One of the three bands playing State vs Club AU at the Purty Loft this Friday, multi-instrumental four piece Pocket Promise formed in Belfast when the seventeen and eighteen year old Cormac Fee, Dominic Coyle, Joe Laverty and CiarÃ¡n McKenna hit on the idea of forming a band at school. The band has just released their debut album I’ve Been Here For Ages and completed an Irish tour with State favourites the Panama Kings, all of which seemed like a good opportunity for us to talk to lead vocalist, guitarist and piano player Cormac.
Were you all aware of each other before forming the band?
Dominic and I had been good friends having met each other through playing basketball in our school and with a local club. We all knew of each other through various avenues. Dominic and CiarÃ¡n were in the same year and moved in similar social circles quite a lot. Joe and I were in the year above and we shared a number of friends. We only really all got to know each other though when we started playing music.
Did you go through a lot of experimentation before finding your sound?
Yes, like all bands, the early days were full of cover songs and replicating the sounds of our heroes. We had no idea what we were at, we just wanted to make noise and jump about. We had funk influenced bass solos and wah-wah pedals a plenty. When we look back now, it’s easy to laugh, but at the time we thought we were brilliant.
The album has many different moods to it. How important was it to bring light and shade into the music?
We all think it’s so important to vary the sounds and moods in our music. We’re into so many bands and we all have appreciation for those bands that are loud and ballsy and just play fun, danceable music. On the other hand, we also love very introspective, provocative music and lyricists who inspire you to think. We’d like to think that we embody those areas in our music. Dynamically we love to go from loud and powerful to soft and gentle. If we didn’t the music wouldn’t be interesting to play ourselves never mind listen to for an audience.
Was there ever a conflict of ‘real’ instruments vs the laptops etc?
Never actually. I think the only real differences of opinion that we have are when it comes to the standard or mood of a song. We’re quite honest, so when something comes up that not all four of us like, it usually falls to the way-side quite quickly. We’re all open to new things so when new instruments (whether traditional or modern-electronic) come along, we’re all for a bit of experimenting. We’ve recently been moving into the areas of laptops and drum machines, but then just the other day we bought an accordion at a car boot sale! You can’t restrict yourself to just one sound…
Is it hard to make those elements gel into a cohesive sound?
Not really. I think at the end of the day the overall song is the most important thing. It’s all the ingredients that complete the overall picture. When the average person hears a song first time, they are unlikely to pick out individual sounds and parts. They usually hear the piece as a whole and in their mind decide whether it’s good or bad. When we create a song we have a similar approach, probably sub-consciously to a degree. When we have an overall structure we’ll add in the pieces that makes up the bells and whistles if you will. It’s not that difficult to mold sounds around a song if you know that the strength of the song can take being experimented with.
Do you think there’s a ‘sound of young Belfast’?
I think that there is definitely a thriving scene here. There are so many great bands and so many talented people. We feel like we’ve fitted into the sound of Belfast pretty well and we’d love to think that we are considered as a good band within this scene. The standard is high but it’s not competitive like a lot of other scenes. If anything, the sound of young Belfast is one of camaraderie. You only have to look at the event ‘A Little Solidarity’ (an independent music festival held over a number of venues in the city in November last) organised by And So I Watch You From Afar to see how much respect and support the bands here are giving one another.
Are northern bands making greater inroads into the South? How was the Panama Kings tour?
Yes, I think there quite a few bands who are making good ground in the South at the minute. There’s definitely a more positive attitude to the relationship between the scenes North and South than there has been in the past. Scenes can be quite cliquey and getting a gig in the South can often be very difficult for Northern bands, but I think that’s changing – visa versa. The Panama Kings tour was great. We really enjoyed travelling with another band and just having a good time while playing at a few festivals and great venues in the South. We had our moments of madness including semi-naked street wrestling at 3 in the morning in front of stunned audiences of cars driving through a very wet Thomastown… but then our affinity with Thomastown seems to bring that out in us. All in the name of good craic of course.
What can we expect from the Purty gig this weekend?
You can expect to see an exciting, energetic band with loud songs and quiet songs, sing-a-longs and think-a-longs in equal measure; a band who are trying to showcase the sounds of their album and the sound of their future selves using every instrument they can… ultimately whilst enjoying it at the same time. Will that do?
Pocket Promise’s I’ve Been Here For Ages is out now. They play State vs Club AU at the Purty Loft in Dun Laoghaire (near Monkstown DART station) with the Dirty 9s and Audio this Friday.