Oisín Furlong has been reminded by this year of why he makes music – the love of it!
Oisín Furlong, best known as the frontman of Dublin noise-pop group Thumper, is no stranger to Letterkenny and Donegal, having previously performed at the RCC, and other events such as Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore Island, on a few occasions.
It has been a year full of ups and downs for Oisín, and his peers in the music industry, but thankfully the future is looking bright for the return of live events, and a whole lot of original music from the Dublin native who now has a second creative outlet.
“Obviously my ‘day job’ is with Thumper, which is one half of the music that I love, but I had been ruminating about this (solo project) for a couple of years.
“I had an old nylon string in my old flat that someone left there and I found myself writing these songs and when they started coming out, they were definitely not Thumper songs.
“I don’t necessarily just mean in terms of the volume, but also the style of writing, approach and general headspace that I found myself in at the time.
“While Thumper’s music is very cathartic live and has a certain intense headspace that you need to go into, while these songs were the exact opposite,” he said.
Oisín had been writing for some time when he started thinking about how he would release them.
“I remember, when pubs were still a thing, getting a taxi back from a night out with another musician friend and were in the back seat playing each other demos from our phones.
“I said I was going to release the songs under my own name and he said ‘Ah man, that’s so boring, why use your own name!’. He then asked me what the first house was I lived in and I said Anamoe Drive and we just looked at each other and laughed, that was it.”
Before he released his first single, Oisín’s original plan was to release the music as lo-fi phone recordings ‘to keep that immediacy and vibe’, but then the input of another friend and musician, Letterkenny native Brendan McGlynn, made him see his music in a different light.
Oisín said: “Brendie McGlynn made some recordings, adding different instrumentation. I originally thought anything being added would take away from that stripped back feeling, when in actual fact it aided the lyrics.
“So we went back into the studio to make some additions and ended up with something that wasn’t at all what I had initially intended, but opened up a place, musically, for myself that was new and fresh.”
Oisín said, while there is a lot more to come from Anamoe Drive, he has as yet to make specific plans, which are to come to fruition in the new year, though.
He said: “I’ve put anything Anamoe Drive off until next year and, as ever, I am going to slot it in between any plans I have with Thumper for now. Going from one to the other feels good though, it’s like a holiday and I’m going to look forward to getting a real life reaction to the new music.
“I’ve been recording loads and plan to go into the studio just after the new year. At the moment you just have to roll with the punches, but there is definitely a lot more to come.”
While some days the best you could do was get up and get dressed and other days your home turned into ‘Tin Pan Alley’ and you wrote the ‘best stuff you’ve ever written’, Oisín said another benefit that lockdown had was the chance to ‘sit’ on your work for a while.
He said: One of the unforeseen benefits of this whole lockdown is getting to sit for ages with your work, listen to it again and again, and hone it.
“But in a lot of ways, they’re written in the same way. I just compartmentalise them straight away in my head when they are written. In a way it’s surprising when people think it’s that different, as it’s just me,” he said.
Oisín said: “Julie got onto me months ago saying she loved the song and asked if she could use the track for an exhibition.
“When I saw the exhibition video, it was amazing. I loved her interpretation of the emotion in the song and the performances. I can take very little credit, but it was a perfect video for the song.”
Following the release of his first single under Anamoe Drive, to much praise for the Irish music industry and press, and his return from touring with Moen, Oisín only had one opportunity to perform his new music to a live audience (at the famed Ruby Sessions) before lockdown.
He said: “We were due to tour all over Europe with Thumper, from May until November of this year, and I had planned to record and do some gigs as Anamoe Drive in between but, you know, everyone knows what happened then to the world.”
When everything was stripped away earlier in the year, Oisín said he was reminded of why he was doing music in the first place.
“All of this year, I had a tour of Europe planned, I was going to be on the road from about May until November. And when I had all of that stripped away, and all release plans thrown up in the air, it was a heavy blow. You also realised that you aligned your own worth with how busy you were, or how visibly ‘successful’, for want of a better term, you’ve become.
“I always preach this idea that you have to be careful [when you’re in the creative industry] not to align your career achievements with your self worth too much. I realised, by the time I got to this year, I had been doing that all along anyway.”
Oisín said he saw the importance of trying to strip that back and really get into the craft again and have the success come from the work and a place that was internal.
“I’m hoping that eventually this will all blow over and we get back on the road doing gigs in places like the RCC and playing the lovely people up there again. But I am also hoping to take that [recognition] with me and remember why I am doing all this in the first place.
“You have to remember why you are doing it and that it’s a labour of love at the end of the day and up until a certain point you have to assume that that’s what it’s going to be, and anything else is a bonus,” he said.
While touring plans had to be put on hold, Oisín and his fellow Thumper band mates have been very productive, writing and rehearsing, whenever they were able to and will soon have tour dates to announce for the new year where they will finally get to ‘test’ new material.
“We have been rehearsing and writing together as much as we’ve been able to, and we pretty much have the next album ready to go and have big plans for that.
“We started writing as soon as all our touring was gone, so there will be a lot that people can sink their teeth into.
“It was interesting writing during this time, because up until this point a lot of our writing, maybe on a subconscious level, was always about how the songs are going to sound live.
“We’re a big band and we have a lot of dynamic at our disposal in that way, but this is the first time where we wrote and didn’t know when or if an audience is going to hear it.
“It’s really exciting to be released from that aspect of it and then, sometimes, my head is in my hands, and I want to play the songs in front of people,” he laughed.
“It’s almost like being in a new band. We are writing for ourselves in a much more true way than maybe we were in the past, because the audience element always transforms the work. So it’ll be interesting going into 2021 and airing some of these things in public.”
The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland.