> Music Interview: Gurriers – The band talks live shows, influences and the Irish guitar band scene - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Music Interview: Gurriers – The band talks live shows, influences and the Irish guitar band scene

At SNACK, we put Scottish music first, and new bands take priority in that. However, our writers listen to so much more, and it’s been hard to ignore the volume (in all meanings of the world) of impressive Irish bands of late.

One such band who has caught our attention is Gurriers, who’ll be in Glasgow in late October. SNACK chatted with Dan Hoff (singer) and Pearce Callaghan (drummer) to discuss names, techno, shows that get shoes in the air and the Irish music scene.

So, I’ve looked up what Gurriers means, is this an apt name for the band?

PC: I think so, I’ve developed a slogan, ‘Gurrier by name, Gurrier by nature’. Explaining the name is difficult to do as it’s nuanced with contextualising fully. It’s a Dublin word and a Dublin term.

DH: It’s interesting now because if you look up Gurrier on Google, you’ll see people using the term for young teenagers who are wreaking havoc or taking the piss in public. It’s a word that’s used for those types of people where we’re using it in a more positive way.

We can use it as a creative way as opposed to calling people Gurriers because they’re acting out. We’re Gurriers on stage, but afterwards, we’re very nice!

(A quick online check suggests gurrier means ‘a tough or unruly young man’.)

I’m from Glasgow, we’ve got the exact same thing in words and phrases that have been used to describe people, but it’s now like a badge of honour, and people claiming or reclaiming the title for themselves. and reclaiming it. 

PC: It’s funny, before we had the name, we were a band for about 18 months, but this was during Covid so we weren’t gigging. We had no online presence and we didn’t feel a need to name the band, we just worked on music. The reaction is generally positive, people say it’s a great name, so we’re happy with it.

It’s great you had the chance to grow into a name. It’s strange when you think about naming a child, because parents have no idea about what that kid will be like.

PC: There’s definitely an element to that too. How do you look at a baby and call it Walter? It’s a fucking child, don’t call him that.

DH: In band terms, look at Arctic Monkeys. It’s a great name now, but when they first start playing in bars, it never had the same kind of effect.

PC: Yeah. Objectively, it’s terrible. There’s so many band names like that, without the context of what the band is and what they look and sound and feel like. So many names are terrible. Take The Killers, that’s a horrific name, I think it’s fucking shit, but then, I don’t like The Killers anyway, but you know what I mean it’s a big name and a big band, you know? 

Absolutely. It’s everything else that goes into it. Even The Beatles, The Beatles was a naff name based on a pun, and now some people say ‘it’s the greatest name for a band’ but no, you’re thinking they’re the best band ever, not the name.  

PC: Yeah. That’s not the best name. Yeah, I get you.

How different do you think the bands evolution would have been if it wasn’t for the pandemic?

DH: It would’ve been a completely different situation, we’d have burnt out a lot quicker in the sense we would’ve just wanted to gig, done a gig and been happy with 40 people turning up. We’d barely have a set with that but we had so long to work away without people listening to it. There was no added pressure to gig, so we worked away and got to a stage where we felt ready.

We thought if we like it, other people will like it, and our first ever gig was in The Workman’s Club (in Dublin), and we sold out 200 tickets. It was the first week all the clubs and bars opened up, so there was a hunger for it, and it went from there.

PC: It was different in so many ways. The loose plan we had in the first six months of 2020 all got torn up. That impacted the band but sonically, we’re in a different place, and that’s probably impacted by the lack of chance to be able to play live.

At times, when you’re a new band you can gig early doors, playing a song that isn’t developed and it’s just filling time in a set. And if that goes down well with a crowd, you think, great, let’s leave that song as it is. Without the outside influences, we were writing songs for ourselves, and we weren’t impacted by a crowd or by releasing singles and having people give us feedback. It was us in a room, writing songs for ourselves, thinking if we like it, surely others will too.

You have to manipulate these things, and generally, we did well coming out at the time we did.

How did it feel playing that gig?

PC: It was weird. As Hof said, it was the first week where clubs and venues were open. We had an opportunity to do gigs in a two and a half three-month window before, when restrictions slightly opened up. However, it would have been people sitting at tables in couples or groups of four, looking up at us. We didn’t feel that translated well to the impact we wanted to have, and for shows to have. We’re very much focused on energy, and we felt, even before we had played a gig, that if we did that, it wouldn’t translate to people sitting around a candle!

