JJ Lee talks to Cork band Aerialist about all things post-rock, social media and their plans for the future.
With the conclusion of both the UCC & CIT Battle of the Bands in recent weeks, Leeside is teeming with a number of young, confident groups ready to break new ground after cutting their teeth. However, it’s not just new beginnings for fresh acts but for some established ones too. The band ‘Red Sky, Planes’ have built somewhat of a reputation for themselves over the past 3 years or so, winning the 2016 UCC Battle of the Bands and playing small festivals like the 96/1 Music Trail in Cork.
‘Red Sky, Planes’ played their last gig as part of the 2017 CIT Battle of the Bands and from the ashes of this successful venture comes instrumental post-rock band, 'Aerialist' – a group consisting of drummer Luke Daly, bassist Eoin Hayes accompanied by Danny O’Shea and Donagh Sugrue on guitar duties. I recently caught up with Danny & Luke to find out a little more about the inspiration and challenges that come with starting all over again.
Q. Firstly, thanks for taking the time out to have a chat lads. Just for the sake of context, when did Red Sky, Planes form and then from that, how did Aerialist come to fruition?
Danny – Around 3 years ago, roughly, and alternating members for the entirety of the three years. The original line-up was myself, PJ and Kenneth and then we needed a bassist so Donagh joined in. Kenneth then left and Luke came to play drums.
Luke – That was 2014 wasn’t it? I remember being in final year and getting asked to play a gig in Fred Zeppelins and said why not!
Danny - Donagh then moved abroad for a year so we got Eoin to come in and take over, it was just the logical thing to do. Myself and Luke moved in together last September so we decided we may as well write some songs together and we planned to just be a two piece and see how it goes, but that hasn’t really happened as it’s difficult to make interesting music as a two piece without singing.
Luke – We did kind of intend to go on as a two piece but we still had Red Sky Planes sitting there, so we said we’d try and make it work. That’s essentially what the past few months have been about, doing these Battles of The Bands trying to get back in the saddle. In the end, Red Sky ended up becoming totally a five piece because all of those five members were pretty instrumental in the band. None of us wanted to be in the band with a member down, so that’s kind of where Aerialist came from.
Danny – It’s also a new musical direction, were not playing any Red Sky stuff. It’s more instrumental math rock, post rock stuff whereas Red Sky, Planes ended up being more kind of emo, alt-rock with pop sensibilities.
Luke – Instrumental music is something that we’ve all started getting into or been into already and it’s a fun thing to explore. Vocals as more of an instrument rather than having to get a lyrical idea across.
Q - Ultimately then, what was the reason for the big change?
Danny – We had a chat about it a few times, we all agreed that we wanted to give it a proper go. We didn’t want to look back at this opportunity to make music and think we didn’t do it. It boiled down to who can actually commit going forward. The change of the name and the style just came with it.
Luke – That was more of an afterthought even, the priority was making music. We all wanted to make music but in that configuration we just couldn’t. It’s a shame, but at the same time it was nearly becoming a point of stress due to not being able to commit.
Q - In terms of genre and style, is Aerialist a more focused and definable effort with a clear vision when compared to Red Sky, Planes?
Danny – Yeah, the new stuff we’re writing, you can see influences from post rock bands like ‘Mogwai’, ‘Explosions in the Sky’ to Math rock even. A lot of twinkly stuff, but also bands like ‘Sigur Ros’ are an influence. Lots of different things going on.
Luke – The variety is something we like in a song, having a nice dynamic range, the quiet starts building into absolutely deafening stuff and even mixing up tempos and time signatures. When done right, it really grabs my attention. It’s really interesting and it’s fun to play, it can be challenging but when you pull it off, it’s great.
Danny – Within the songs, it’s the dynamics that keeps it interesting whereas before it would have been the lyrics or a hook. These songs change a lot but we still hold on to some form of a motif throughout.
Luke – There’s less of a focus on individual instruments and more emphasis on building an atmosphere or a soundscape that people can respond to.
Danny – I like that, that’s quite pretentious now. But like, it is a very pretentious genre of music to try and make.
Luke – Ah yeah but fuck it, its good craic like.
Q - What’s does the song writing process usually entail?
