Taking the Irish music scene by storm recently is HamsandwicH, a band from Kells with a whole lot to offer to the world. Here Ryan McDonnell spoke to lead singer Niamh Farrell about what it’s like to make up one fifth of the band.
When your band forms at a crucifixion party one Easter night in Kells, you’re destined for fame.
Niamh Farrell of Ham Sandwich, fashionably spelt “HamsandwicH”, formed the band with the other Kells locals Podge McNamee (Guitar), Ollie Murphy (Drums), David McEnroe (Bass), Brian Darcy (Guitar) and Johnny Moore (Bass 2003 – 2010) in 2003.
Since then they have gone on to play Electric Picnic five times, perform on The Late Late show, win the Hope for 2008 award at the Meteor Music Awards, and their latest album “Stories From The Surface” soared to number 1 in the Irish albums chart.
Farrell is helping her band pave their way to further success with her clear alto vocals. She recalls her early years of being introduced to music:
“From an early age I loved sitting in at parties and listening to people singing and stuff. And when I could start singing songs, I got right into it and I loved getting up at a party and singing a song. So I had a love of music from a very young age.”
With her father and uncle’s influences such as Thin Lizzy, The Jam, and The Who, these are some of the heavier tones which echoed in the band’s first album “Carry The Meek”.
Farrell comes across as a very experienced and well cultured artist with her musical roots, and her band’s now well rounded sound, even if she does claim she can only play two songs during a sing song at a party.
For those curious, it’s The Postal Service – Such Great Heights and Kirsten Hersh – Your Ghost.
It can take a lot of trial and error to achieve this well rounded sound. Farrell talks about her early years in the band, where she met different people in different areas of the music industry.
She says that when you’re a young band you can learn a lot from supporting other bands. She also said, “I found it’s very supportive as well. Irish bands would kind of give each other a nudge and give each other advice and stuff. It’s a very healthy relationship the people all have.
"It’s not one genre of music, you mix up all the time meeting different people from different genres of music, which is great.”
One band Farrell has this healthy relationship with are The Coronas. Farrell mentions how great they are from how well they run their show, their music writing abilities, to their adoring fans.
“[The Coronas] have a very tightly run shift. They’re a great band and a great bunch of lads. They’ve got it right and it’s very inspiring to watch. We’ve palyed with them a few times now and it’s great to watch their crowds totally get lost in the music and it’s fantastic.
"They write some absolutely brilliant pop tunes. Their songs are brilliant. For a while I didn’t get it. I kinda brushed it off as kinda teenage girl music, but I hadn’t even listened to it. I was like ‘well it’s probably not my bag so I won’t give it a listen.’ Then I saw them live and and I went ‘Oh, this is it’ because they’re an incredible live band. Once you see them live and listen to their music you’re like ‘I get it, I totally get it now’.”
However, HamsandwicH aren’t as lucky as The Coronas when it comes to fans at times. When Farrell was learning her trade in the music industry, she said that you learn not to annoy people too much – something the band found difficult when some people heard their name.
“I think people really don’t mind the name. At the start it really started to bother a lot of people and people would also get too annoyed about it, and you kinda need to change your name. It's just a name you know? It’s just something people identify with our music.
"I guess we wanted to stick with it and I’m glad we did because people eventually came around and they were like ‘You know what? I’m really enjoying your music, your name doesn’t really matter anymore.’ It’s just something you use to associate the band and the music. It sticks in people’s heads and people will remember it, which is also another good thing.”
The only problem the band has with the name these days is when Niamh goes looking for pictures from a gig they’ve played, she might just find pictures of what people had for lunch that day. However HamsandwicH have bigger things on the agenda.
HamsandwicH’s most recent gig took place in New York city’s CMJ’s music festival. It was the band’s first trip to America. Farrell considers the trip to have been a successful one and wishes to return early next year.
A big tour of America however doesn’t seem to be on the cards for them as it’s not financially viable unless you’re signed to a label.
“It’s not like the 70’s anymore where you get on a big tour bus and drive around America,” Farrell laughs.
As well as returning to the US in 2016, the band plans to do more shows in Europe and release Stories From The Surface in England.
For now hopes remain high for the band to receive the Meteor Choice Music Prize award.