So, the first show was mad, we ran it ourselves and for ages, ticket sales were stagnant, just our immediate close group of friends. We were thinking, oh shit, we’ve overdone it here, it’s gonna be empty. Gradually though, it sold, and it sold out 10 days beforehand. It was nerve racking but exciting, it was just a mad experience. We’d been in a band for so long without having played, generally, that’s one of the first things you tick off the box as a band.

DH: I had been in a band beforehand and had about a year without gigging and I wanted to start a new band because I was getting withdrawal symptoms. So, we started, and then the pandemic kicked in, and in total, I was three years without a gig. When that gig came around, I couldn’t sleep the night before, it felt like it was Christmas and I was a kid again. It was beyond all expectations.

What bands or styles have the biggest collective impact on the band?

DH: I was thinking recently, two of the band, Ben (O’Neill, guitarist) and Emmet (White, bassist), well Mark (McCormack, guitarist) too, are mad into techno, and I hear lots of techno elements in our songs. In some of our newer songs, that genre is seeping in. For me, it’s always been alternative rock and the post-punk umbrella. For me lyrically, Nick Cave and Tom Waits, I’m a big fan of them.

PC: We’re all into what we do, I don’t think you’d be in a band if you weren’t into it. Everyone’s first foray into music is alternative rock and guitar music but it’s different how it impacts on our music. On ‘Top Of The Bill’, Mark wrote the guitar riff and he compared it to ‘Electric Relaxation’ by A Tribe Called Quest, so it had that hip-hop influence.

You bring it into a room with other people who interpret it in different ways, and it morphs into something else, but the influence when he wrote it is still there. We’re all into different stuff, and I’m probably into way less of a broad spectrum of music than the other guys. The lads are way more into hip hop, electronic music and experimental stuff than I am. We get labelled with the post punk thing as we’re a guitar band coming out of Ireland. I see the influence, and we are that to an extent, but our music is probably broader than that.

DH:  I think something in people’s minds is that the post punk boom that’s been going for the past couple years will obviously dwindle off in a couple of years. Maybe not, it could probably go on forever, but I think that’s one of the things we think about as well, we want to add new things. We don’t want to be limited. We have some songs that we aren’t ready for yet, we don’t have the right equipment to do this live. There’s that element to us, Mark is the prophet of thinking down the line and we have this big song that’ll feature production on album two or three. The lads want to be ahead of the game.

Just like Noel Gallagher having ‘All Around The World’ up his sleeve before they recorded the first album.

PC: Man, we were literally talking about that 20 minutes ago.

DH: I was watching ‘Supersonic’ (an Oasis documentary) for the second time two weeks ago, and I had this conversation with Mark about ‘Dead Sun’, this demo we have, I don’t even know if it’s called ‘Dead Sun’, it’s that type of thing and we mentioned that as well.

A bit of advice, don’t make it nine minutes long and don’t have an add-on section with a piccolo solo.

DH: Well, I have to go back to the drawing board!

That’s the album ruined boys!

PC: Yeah, that’s back to square one for us. It’s funny, I saw this thing last night and every lad had that one nine-minute song that changed their life. It was around my 18th birthday and it was the best song ever. I love Oasis, I was at Knebworth this year, but there’s definitely better Oasis songs than that.

Three singles so far, one from this year, what’s next for you with respect to releases?

PC: For people looking for new music, there’s not so much good news as we are re-releasing songs. We are going to release ‘Approachable’ at some point in November and early next year, we’ll re-release ‘Top Of The Bill’. I don’t know what our plans are for announcing that.

We’ve recorded with Chris Ryan, an Irish producer, he’s the singer and drummer for Robocobra Quartet. He has done stuff with NewDad and the new Just Mustard record, two great Irish bands. We recorded with him in Belfast a few months back, and we’re going to re-release those. Beyond that, I don’t know how much of a concrete plan there is, probably take it back to the studio and record some other songs that haven’t been released yet.

DH: We have an array of songs. We’re very small at the moment, and it makes sense for people to hear it.

PC: Anything we’ve done until today has been self-recorded and self-produced. We’ve had great success so far with it and I’m very proud of the recordings considering how restrained we are in terms of equipment we’re working with. There was no fucking budget, we barely had a budget for food!

