When the Goldenplec massive set about selecting their Plec Picks of 2014 one name consistently cropped up again and again. At its most basic Plec Picks is a list of bands to keep an eye out for. If you haven’t been living in outer Mongolia for the last eleven months there is no way you could have missed the rise and rise of Dublin latest success story Raglans.
Goldenplec caught up with drummer Conn O’Ruanaidh recently to discuss the success of their self-titled debut album, their adventures in Europe with The Fray, taking on New York and a plethora of other topics.
“Since we got mentioned in the Plec Picks feature (in January) we have been so busy. It has been non stop gigging all over the world really. It’s been crazy,” says O'Ruanaidh.
Having played the support slot to plenty of acts in the last few years the Raglans lads were eager to get on the road with American stalwarts The Fray, which saw them travel all across Europe. Playing their biggest dates of their career to date, the sense of occasion wasn’t lost on the Raglans. “It was the best first experience of Europe a band could have. We are so lucky,” says O'Ruanaidh. Despite all the gigs being sellouts the Raglans never expected to be playing to a sold out crowd. “Usually the support act gets much a smaller number. Especially seeing as we weren’t that well known in Europe we really expected to be playing to small numbers but every single night was jammed. It was insane.”
Touring with a group like The Fray was a special experience in itself. “The Fray guys were so nice to us. We’ve played with a lot of bands and a lot of the time everyone does their own thing and there is very little interaction, which is fine. The guys from The Fray were totally different. They watched our set every night, shared their beers with us, let us on their tour bus and were just really nice and accommodating.”
It has long been established that Irish and UK crowds are a unique bunch. Raglans had been warned that playing elsewhere would be a bit of a shock. None of them expected the differences that they were met with. “In places like Germany the crowd are so attentive. Where as in Ireland the crowd is constantly going crazy and taking everything in at the same time.” The European crowds haven’t seemed to master the multitasking traits that the Irish have. “We were playing and the crowds were just nodding their heads. We all thought ‘Oh crap this isn’t going well’ but then the song ends and the entire arena erupts. It was a bit surreal. It’s just how they do it I suppose. When you’re playing they are listening and when you’re not they are clapping and cheering.”
With a new single just released the topic of picking one song from an entire album rears its head. Trying to pick one over another isn’t a decision taken lightly. “There is a lot of sitting down and discussions between the band and other people. Its tough because everyone has their own ideas. We picked White Lighting because we love playing it and we really felt that there could be an interesting video made with the pave of the song,” O’Ruanaidh explains.
An interesting video is exactly what they got. It brought suffering for an art to an entire new level. The video, by Finn Keenan, is shot in a stop motion effect and as O’Ruanaidh says himself it was, “overwhelmingly frustrating but enjoyable at the same time.” Pevious videos had seen “a group of lads just walking around and having the craic.”
White Lighting took the form of a bootcamp in a warehouse in Cavan. The shoot was expected to take sixteen hours in total. Forty-eight hours later (with just a two hour break) the final shot was recorded at 07:45am. “We were basically jumping up and down for hours at a time. It was tough but fun. Looking at the finished product now it was totally worth it even if it feels like we left a bit of our soul in that warehouse.”
As a band Raglans have seen the importance of new technology on modern music. “We find it weird when new bands don’t do their own social media stuff. It is so important and is often overlooked. It allows us to interact with people who are interested in us. It gives us the opportunity to reach an infinite amount of people through the click of a button.”
With music in Ireland experiencing a boom period not seen in a long time, O’Ruanaidh is unsure as to the cause. “As a band we were discussing this kind of renaissance in Irish music only recently. When I was a young buck there was a kind of quiet time in music, but in the last few years we have totally come away from that and there are some amazing bands now. It’s not just that they are doing really well but the standard is incredibly high and consistent.”
Having played their first gigs in America recently the Raglads are eager to make a return across the water. “It was insane. We got to play this massive festival called CMJ. It is totally spread out over the city. Like SXSW only on steroids. In one night we travelled from Manhattan to Brooklyn for two gigs.” Being their first time in America they didn’t expect a huge reception. But the combination of social media and a large Irish presence helped the crowd to make it a memorable trip for the lads.
Despite just releasing their first album the writing process has not stopped. With a lot of waiting around before and after gigs the guys have plenty of opportunities to throw ideas around for new songs or riffs. “We just play whatever we are thinking about and then once we get back home to the studio we can have the time to really sit down and flesh out the ideas further. We are the type of band that are always working on something,”says O'Ruanaidh.
Having recorded with big name producers the experience has really helped the lads to grow as musicians. “We knew what we wanted. The producer really helped us. He steered the ship and we paddled it. We were really hands on with the entire record.”
Having signed to an independent label in the UK Raglans now have the control they require over their music. “Nobody is telling us to work with some songwriter. Everyone at the label is fantastic. They help us get where we want to be and let us do it ourselves. What is not mentioned in the world of labels and things is that people always tell you that you need someone to be writing songs for your band. As a band we are totally against that. We write our songs and slave over them until they are perfect like it should be.”
As a group of young lads away from home and playing music they haven’t had the time to miss home. “We are a van full of friends doing what we have always dreamed of. I don’t want to offend anyone but we are having so much fun that it is hard to miss anyone.”
Raglans don’t seem like slowing down any time soon. With the album due for release in countless other countries and a touring schedule that will see them all over Ireland, Europe, America and possibly further the entire band have no desire to stop. “We are living the dream. Why would we want that to end. We plan to work as hard as we can for as long as we can.”
Winter Tour dates include gigs in Portlaoise, Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Dundalk, Castlebar and Belfast.