Pop, trip-pop, indie and R&B as Gaeilge

Pop, trip-pop, indie and R&B as Gaeilge

How IMLÉ and Róisín Seoighe are taking their music to the wider Irish community around the world. MALHAR HATHI reports

Róisín Seoighe

When Dublin-based musician and producer Cian Mac Cárthaigh founded IMLÉ, he knew he was taking Irish music in a direction where few others had ventured.

Seven years later, his group has come a long way from being just a creative outlet to experiment with different genres and styles of music culminating in two albums and a maiden concert in London at the Tileyard Gallery on Friday, March 3.

While carving out a niche of his own, Cian has collaborated with a diverse group of musicians like Ríona Sally Hartman, Róisín Seoighe, MC Muipéad and Fergal Moloney over the years.

“A lot of the time there wasn’t enough music sung in Irish that had that style of music with it,” Cian says over a Zoom call from Tober in Co. Offaly where he was recording a song with producer Karl Odlum.

“It would have been more traditional music which is great but I wanted to try something new. In minority languages like Irish it’s good to create new art forms. I would have different performers come and go in the group. I would say it’s like a revolving door.”

Seoighe, from the Gaeltacht in Connemara, is the group’s main singer and first collaborated in 2020 for Do Chuid Jeans, the first single from the second album. Having started off her journey as a Sean nós singer, her mix of traditional music with pop appealed to Cian when performing in Connemara the same night as her four years ago.

“We were really impressed with her sound and I decided to ask her to collaborate when we would do our second album (Fáilte Isteach). From seeing her play live, it snowballed from there. We like working with each other and we both have the same goal with our music,” Cian, who grew up listening to the Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals and Rory Gallagher, says.

“Do Chuid Jeans was more or less finished but we knew we needed another verse or a middle eight. So I sent her the chords of the song and she came back with her piece in the song which was just amazing. She then came to Dublin only for a few hours and we recorded her vocals in one take.”

The song seeks to capture a sense of gratitude and the significance of love in life. The timing of its release couldn’t have been any better. During the lockdown, the song acted as a common thread in unifying the masses. “When you bring out a song, it is really important to have a music video on YouTube. We had a lot of people who enjoyed our music and we decided to connect to them via Instagram, FaceBook and our mailing list,” Cian recalls. “It was a simple idea. The deal was we would send them our new song which we hadn’t released yet so they could hear it before anyone else and all we wanted in return was them recording themselves interacting with the song. They could be singing along or dancing or even playing sports.

“We got so many videos from people and it was amazing. It gave us a lot of confidence because we could not play any gigs at the time so it was a nice way to connect with people and see them enjoy the music. It was worth the effort because it was a nice snapshot of that time.”

Where normally Cian and his group would have edited and recorded the song in a studio, the complicated reality of the pandemic meant they had to adapt to technology quickly and find space in their homes to convert into a mini studio. Eventually, some parts of the album were recorded on Zoom with producer Karl.

If Do Chuid Jeans found favour among listeners, ÉAD, which translates to jealousy, was an even bigger hit.

Originally a folk song, the end result was a funky yet soulful R’n’B track.

“Róisín had all the lyrics and she had played it on her acoustic guitar. She sent me the song as a voice note on Facebook. It was a folk song. She was happy for us to go in a different direction with it and we spent a long time messing around with it,” Cian says.

“We thought of making it a bit funkier and then we got an idea with the guitar that you can see throughout the song. It’s almost like an Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber riff. You could hear in her lyrics that there was a rhythm to it that suits R&B music well. It was a long process before we were happy with it. Once we knew what the music was going to be, the vocals came together quite easily.”

Following Swimmers Jackson’s opening performance, ÉAD is set to be the main act of the concert with Cian on the beats and supported on the guitar by Neil Ó Briain. Cian is particularly excited to bring Irish music to a wider community in Britain,

“It’s really exciting because all of us have a strong connection to London. I have been coming to London since I was a kid to visit aunties and cousins so it was almost like a part of Ireland. If you are playing music, you want to play in London and connect with its people,” Cian said.

“Especially the fact that it’s in Irish language but it’s not going to stop us travelling and playing to the people from the Irish community in London and other people as well who don’t speak Irish. You are singing in a language which people abroad don’t speak but you want the music and the emotion of the performance to connect with them.”

IMLÉ along with Róisín Seoighe will then be performing live at the Festival Quarter at Collins Barracks in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day before a gig at The Sugar Club as part of Gael Linn’s 70th Anniversary on March 24.

Tickets for the concert on March 3 at the Tileyard Gallery in London can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/imle-with-roisin-seoighe-tickets-464182180397.