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59 f H


owever, there is one more element to note about the inclusion of Lowlands Of Holland on their first album, and it goes beyond any


awards. “We do feel a certain responsibili- ty and maybe that it’s our place to keep singing certain songs too, especially songs from Donegal, Ulster, and specifically from Arranmore Island where our family come from. Most of all, they’re just the songs that we like to sing while going about our lives, so we aim to stay true to the reality of those songs.”


“Those songs” and their ilk coloured the landscape in which the Mac Gloinn brothers grew up. “There was always folk music playing. On the record/cassette/CD player at home or in the car on long jour- neys to our mother’s homeplace in Done- gal. Because our older sisters played tradi- tional music they would often have friends around, many of whom were also great musicians. Brían played in a trad group as a teenager too, and kind of obsessed over traditional music during those years.”


As Diarmuid explained, traditional music was an ongoing, active part of their lives, spent with people in the same state of mind. “Our sisters Fiona, Aoife and Cróna all sing and play. They would have influenced our early tastes in music as did several of our cousins, aunts and uncles. Our parents always sang and encouraged us to sing. Family gatherings would consist of party pieces and come-all-ye songs going on late into the night.”


Within all of this it didn’t take long for the brothers Mac Gloinn to move beyond playing music to begin writing it. “We weren’t quite children at the stage when we started writing songs together in the woods, but we weren’t far off,” Diarmuid recalled of a certain wooded clearing they would escape to, “just at the top of the road from where we grew up. We would go there on sunny days and sit on logs exchanging song ideas or coming up with new ones. Diarmuid had been writing poet- ry and songs since he was about ten when our sister Aoife used to read him the poems she was studying in school. She was his ear- liest songwriting collaborator in a way, as she would play piano or guitar to accompa- ny his earliest attempts at the craft.”


So, they decided to start using those skills, and began performing on the streets around Carlow, unbeknownst to them- selves setting the stall for a future in music. “Busking is a fantastic way to learn how to perform,” Brian pointed out. “You quickly lose all fear of performing, learn how to project your voice, improvise and to catch people’s attention in a fleeting moment. We gained a lot of practice and confidence on the street, as well as making a bit of money for ourselves. Busking was probably the most important thing we ever took the initiative to do, along with starting the session in Walsh’s. From the beginning we never undervalued our- selves or let anyone take advantage of us because we knew what we could make in a few hours on the street.”


In 2012 the brothers left Carlow and brought their music with them. “We moved to Dublin initially to do degrees but going to college was also a ticket out of Carlow and a chance to explore a new place.” Diarmuid left his course in journal- ism after a year and a half with very few regrets. Brían will hopefully be returning to finish his degree in film and radio this year but before he started college he want- ed to leave school and become a luthier.


Their passion for music seems only to have grown in the fair city. Their uncle Declan introduced them to Walsh’s pub, Stoneybatter, where they started hosting a weekly folk session. Renown for the open- ness and diversity of their Monday night sessions soon grew, and as time passed they started making waves in Dublin folk music circles. “We wanted to start a ses- sion that could offer a space for different kinds of folk music and not just traditional Irish tunes, which is more common in Dublin,” Brian recalled. “You never really know who’s going to walk in the door. We’ve had all kinds of everything in there, from Sardinian pipers to a French man throat-singing Irish airs, or screaming folk- punk jams to classical violin duets.”


E


ventually, the waves they were making fell under the notice of Irish film maker Myles O’Reilly. As Declan explained, “[Myles] asked us if we want- ed to make some videos with him. We didn’t have a name at the time, and we weren’t quite sure of what we were as a band. Myles acted as the catalyst for us to become Ye Vagabonds and to start playing more. We were huge fans of Myles’s work, his videos were the reason Brían studied film, so it was massively exciting for us to work with him.”


The quality of O’Reilly’s videos cap-


tured Ye Vagabonds at their best, spurring on a momentum that has been steadily building. The duo went on to play Irish and UK festivals, eventually bumping into Glen Hansard at Electric Picnic. “As he was leaving, he said that he’d love to get us out to do some gigs with him,” Brian recalled. “And the day after we got back from the festival we got an email from his manager asking us about the European dates.” They consequently joined Glen Hansard on his European tour that year.


Ye Vagabonds released their first album, a self-titled collection of ten tracks, in October 2017 – featuring Nicholas Cooper on strings and Alain McFadden contributing harmonium, mandolin and vocals. “A few of the songs on this album were written when we were still living in Carlow,” Brian recalled. “[They] sat there unsung for a long time until we decided to dig them out when we were making this record, and others were written in the past couple of years. We put the album togeth- er in a rehearsal room over the course of nine months or so, and some songs came and went during that time, new and old ones, depending on how we thought the whole piece was coming together.”


Diarmuid wrote “the raw material for most of our original songs to date but without Brían’s input they would not be recognisable as the songs they are now. Of the tracks on the album, Pomegranate and For Bert were written by Brían, and Wake Up was collaboratively written. Brían often takes on the greater part of the arranging and so our traditional reper- toire is greatly shaped by him.”


There was method in their madness


by including Lowlands Of Holland in the collection. “We added this in after the rest of the album had been recorded, to ease the transition into the next album,” Brian divulged. “We wanted to include a song that featured both of us in harmony, and that had relatively little instrumenta- tion compared to the rest of the album. Also, this song is very important to us, and we had already released a video of us singing it on tour, so it made sense to record it properly.”


Brían “figured out this arrange- ment,” of the Folk Award-nominated track. “[It was] on a five-string banjo orig- inally, and then I transferred it over to the bouzouki. Sometimes it’s fun to write or arrange songs with an instrument you’re not totally familiar with, so that’s how that happened. Alain and Nicholas don’t play on the Lowlands Of Holland, but their input on the rest of the album was massive. Nicholas has a particular style and voice on the violin and viola that we love, and we’re so happy we got to work with him on the album.”


“Alain is a one-man band, so we were able to give him any instrument to play any ideas that any of us had. The combina- tion of my fiddle, Nicholas’s viola and Alain on the harmonium became a kind of tiny orchestra sound after a while.”


The brothers have a busy year ahead, as a duo and with their own individual projects. Brian has been working with singer-songwriter Anna Mieke, and the pair will “hopefully be releasing some- thing this year”. He’s also been working on a song-collecting project around Ireland since the beginning of this year, with Sam Lee and James McDonald who run the SCC. Since Brían moved away to Cork, Diarmuid has been holding down weekly sessions in Walsh’s pub and the Harbour bar in Bray along with musicians Anthony Mannion and Phil O’Gorman. He’s also been teach- ing himself to play the fiddle and writing some fiction.


You have a chance of catching ye


Vagabonds over coming months as they will be “touring throughout the summer and autumn in Ireland, the UK, Europe and Canada, playing at some festivals (including Sidmouth Folk Week) and venues all over. We’re doing a tour of the islands in Ireland this summer too. We’ve also just recorded our second album, and we’re hoping we can release that this autumn if our timeline works out right.”


Best keep an eye on the website. www.yevagabonds.com


F


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