Described as an 'Acoustic Folk Rock Band', Hermitage Green is made up of five guys who have created an original sound that has charmed the nation.
I caught up with the guys in The Damson Diner on Dublin's South William St on Tuesday. They apologised that Darragh couldn't be there, he was a bit under the weather in Cork. Feel better Darragh!
CT: Hey Guys, great to meet you all. So what did you all study in College that led you to here?
Dan: I studied Music and Media in UL, I graduated about 3 years ago just before we started the band actually.
CT: Did you know then that you were gona be in a band?
Dan: No its funny, people say 'dont make your passion your work' and while I was in the course, because it was so heavy, I didn't play a lot. When we graduated I started playing that summer a lot more I took up slide guitar, then we started jamming with the lads and the band just happened accidentally so I definitely wasn't doing the course with the intentions of becoming a musician, radio production is what I wanted to get into actually.
Darragh: I did primary school teaching and had music as my chosen subject but it would have been all piano pretty much, I played through the college years and then I did a performance masters in Irish traditional music last year.
Barry: I went to rugby college, (laughs) tackling labs! I studied Business and Marketing, I played rugby in college so I went into that professionally for about 9 years and then just came into the band. When the band started I had an injury and so just started with them. I'd been playing music since I was a teenager, I played the guitar and used to use it as a hobby while I was playing rugby. It's nice to have something to do in your spare time just to switch off. When we started the band, somebody needed to learn the base so I started to learn and that's where I am now.
CT: Were you taught the base or did you teach yourself?
Barry: Once we started the band I started getting base lessons, and I still am. Picked up a double base last week and I'm loving it.
Dermot: I did real estate in LIT, I finished up in May and joined the band in Aug/Sept. So I play bodhran and drums and percussion. Since I was 5, I was raised with traditional music. Playing with Hermitage Green is very different, it's kind of a hybrid of all our differences and all of our techniques rolled into one.
CT: So you all have different influences, do you all like different types of music that you roll in together?
Dan: We all have different interests that overlap which is naturally going to come into the music that we create.
Darragh: We like anything from metal to trad and everything in between, we're going to a gig tonight in the Pepper Canister of a guy playing Bach on a mandolin so there's a real vast interest. We don't really try and go about it and think 'well I like this now so I'm gona try and get it into the sound', but to keep in interesting for ourselves we like to bring new sounds into it as we go.
CT: How did the band come to be?
Dan: We're all friends basically, Myself and Barry are brothers, I was mates with Darragh, Barry and the other Darragh were living next door to each other. We started jamming together as much as we could, it was very organic. It was just a jamming session that went from one step to another.
CT: Lots of students reading would be in bands but still studying and aren't necessarily committing themselves entirely to music. Was there one specific night that it all happened for you, a big break moment?
Darragh: We went from being a jam session in the back of a pub to a lads brother who owns the pub forced us out of the shadows basically and we got our first gig and from that we got a few more gigs and we just started building our name around Limerick. It was never 'let's get a load of gigs and build our profiles' it just sort of happened. None of us could believe it, I'd been sitting at home in my room playing guitar for about 6 years before that thinking wouldn't it be great to just play to people and then just started writing songs.
Dermot: In terms of college stuff we did a lot of stuff with the scholars in UL, some of the best gigs... great craic. Started up with nobody and then the last gig we had 1500 people there in the courtyard.
Barry: For anyone in college who is trying to to do it, we didn't turn anything down, we did anything we could get our hands on, playing as often as possible. Having similar interests was very important, we were all on the same page all the time. If I had any advice it would be surround yourself with people that are thinking the same way. Obviously you want to challenge each other, which we do all the time, but we're just 5 guys working in the same direction.
CT: Would you say to anyone aspiring to be where you are that it's been hard along the way?
Barry: I'd love to say that it's been really hard work, I can only speak for myself... I think it's so enjoyable for us, the most important thing for me is that. And whats hard work? Every student out there is working a lot more hours than we're working, putting in the 12 hour days which everyone has to do at points in their life.. I'm 31 in two weeks, if you told me when I was 21/22 I'd be doing this I would have laughed at you. I didn't have to really work hard, just keep doing what you love and loving what you do and if you do have a job, keep at your hobby and if you work hard something will happen for you. We never said 'Right, we need to be at this point in a year' it just went along quite naturally and we enjoyed every minute of it. Obviously there are difficult aspects to it but you've gotta step back then and think, you're actually doing what you love.
Dan: One thing I will say for a band that's starting out is that, we have a good presence on the internet, you have the opportunity to play your music to a massive audience now where's it wasn't always like that. You needed a record label and some sort of distribution method to get it out there where's now it can be up on the internet in 10 minutes. We just sat around playing songs and then put them up online and luckily people liked them, we never had any plans, it just kind of built from there. You didn't have the freedom to do that 10 years ago.
CT: So your album coming out on November 22nd, why did you decide to do it live?
Darragh: It was a bit of a no brainer, we recorded a few live bits months back and said, wow this is so much better, this is so much more like what we want to sound like as opposed to trying to over dub stuff in studios and doing different takes, the energy was lost. It just became clear to us, it was like a light bulb went off, lets just do this. Hopefully it will just generate more interest.
CT: When I saw you in Whelans, there was great energy on stage and you all seemed to be in such good form, buzzing off each other and getting on really well. Do you find that if you're in bad form it reflects on your performance?
Dan: Sometimes, being moody doesn't have to be a negative thing. You don't have to go out there hopping every night.
CT: And because there are so many instruments and variations in sound, do you find that it's possible for one person to effect a whole song?
Darragh: Good question!
Dermot: You always have to get into a certain frame of mind when you're performing and you're aware that people have bought tickets to come and see you but as Dan said, it can reflect if you're putting more aggression into your music or you're super smiley and happy but I think there's a context for the song. A lot of our songs have different moods, there's loss, there's darkness and anger and then there's uplifting music. I often feel like I can go on in mediocre, tired form and then as soon as you're on you're back in the zone.
Barry: What we often comment on is when we were on a long tour in Australia, it gets proper intense and I certainly wasn't prepared for how hard it was going to be at times when you're getting two hour sleep and then you have to get up and get on a plane and do a gig. But generally, you'd be wrecked and as soon as you played one song you just forget it all and you take off again, it just evaporates as soon as you get on stage.
CT: What are all of your favourite songs? Both your own music and others.
Dan: From our songs it would be 'My little friends', and my other one would be a song called Reverence by Phillip Henry
Darragh: For me it would be 'Misfits', a song about two homeless people I wrote which I really love. Other than that; '1952 Vincent Black Lightening' by Richard Thompson
Barry: Good answer! My favourite song is 'Gibson' and my other favourite is 'Madame George' by Van Morrison
Dermot: My favourite of our songs is 'My Little Friends', my other favourite would change quite a lot but I'd say Richard Thompson, 'Beeswing'.
Hermatige Green's new album 'Live At Whelans' recorded over two shows in October, will be released on November 22nd. Watch out for backstage passes on College Times!