It might seem like not the most exciting thing to re-release songs but it’s exciting for us to bring these songs in a new light.

For those thinking about attending your show, how would you describe the Gurriers live experience?

DH: Visceral is a word I think of. High energy and good interaction with the crowd. Emett doesn’t have a microphone and he’ll scream the songs, screaming backing vocals to the crowd. He won’t sing with a microphone, he’ll just scream, and I’ll be singing on stage with a monitor, and I can still hear him, he has such a loud voice. It’s a primal community thing, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We like good crowd interaction and we just wanna play.

PC: In terms of the set list, there’s a flow to the shows in how we connect with the crowd and get them onside early doors. We have high intensity songs that are all energy and we want people to jump about. We have slower songs but by and large, we get the crowd onside early doors, and we connect with them. Its high energy, but it’s not all go go go.

You’re just off the back of the Irish Music Week event, how was that for you?

PC: All day Tuesday was Spotify day, and myself and Emmet had about half an hour in the studio with people from different roles in Spotify. We talked about our release plans, how our music fits in terms of general and comparable artists and whatnot. It was good to sit down with them, play our songs and get feedback. There was also a Spotify masterclass, telling us how to work Spotify for artists and maximise your presence. 

On Wednesday, Hof and I went to the launch night, networking, the free bar was great. If you asked me on Thursday morning if it was great, I’d have said no.

DH: On Thursday, management came over and there was a delegates speed meeting.

They were giving out speed?

PC: (Laughs) Well, a bit early for that.

DH: We had five minutes with delegates from labels, PR teams where you introduce yourself but I was so hungover. I must have looked as if I came off the streets, but it was great, I enjoyed it, and we played that night, and it was packed.

PC: It was so warm, that was our fourth time playing that venue and I don’t remember it being that warm.

DH: Yeah, there were lights this time!

PC: It was like 30 seconds into the first song and sweat was dripping off my face. We said beforehand we wanted a balance where delegates could come and see us but we did a lot of ground work to get our mates down, and the crowd was really good from the word go, shoes in the air, people upside down, it was fucking mad. 

DH: It was a great week, so well run and we got loads out of it.

As an outsider looking in, the Irish guitar band scene seems really exciting at the moment. Do you feel part of something or do you just do your own thing?

DH: Even 10 years ago you’d only have like techno and nightclubs in Dublin and a small scene with a couple of bands. Now, it’s amazing, and before, only the support bands mates would go and see support bands, but now, the support band has loads of people at the gig.

They’re starting to create a music scene, and it’s really, really good. It’s not 100% there, but it is very close. I think Ireland will be on the radar for a lot of industry heads in the next year or so.

I was in the scene then as well and there was a small, small couple of bands. But now it’s amazing and people are going to the gigs, and seeing support bands. 

Any local bands you’d recommend to us?

PC: Enola Gay are our mates, we love them. We’re playing with them again in December, the fifth time. Other good bands include Sprints, Sprints are great, a great Irish band at the minute. Nixer are fucking sick.

DH: Local ones for me are Floor Show and Bullet Girl. And I really recommend Banrion, I was talking to their singer at the Music Week, and I listened to their music afterwards. There’s a song called ‘Fooling’, it’s really well produced, it’s a really good record.

PC: One thing I’m annoyed about the Irish Music Week event was I missed so much. The line-up was stacked but you get caught up doing your own thing and focusing on yourself, so you miss out on good stuff.

DH: When you have friends who you haven’t seen in a while, you have a drink and everything becomes a clusterfuck.

PC: Drinking pints with your pals can be tough at times, it’s an awful affliction!

What are your aims for the band?

PC: More gaffs in Dublin! Aims for the band are to develop the sound and never get overly too comfortable in your sound. Keep on pushing forward and continue to build a fanbase and share good music with people who are into it. Just continue to write and make music for ourselves. And so far, people have been into it, so hopefully that continues and then just like fucking be the biggest band in the world, I suppose. 

DH: Alright Liam, calm down! For me, spread with an audience and play as many gigs as we can. Hopefully release an album next year, if we’re there. We could be there.

PC: We’re not too far away.

DH: The most important thing is just enjoy yourself because, you know, it could be taken off you very easily. 

Gurriers play McChuills on Monday 24th October, supporting Chappaqua Wrestling.

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