Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Brían Mac Gloinn, one half of Ye Vagabonds, and part of The Brand New Swictheroo for some of our sessions. I grew up in the a few miles outside Carlow Town, and I’ve been living in Stoneybatter, Dublin for the past two and a half years.
Who are your favorite artists from home?
There’s a small music scene in Carlow that was mainly based around one cafe, which just closed down before Christmas. Tommy Tea-Time is easily my favourite Carlow based artist. Tommy is a pure Carlow lad who’s a very close friend of ours. We used to run an open mic night in the cafe that Tommy wanted to take part in, but he couldn’t sing, so he started doing spoken word versions of well-known songs instead with a few of the regular musicians of the cafe, including ourselves, backing him up. Pretty soon Tommy started to write his own epic poems, ‘Like a Hot Love Madrigal’ about how he got his title or ‘Santa Clause and The Eagles saving Christmas on Dublin Street’ (where the cafe was) and then he’d read them off brown paper chip bags at the gigs. The whole band became Tommy Tea-Time and the Scrabble Beat Box Band. Apart from Tommy, there are plenty of good songwriters and singers like Eric Butler, Paul Galbally, Dan Craig and David Donohue.
What’s it really like touring?
My experience of touring has been fairly small scale. Last year we hitched around the country to play a few gigs in the West and organized it two weeks in advance. We don’t have a road manager or driver or anything. Staying on people’s couches or floors all the time and hitching everywhere is great, but it can be intense too. More recently, we’ve done some gigs with a car that we borrowed, and that’s really easy in comparison. Since there are only two of us with our instruments, we can fit all our gear in an Opel Corsa, or on a train or bus if we want to. The car we use doesn’t have a working radio so we ended up singing the whole way down to Dingle for our gig at Other Voices in December. Travelling to play gigs has been a really energizing experience for me so far. Having grown up in a small town with a small music scene, it’s exciting to meet other musicians and people who are into the same music as us, especially if they come to see us at one of our gigs.
What’s your favourite city/town/venue to play?
So far my favourite venue is An Díseart chapel, which we played at Other Voices in Dingle. We decided not to use the PA system and play completely unamplified. The acoustics in the chapel are incredible. It felt like we were playing a third instrument together by singing into the space, so we really did our best to play with those acoustics while we had the chance. There were about 60 people there and the room was dead silent, just as the sun was setting and the room grew eerily dark. Harry Clarke did the stained glass windows there too. Churches are great for singing harmonies in. There’s something really special about that one in particular though. Generally my favourite type of gig is unamplified, like the sessions we do in Walsh’s and The Harbour Bar.
What’s your ideal festival line-up?
I’d get Dock Boggs, Karen Dalton, Margaret Barry, Paddy Tunney, Grayson and Whitter, Rutherford and Burnett, Sweeney’s Men, Padraig O Keefe, Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James and Bert Jansch to play a stage around a kitchen table hosted by The Annulments. Then I’d have Devendra Banhart, Grizzly Bear, Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes, Lisa Hannigan, Villagers and Bon Iver along to one stage in a good acoustic space. I’d have Tom Waits run a twisted carnival for insane jazz musicians, I’d give Twin Headed Wolf an area of their own, then have My Fellow Sponges play every morning at a breakfast gig. I suppose Lisa O Neill would have to sing for supper too.
What has been your biggest achievement of the year?
We’ve been playing together for years, but Ye Vagabonds only began in September, and it’s been an incredible few months since then. For me, the biggest achievement of the year was playing with the Booka Brass Band to a sold out Vicar Street on New Years Eve for the Turning Pirate Mix Tape. I’ve been at the Mix Tape every year for the past few years, so just playing at it was an amazing feeling. Playing They’re Red Hot, which is one of our favourite end of night tunes, with the Booka Brass Band, in front of 1500 people and the best sound I’ve ever heard on stage, was really incredible.
What was the worst piece of advice you were given?
I have no idea, nothing too interesting anyway. We were advised to go on the X Factor many, many times though. I can’t imagine that choreographed dance moves and fireworks would go too well with our type of music.
What do you do to relax?
I listen to a lot of music, most of the time. That goes along side most of what I do. I cycle a lot, read, write and play chess a lot too. Most of my spare time is spent with friends or family, and a lot of that is spent playing music. I’m in college full time and I play gigs a few nights a week, so I don’t have a lot of free time these days.
What are you reading?
At the moment I’m reading Invisible Cities by Calvino. It’s giving my imagination a lot to play with. Everything seems to be possible in the world described in the book. Reading it is making me want to travel too, as it opens up possibilities of what the world could be like off the beaten path.
How about TV, anything good on the box?
I don’t watch TV at all. It never occurs to me to watch something on TV and I don’t have a TV anyway. I like watching films, but that’s a more focused thing to do than just flicking on the TV. I study film in college, so a lot of the films I watch are related to what we’re doing in college. I like old films, and the best one I’ve seen recently is Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. My favourite film is High Noon featuring Gary Cooper at his best and a brilliant sound track.
Do you have a favourite YouTube video?
Save the Album: Devendra Banhart is one of my favourites. Most of Father John Misty’s interviews are also hilarious.
What website do you visit most?
I’ve been laying off the computer recently, except for emailing and college work. I’d say I probably visit Youtube more than anything though. Up until a few years ago I would have been on The Rising Storm almost every day. They gave the best album recommendations of forgotten music that I never would have found otherwise. I also end up on mudcat.org regularly enough when I’m looking for versions of songs.
What is your favourite:
Different albums serve different purposes at different times. At the moment, I’d say Rejoicing in the Hands by Devendra Banhart or Rain Dogs by Tom Waits.
That’s a tough one. Maybe Blue Ridge Mountains by Fleet Foxes
Lost classic song?
My Lagan Love by Margaret Barry
Domino seem to be putting out a lot of my favourite artists these days.
Who is your favourite current artist?
Lisa O Neill is my favourite artist at the moment. We’ve been lucky to get to know Lisa over the past year and even to do a show with her in December in the Unitarian Church. I find her ideas about songwriting to be really inspiring. She’s a real teacher. This time last year I was completely absorbed in her album Same Cloth or Not, and I’m excited to hear what she does next. Her voice has taught me an awful lot too, and gave me a lot of confidence to sing whatever way I want to.
A new artist that you are most excited about?
Twin Headed Wolf are definitely the ones I’m most excited about at the moment. They’re incredible performers and songwriters. Their debut album is in the works at the moment, and I can’t wait to hear it when it’s complete.
What was the last great gig you have seen?
This is the Kit in the National Concert Hall’s Engineering Room was one of my favourite gigs recently. She’s got the smoothest sound and the sweetest songs about things like vitamins and a goose. I’m looking forward to seeing her when she’s back in Ireland in March.
I don’t like saying bad things about anyone so I’m not going to answer that question.
What should we expect from your Irish shows?
After our gig on the 20th of February in The Mermaid Theatre in Bray we’ll be taking a bit of break from gigs until the summer, outside of the usual sessions. I can’t say too much about our plans just yet, but I’d like to do some shows for small audiences where we might get a chance to try out some new songs we’re working on. We’re keen to play more of our own songs so that we don’t get known as a solely traditional group, as that’s not how we see ourselves. I’d imagine that there will be some element of folk songs in our gigs, but as our own songs develop we’ll be trying to play those more and take the opportunity to do something with them. I’d say to keep an eye out over the next few months anyway, and get down to one of the sessions or the New Frontiers of Folk gig in the Mermaid Theatre on the 20th to get an idea of what we’re doing.
You can catch Brian Mac Glionn with both Ye Vagabonds and The Brand New Switcheroo as a part of the Banjo & Bovril Nights at The Harbour Bar in Bray – 5 nights of music, poetry, banjos and Bovril.