Luke – Normally Danny would come to us with something he’s written. It could be a chord progression or a whole song structure and we’ll kind of work around that. But I think every member of the band is sitting on a few ideas and going forward, it’s something we’re going to try and run with. We all play more than one instrument so we’re trying to embrace that.
Danny – In one of our new songs, Luke plays bass and Eoin plays drums, he’s a very accomplished drummer as well. Two of our new songs were written on a Bouzouki actually. Nothing of the new stuff is in standard tuning, it’s all in some sort of open chord. Then Donagh just has the craic like, he puts his hair down and plays the pedal-board. Donagh’s instrument is the pedal-board, the guitar just creates the signal.
Luke – I think we’re more getting into sounds in the broad sense, even now we’re starting to include interludes and stuff. We’re starting to use a laptop on stage; that’s our fifth member, Eoin's laptop.
Danny – Using technology and electronics is something we’re going to get into going forward.
Q - What are the main difficulties that arise from going instrumental?
Luke – I suppose maintaining people’s attention. Because there is no vocal expression, it’s really up to the instruments to convey emotion a lot more. Pedals really help that because you have all these modes of expression quite literally on a dial at your feet. We’re also getting into a lot of interesting rhythms, it’s not a huge new idea but it’s not something you see a lot either. We haven’t really gigged enough yet with the new stuff to say for definite however.
Danny – There’s also a perception that instrumental music is going to be boring amongst people that aren’t necessarily into that brand of music. I wouldn’t say it’s a problem but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed even talking to workmates and classmates who aren’t massively into music when I’ve been telling them that our new stuff doesn’t have words, their general reaction is just ‘Why not?’
Q - Is Social media important for new and upcoming bands in your own opinion?
Luke – The real me screams, ‘fuck that’, but you do need it. People log onto Facebook and Twitter every day. A friend of mine is with a label at the moment and they’re constantly being hounded for content, videos, interviews whatever it may be, generating interest basically. But it can be hard to sell yourself, none of us are particularly interested, we’re just here to write music like. It’s like a CV, no one likes doing it but if you want to get the gig or the job, you need it.
Danny – It differs very much from personal usage, it has to be done well. If you have it there, everything has to look right. If you look at a bands page and it looks unprofessional you’re going to think they’re not taking it seriously. You just have to look like you care, people won’t ask you to play gigs if they look at your Facebook page and you’re not very active, you’re spelling things wrong etc. You have to be consistent, a lot of bands do it well but there’s others that are absolutely shocking and it makes you say 'what are they at'?
Q - What’s the overall goal with this new group?
Danny – I suppose the goal is to make people enjoy it as much as we do. If that happens, that’s where your opportunities come from, we don’t want to try and force it. We’d rather have it grow naturally as opposed to having the music constantly pushed in people’s faces through endless marketing. I’d like to be discovered by people and enjoyed. If we can do what we’re doing and people like it and opportunities come, great. If they don’t, I’ll still be happy with playing it.
Luke – At the end of the day, we are just playing it for us but if people respond to it, that’s great. A dream of myself and Danny’s is to make it onto this YouTube channel called AudioTree. Any sort of left-of-centre band that passes through Chicago pretty much gets called in to do a recording and then they do a 50/50 split with the band.
Danny – It’d be great to go to the States, it’s clichéd to say it but we’re not realistically going to find our biggest audience in Cork. Maybe not even Ireland.
Luke – If you look at other big Irish post rock bands like God Is an Astronaut, they sell out all across Europe but they can’t sell out Cyprus Avenue.
Q - What are your plans for the future?
Luke – At the moment we’re trying to archive all the Red Sky stuff, we did put a lot of work into it and we want to have it. We’ll probably just release it on SoundCloud. In terms of progression as a band, we hope to get a few tracks done this summer. We’ll probably shoot for a 3-4 track EP and try and work into gigs, few support slots. We need our portfolio as such.
Danny – We’ll have to have some new music available to stand any hope of being taken seriously and getting a support slot or whatever.
Luke – From our last few gigs we’ve had a lot of nice things said to us and we have a good few friends around Cork who’d be willing to gig together so we’re just going to go for it!
Danny – It’s strange, some people may know who we are but it’s a new band and a totally new start.
Check the guys out on Facebook for more updates - https://www.facebook.com/AerialistBand/