Kudos to musical East Cork sisters

Ballycotton sisters, Sophie and Laura O’Keefe are thrilled at how their album ‘Perfect’ is being received. CHRIS DUNNE talks to them about the inspiration behind their work, and how another local celebrity, Will Sliney designed their album cover.
Kudos to musical East Cork sisters
Sophie and Laura O'Keeffe, Ballycotton

SISTERS Sophie and Laura O’Keeffe are multi-instrumentalists who make up the band Kudos. They honed their musical talent as young girls growing up in the beautiful hamlet of Ballycotton, which is perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in East Cork.

“A lot of our inspiration writing songs and creating our music comes from the beautiful surroundings of where we live,” says Sophie, 22, who is three years the elder.

“We are thrilled with how our album, Perfect, is being received.”

The Ballycotton sisters are making their mark on the music scene.

“We are playing up to five gigs a week, says Sophie.

Guitarist James Fantom features on the album too.

“Radio stations are giving the album lots of air time and our audiences at venues around the country are raving about it. The songs really resonate with them,” Sophie added

The music video for Perfect, which was released on February 8, was shot against the backdrop of Ballycotton lighthouse and the deep blue sea. The album is at No.8 in the Irish Indie album charts.

“We filmed the video in Ballycotton and in other locations in East Cork during the heat-wave last summer,” says Sophie.

“The beauty of the seasides that we loved so much as kids — Ballycotton, Youghal, and Tramore — were shown at their best in the magnificent sunshine.

Sophie and Laura O'Keeffe, Ballycotton
Sophie and Laura O'Keeffe, Ballycotton

“A lot of our inspiration for our songs comes from the beautiful natural surroundings of East Cork.” says Sophie, who has been playing the guitar since she was eight years old.

“We played in the Blackbird in Ballycotton recently, and the atmosphere there was fantastic. It was great to get such a massive response in our home village. Everybody has shown us incredible support.”

The sisters have another string to their bow. A well-known Ballycotton native put his own stamp on Perfect.

“Iconic comic artist, Will Sliney, designed and drew the album cover,” says Sophie. “We love it. Will is magic.”

A more exotic, magical location, which is 7,537km away, and which is close to their hearts, St Helena, was also showcased in all its glory for the music video for Perfect.

“We all went off on an amazing adventure when my dad got a job opportunity on the island of St Helena,” says Sophie.

“We packed our bags and off we went! It was very exciting for us and our brothers, Dillon and Cian, to go and live there. And the island provided us with perfect timing as well as the opportunity to tap into our creativity, writing songs and experimenting with harmony and musical arrangements.

“The people of the island welcomed us and they supported us all the way in our career,” says Sophie. “St Helena is a fabulous island.”

The volcanic tropical island, an outpost in the South Atlantic Ocean, is also very remote.

“It took us six days to get there from Johannesburg!” says Laura, 19.

The island is part of British overseas territory, which also encompasses Ascension and Tristan de Cunha Islands. Napoleon was exiled to St Helena following his escape from the Italian island of Elba.

Did the girls find it strange, as Irish teenagers living so far from home?

“No. We embraced the British education system, completing our GSE’s and A levels,” says Laura.

Sophie completed the world-renowned Berklee College summer music programme in Valentia, Spain.

Kudos Album cover by Will Sliney
Kudos Album cover by Will Sliney

It’s a long way from their old alma mater, Midelton College, where the girls’ musical talent first became apparent.

“Our music teacher, Hannah Dennehy, encouraged us to enter the Wesley Inter-schools’ Music Festival,” says Sophie.

“Laura and I were both winners at the festival in 2014. The festival provides a platform for young performers in front of an encouraging audience.”

It was the catalyst for the sisters, realising their true talent lay in singing in harmony together, Sophie on guitar and Laura on piano, making their own atmospheric indie sound.

“We realised we sounded great as a duet, harmonising together,” says Laura.

“On my 18th birthday we became Kudos. Writing all our own songs together, nailing the lyrics, from a young age; we created a unique sound that evoked life-experiences for people.

“Women especially relate to our lyrics that harp on real life experiences, both happy and sad,” says Sophie.

“They are drawn to our songs. We’ve all had those happy or heartbreak life experiences and our music reflects the things we’ve all been through. We recreate those experiences through our lyrics and our music.”

Their school-mates loved the atmospheric sound of Kudos, and so did the 4,000-plus population living on the exotic sun-kissed island of St Helena, where the good vibes and sweet vibrations added to the sisters’ musical prowess.

“It is an inspiring place to be and St Helena is a massive part of the album,” says Laura.

“We made friends with the islanders and with the Irish ex-pats living in St Helena.”

The world is their oyster.

“Our ambition is to play Madison Garden!” says Laura.

“That’s our dream. We wanted to call ourselves Madison, but somebody else got there before us!”

The Ballycotton sisters, as well as their nearest and dearest, are sure-footed while scaling the heights of fame.

Dad Niall, who was a member of the 1990s band Temple Door, knows the score.

“The girls are really talented,” he says. “They turn heads when they sing. Myself and Ainé are very supportive, promoting and aiding the girls’ careers.”

Niall is a teacher as well as mentor for his daughters.

“Dad taught me guitar chords when I was eight,” says Sophie.

Do the sisters who tour together, write songs together, and sing together, ever argue together? They laugh.

“You know we love what we do so much, spending so much time in each other’s company,” says Laura. We are best friends.”

See www.beefymusic.com

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