John and Ryan of Little Hours describe themselves as two “culchie boys” who grew up five minutes from each other, making it easy to collaborate when they turned to music.
The dynamic between the two flows easily, even when talking over the phone – they’re laughing away as they alternate between chatting to me and messing around with Snapchat filters, while trying to include me by asking for my non-existent Snapchat handle so I can see for myself what’s so funny.
“We’ve known each other most of our lives,” Ryan tells me, and while it’s not uncommon for long-term friends to finish each other’s sentences, the two boys have developed a working relationship that means they also finish each other’s songs. They describe their song writing process as being “fifty-fifty,” with no song being written by one person, something they know sets them apart from other bands that have a designated songwriter. They find this “easier, to be honest,” as usually, the process becomes collaborative because either Ryan or John will declare, “I’m sick of this one, you finish it!”
Little Hours developed their sound in the rural setting of Donegal, where John and Ryan found themselves isolated from any sort of music scene, as “they aren’t really any original bands in Donegal.”
Having known each other most of their lives, the pair hasn’t felt the need to stray far from home. While they have an apartment together in Dublin, they’re bona fide home birds, unashamedly declaring that it’s “back to Donegal every weekend, every summer.”
Perhaps this is because Donegal is what they know best, and it’s what has informed their artistic intent. The secluded setting has given them a unique perspective, they feel, as their lifestyles in a rural landscape have formed a vision for what their sound would ultimately become.
As things have progressed for the band, with a record deal leading to sold-out gigs and television appearances, they’ve been keen to remain somewhat separate from a city setting.
Their video for ‘Water,” their single released on February 3rd, was shot and mixed in their hometown because “it’s truer – the city isn’t a reflection of who we are.”
It’s a story of the ugliness that fear of other people from different cultures creates, and it’s a somewhat political stance that is unusual for new bands to take. It’s clear that the boys are immensely proud of it; primarily because it is something that they themselves have created, and their label trusted them enough to allow them to release ‘Water’ as their debut single.
This desire for authenticity in their work is apparent throughout our conversation. In a way, they haven’t been given the chance to become unauthentic, yet – the first songs they recorded in studio during 2014 came about after only a couple of months of officially being a band, but they “always knew we wanted to collaborate” meaning that knew what direction their music was going in from the very start.
This doesn’t mean that going from writing songs in the countryside to going on a record label wasn’t intimidating, however, as it “happened so early.”
Luckily, the boys have managed to find industry professionals who respect their identity, giving them “liberty with songs and artwork.” This is an important aspect to the work that they do, with John creating original artwork for the band. When I ask if they want to tell stories across different forms, they agree – they want to “produce as much as possible.” What seems to be a guiding principle is that “everything comes from the band,” so they create multi-disciplinary ways to tell their stories as it’s “important to have this identity.”
While they’re strong on what their artistic identity entails, it’s always difficult to present a public persona that accurately represents your art. An off-handed question I ask about social media presence reveals that they’ve been chatting on and off for a couple of days about how to represent themselves online. “We planned on becoming unauthentic,” they joke, before sharing the conclusions that they have come to.
“Loads of selfies would feel forced – it would be so transparent.” They’re aware that there is a certain level of social media marketing required, and they respect people who are genuinely into that culture of social media, but ultimately, they’re not into posting false representations of their lives online – “we’re weirdos, come have a laugh with us.” They consider themselves bad at social media, mostly because “we’re not very sound.” It’s refreshing to hear people talking frankly about the hard work that maintaining perfect profiles actually entails. Anytime they consider it, they “remember how scary Twitter is.”
Instead, they’re putting their efforts into what their identity as a band involves. As they start planning to play “a bunch of festivals – we don’t actually know which ones we’re allowed to announce yet,” and a series of gigs, they’ve had to “reintroduce the band with a new sound.”
Previously, they’ve performed as a two-piece on guitar and keyboard, but having recorded a studio album with a full band, the task falls to replicating that sound live. This means they’ve expanded beyond their pairing, and are bringing other musicians on tour to ensure the live sound matches the expectations of the album.
While to appear to be indebted to their hometown of Killybegs, it’s looking likely that they won’t get to spend much time there over the next while – with new songs, new tours, and a packed schedule of festival appearances, Little Hours are going to have new landscapes and experiences informing their sound.