As the moon guides the tides I Have a Tribe’s Patrick O’Laoghair seems to guide our hearts, pulling us along with the ebb and flow of his harmonies. His latest album Beneath a Yellow Moon on Gronland Records, takes us along the waves of an emotional journey.
You can feel the influence of producer Paul Savage (Mogwai, Twilight Sad, King Creosote) while listening to the album. They came to work together through what he calls “some nice twists of fate." He explains, "We met previously, mixing a different record, and we got along very well. I liked his style right away, really open and enthusiastic and inclined I think, towards the same notion of letting a song breathe. There was a good amount of trust between us. Also an important factor. Trust led to freedom led to creativity."
The album has some epic-sounding emotional songs like "Battle Hardened Pacifist," which hits a crescendo of sound, to more slow, sentimental ballads like "After We Met." O’Laoghair is a master pianist and vocalist, which are the most important aspects of this record. Beneath a Yellow Moon blends dreamy pop and folk in a melancholy and organic fashion.
Beneath a Yellow Moon seems to be a bit more cohesive than his previous EPs, which O’Laoghair attributes to the approach: “This time around I was more intent on following the songs and letting them keep their natural flaws. I always talk about my niece and how her beautiful and innocent and naive way of sitting down at a piano and just PLAYING and not overthinking, made me reconsider my approach. don’t mean working in a sense of being careless with the thing, but definitely this lack of inhibition and gorgeous willingness to explore, in a very spontaneous way, had its effect on me.”
While creating the latest album the Dubliner was excited to bring his music to Scotland. "I felt fairly humbled to be welcomed into this place actually, and be given the chance to work with somebody I admired very much. And I liked the structure of it. I’ll find that spending days and weeks and months trying to transfer some notion or some idea into something tangible and concrete, while it can be a joyful process, it can drive me fucking crazy, too. So I liked this way of working, the starting point - the knowledge of the gesture you wanted the completed recorded to make, and the process, a good journey of working through the possible ways to communicate the message. I think Paul’s way had a lot to do with accommodating this. He tuned the radio in the kitchen to an Irish station, there was a yoga mat and a football and lot of laughing. He wrote to me afterwards and said he hoped it would come across in the record how much fun it was making it. I felt the same.”
Many of O’Laoghair songs are true to life. He is really appreciative of his friends for seeing his shows and listening to his music, so he dedicated "La Neige" to them -- an ode to friendhsip. “I had gone for a little walk before the gig, to listen to Tom Waits. There was a woman standing between The Clarence Hotel and The Workmans Club along the quays in Dublin. I didn’t have any money or tobacco to give her but we had a good laugh. That’s her in the song standing with a French hat and a cane. My friend MaryKate paints three dots below her eye sometimes, before a gig. That’s her, later in the song. (These three dots, they seem to show up in my life sometimes, they’re recorded in Scandinavia too, three different dots from somewhere else). I guess it’s just my way of showing my gratitude to my pals for doing this music with me. If I had all the words in the world I couldn’t thank them enough. So maybe a song can do it instead.”
"Cuckoo" is quite an interestingly made piece. Part of it was recorded in Scotland, part in Dublin, and part in Berlin. “So I brought this recording to Paul, along with a version I made with Ber Quinn in Dublin, and after I sang it again in Glasgow, he stitched the three takes together. “That was important to me, to use that first version - it’s a good feeling just to play and trust whatever is coming, and I found that to sing that way - very open and innocent - means you sing truthfully, and the voice holds the notes longer, and the words fall out as they should. Part of you is in control but most of you is waiting to see what happens next, and I remember a very long note coming out that felt good to hold, so I held it, and Paul wove it into the fabric of the final piece, hidden in the background.”
You get the sense that O’Laoghair draws inspiration from nature as well as human beings during his creative process. “You can prepare and you know your song well before you sing it but the fun is in the abandoning of the thing and realizing you can't possibly do the same thing twice. So to that end the creative process is ongoing, so long as you keep singing the song, it will keep revealing itself in different ways. I like that idea of the monks who spend their days making beautiful and intricate sculptures and patterns with seashells on a beach, and then at the end of the day they watch the tide come in to wash them away, and they begin again the next morning. Again, of course, it’s not to be careless with the craft, it's just respecting the fact that it’s bigger than you are, much as you try to control the thing. You might find a song rather than write a song, so your job is to pick it up and carry it back with you from wherever you happened upon it.”
O’Laoghair is driven by “joy and madness, in equal measure” to create music, and let's hope that these continue to drive him forward. Currently I Have a Tribe is on tour in Europe. Nothing set in stone for Canada yet, but he hopes next year. A few years ago O’Laoghair worked on a boat in Toronto, so let's hope he can make it back to us soon.