expect nothing, and promptly get spellbound from the first note. They mine a more traditional and tender folk sound. Not as abrasive and rough as Lankum, they plot a course that is more tender and reflective.

Ahead of their gig this weekend as part of Cork’s Sounds From A Safe Harbour, we spoke to the group about getting compliments from Roy Harper, working as a four piece, and city vs countryside.

Overblown: In relation to your music, Roy Harper said, “They remind me of my first days at ‘Les Cousins’ in Soho in 1965… Ye Vagabonds are a modern expression of a tradition that is truly robust and important to these islands.” What is it like to receive such praise from a luminary in the folk scene such as Harper?

Ye Vagabonds: We were so delighted to have met and had the chance to share a stage with Roy Harper last year. He’s an absolute gent. It’s kind of surreal when you’ve spent so much time obsessing over the music of a specific time and place to then be compared to that scene by one of its chief proponents. On a recent trip to London we actually made a kind of pilgrimage to 49 Greek Street where Les Cousins used to be (now there’s a nightclub there) and stood there picturing Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and Sandy Denny smoking fags out the front fifty odd years ago.

Overblown: You will be playing in Coughlan’s in Cork on 16th September as part of the Sounds From a Safe Harbour festival. Have you played the venue before? Or been there?

Ye Vagabonds: Yes indeed we have. We’ve played there twice before and it’s one of our very favourite venues to play in Ireland (honestly). We’ve played some really intimate gigs there where we really felt like there was no separation between us and the crowd. Can’t wait to return.

Overblown: Your debut album is set for release on 13th October. The artwork, painted by Conor Campbell, really focuses on nature. How does nature tie to the music you play?

Ye Vagabonds: We grew up around fields and forests where we used to play as kids and we’ve never lost that connection with woodlands and valleys and so on, we even used to write a lot of our songs as kids in a wooded clearing. It’s a cliche in folk music of course but we weren’t aware that we were partaking in a cliche by growing up that way. Maybe there’s a reason that electronic music comes from big cities like Berlin and folk music originates in more natural surroundings. There are no sockets in the woods.

Overblown: You are from Carlow but are now based in Dublin. I wonder has that affected your creative process?

Ye Vagabonds: It’s far more stimulating in many ways and there are more musicians around to play with and gigs to go to. It’s definitely a better place to earn a living as a musician. Ultimately we are the kinds of people that seek out space and silence when we want to be creative though, so we end up retreating to remote western havens when we want to get that kind of work done.

Overblown: On the album, you are now operating as a four piece. Has this allowed you to open up your sound and try things you were unable to do before?

Ye Vagabonds: Where before we were limited to what we could do with our two voices and four hands, now when an idea for an extra part occurs to us we can pass it over to Alain or Nick, but more than that we were able to trust the guys to improvise around ideas we had. They’re such flexible musicians. Alain is so versatile and easy going, he’s always willing to try any idea we have on any instrument available. Nicholas is a pocket orchestra. It feels like we’ve taken a flat image and made it three dimensional.

Overblown: Have you started to think about your next album, or am I getting way ahead of myself?

Ye Vagabonds: Indeed we have. We’re already working on songs for our second album. It’s going to be mostly, if not entirely, new arrangements of traditional material and will feature the fiddle playing of Jesse Smith. It has a title already and Conor Campbell has begun work on some paintings for the cover. So it’s well under way. We’re hoping to be able to release
next spring, if all goes well.

Overblown: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Ye Vagabonds: Our plans for the rest of this year will involve a certain amount of touring to promote this album release and then setting the wheels in motion for the recording and release of album number two. Enough to keep us out of trouble for a while.

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