Interview: Ryan Óg – Kolibrí

Ryan Óg, aka Kolibrí has just released a very fine three track EP ‘Eulogies’. Hailing from Limerick, Ryan relocated to Brighton some time back and has been honing his skills as a songwriter and musician from his new base. He is very much an unknown quantity on the Irish music scene, but that should change very soon if his new EP is anything to go by. Showcasing an obvious mastery of the studio and a strong melodic sensibility, Eulogies is a form of muscular shoegaze, with this talented young musician brewing up an impressive noise over the course of this very promising debut. Ryan took the time to talk to us about background in music and future plans for Kolibrí.

 

1. Congratulations on the EP Ryan, it is fantastic. For those out there who aren’t familiar with you and  Kolibrí, can you give us a little background about yourself, when you started playing, previous bands, etc?

Thank you! I’m glad you like the EP. As for myself, I was born in Limerick City, and raised in Co. Clare on the border between Limerick and Clare. I had the two worlds growing up, both the city experience and rural experience which I’m grateful for as I feel it’s given me an experience on both kinds of life and environments. I currently reside in Brighton, a city on the South Coast of England and have been here since the beginning of 2014.

My first steps into music came in the form of the tin whistle, which was compulsory to play in my class in primary school when I was about 9 or 10. I initially hated it and if anything it drove me off playing music. It’s only until I got my first guitar when I was 11 and began to explore that myself did I really begin to start playing and enjoying it. I found playing the guitar captivating and got a great sense of release from it, but I really got drawn into it when I began to experiment with my own style of playing and writing which led on to my first few projects.

My first project was a band I had with my friends, which was fun, but disbanded. I then had a solo project after that, which I released an EP for, called “Aftercare”. I decided not to continue with it because I personally grew away from the style of that project and wanted to start something a bit different to that, which is now why I’m here with Kolibrí.

 

2. Growing up, what kind of music did you listen to, who would you say was your main inspiration to play music?

Growing up I almost exclusively listened to punk genres when I was a teenager. I first got into Green Day when I was 12, which then introduced me to Ryan Óg (Kolibrí)bands like Rancid, Operation Ivy, and NoFX, and before I knew it I was in a whole world of music listening to the likes of Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Black Flag, X, The Cramps, to name a few. I still have all the CDs I collected from that time and even got the Black Flag logo tattooed on my back such was my love for punk music. From that, I began to a lot of post-punk and a lot of bands that kind of came after American 80s hardcore music like Fugazi and Sonic Youth. Fugazi, to this day, remain my favourite band.

I always found their music to be so exciting because there always seemed to be this energy building up in every song that was controlled and released in bits and pieces through their combination of groove and hard hitting guitar progressions. I then totally fell into the world of shoegaze like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine and felt greatly inspired by the combination noise and sombre melodies that these bands made.

I am also deeply interested in electronic music and I’ve been listening to a lot of the older stuff like Orbital in the past year. Despite all this, I can’t really pin down the main inspiration that made me play music. I’ve always had this drive in me to create something that is true to myself, so having being inspired by all the music I’ve been exposed to throughout my life I felt it in me to go out and create something that represented me both sonically and lyrically.

 

3. There are obvious Shoegaze influences on the new EP Eulogies but it definitely has a broader appeal than most music of that genre. Such a huge guitar sound and the songs are more melodic than most shoegaze bands. Tell us a little about how you create that sound.

The sound is created through a variety of means. My guitar sound is heavily influenced by shoegaze bands and some bands in the post-rock genre; the huge sound is something that I’ve always found interesting and mesmerising. I use a lot of effects like delays, reverbs and chorus effects, along with fuzz distortion. I try to keep the bass sound rhythmic but also melodic, so sometimes it can sound like a rhythm guitar in the mix.

A huge part of the songs for me is the electronic aspect which I create using software based on old modular and analogue synthesizers. I really enjoyed writing and making the electronic elements to the songs. It was very experimental and sometimes, in creating those sounds, it was a case of throwing whatever onto the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s an aspect I want to push further for my future work.

 

4. You are originally from Limerick but you are now based in Brighton. Was that a conscious decision in order to try and further your music career?

Yeah, that was a big part of it! The music scene in Brighton is very vibrant and I’m glad to be a part of it, and I’ve learned so much from being here. The main reason to move was for personal reasons and to better round myself as a person. I found Brighton and Limerick/Clare to be so different and I was in a state of culture shock for a month or so when I arrived.

The culture and attitudes here are very different to how they are back home. It was very difficult at first but I’m glad I did it, and a new living setting in a place full of varied cultures was exactly what I wanted and needed to experience. However, Limerick and Co. Clare remain very important to me and they’re the most valuable sources of inspiration in my work. I still love going back and visiting and don’t feel grounded if a long time has gone by and I haven’t been home. I still feel very much like a person from Limerick which is a feeling which I don’t think will ever leave me.

 

5. What is the music scene like over there and have you played many live shows?

The music scene is great here! Really rich and vibrant. It’s also a major spot for bands to tour through so you get to see a lot of bands from all over the world. In terms of gigging my own stuff, I actually haven’t played a single gig yet! This is mainly due to life getting in the way; changing jobs, moving house, etc. and also through bad luck with musicians coming and going. So I’ve decided to strip down the project and keep it just myself and Ed Matthews on drums and do the live set with a combination of us playing and backing tracks.

That way there’s more control and independence over the music and we can build from there. We’ve been rehearsing a lot in this new setup and it’s been sounding great lately so a gig is a definite for the near future.. Touch wood.

 

Ryan Óg6. Do you think technology has made it easier for musicians to record and distribute their music?

Yes, I do! And I think it’s a major factor in music these days. With the technology available today you can do most of the work at home that you would have had to have done in a studio maybe about 10-20 years ago. That’s true for my music anyway. At the cost of a spare bit of my disposable income, I basically made a home studio setup in which I record most of the electronic aspects of my music and some guitars.

I then record things like live drums and guitars in the studio, but even then in terms of editing digital technology has made it so much easier in general. On top of that, you have the internet too which is a major tool in distributing music and allows for easier access to people you might want to make contact with.

 

7. Any downsides to that?

I find it hard to think of many downsides to modern technology in music. I suppose if you wanted to make a living off running a studio it might not be as stable as before because so many musicians make what they want to make at home, but then again that’s also a good thing because it allows for more musicians the freedom to record and write their own music in their own time without being constrained to studio slots and fees. I believe in general that everything should grow and evolve, that there should be evolutions on how we think, in our attitudes and how we do things; music to me is no different and styles, genres, ways of recording, writing, etc. should always evolve and seek to defy convention, which to me, is what excites me about music.

 

8. So what is next for Kolibri? Some Irish gigs perhaps?

Next up is definitely a few gigs. I’m also working on new material for an album, so that could be expected by next year! And yes, there will absolutely be Irish gigs in the future. Would be nice to come home and play a few spots around the country.

Interview by Paul Page