Over the decades Cork has continually had a plethora of bands, labels, venues and promoters. There were even times the Cork music scene seemed ready to explode. The rebel county has consistently produced not just great acts but acts that had in their possession, a swagger, an edge and an ability to write and create music that would lead you to believe there’s some special ingredient in the water of the people’s republic. Echo 'Downtown' correspondents Eddie Kiely (FIFA Records) and Eddie Butt (bass player with Emperor of Ice Cream) take a closer look at some of the Leeside acts, both past and present, that have helped to illuminate the Cork music scene. Here we focus on Hope Is Noise.
To a great deal they are the uncelebrated heroes of the Cork music scene, with five full length albums under their belts. More than 20 years of touring, numerous labels and turning heads in both the UK and US press, Hope Is Noise continue to exude a passion and desire to keep playing and recording music that many bands can only aspire to.
The four school friends, Dan Breen (vocals, guitar), Joe Jolley (guitar), Pat Gillen (bass) and Louis Angelini (drums), who as they say themselves ‘Are now old men who really should know better, however, we have no plans to stop anytime soon’ and that would become Hope is Noise in 2005, set about making music together in 1997.
The Cork quartet have built a loyal and dedicated fanbase, drawn in by the band’s ability to pen pop songs that are laden with hardcore tendencies and an explosiveness reminiscent of American rock band Hüsker at their peak.
Alternative rock is in all probability the genre what would best describe the Hope Is Noise sound and although many bands that fall under the classification of Alt Rock find themselves there because their sound doesn’t quite fit a mainstream category the same cannot be said of the Cork outfit. What you get is an aural bombshell that comes at you like a thunder bolt and with explosive effect.
Hope Is Noise have not only become regulars on the Irish gig circuit, while promoting their critically acclaimed albums their escapades have seen them grace the stages of numerous European festivals, as well as undertake two mammoth tours of the West Coast of the US.
But, perhaps even more importantly it has seen them fulfill life-long ambitions of sharing the stage with such legends of alternative music as Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Mudhoney to name but a few.
2017 saw the release of a fitting tribute to mark the bands 20th anniversary, the excellent Head in the Clouds documentary. It took the ample archive material that was available and placed alongside interviews.
Brilliantly told, the Hope Is Noise story, of which frontman Breen stated: “Personally, playing music with my best friends for over twenty years has been an amazing privilege so having this documentary is a really cool way to mark this.”
May this year saw the band self-release their fifth long player Head Wrecked, a release which was somewhat accelerated due to the lockdown. The six tracks as we have now become accustomed to with Hope Is Noise are well written, sometimes explosive, almost always powerful and laden with melody.
A fitting follow-up to their 2016 album Demons and songs which will be a brilliant addition to the bands already inflammable live material.
However, in the current climate it may be some time before we get to witness them live due to the current restrictions and uncertainties’ surrounding Covid-19. In the meantime, for those of you still to experience this restless sound, of a band always with a sense of purpose, unwilling to be pigeonholed. A band born of long-standing friendship, whose disparate elements are brought together by a passion for creation and performance regardless of broader trends and fads. This is Hope Is Noise. All their back catalogue can be found on their bandcamp page.
We recently caught up with lead singer Dan Breen for a quick chat and to find out what’s next for Hope Is Noise.
Q. Who would consider your major musical influences?
A. Individually we all have different musical influences and tastes but always found common ground with the whole 90s alternative scene. Bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins around at the time really inspired us to want to start a band and ultimately we did. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to, and inspired by bands such as Husker Du, Fugazi, Hot Snakes, Slint, and Shellac, who all combine melody and raw noisy energy. This is something I try to bring to my songwriting for Hope Is Noise.
Q. How do you feel about the music industry today?
A. To be honest, we’ve managed to exist as a band without paying too much attention to the ’music industry’ and in return, it has paid little attention to us. We’ve always done our own thing but it is clear that things have changed a great deal since we first started out.
It’s clear that there is just as much music being made in Cork recently as there was at any point in the last 20 years but I do feel there are less and less places for underground or emerging bands to play gigs. Who knows, the post Covid world could make it even harder for smaller bands to play anyway with distancing and all.
Q. What advice would you give to young bands starting out today?
A. Practice as much as you can, there’s plenty of time for life when you get older. Be as self-sufficent as possible in all aspects of band operations. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing.
Q. What musical projects if any are you all currently working on now outside of Hope Is Noise?
A. One of the best things about playing music for over twenty years is that you meet a lot of likeminded people and there are always potential new projects starting up all the time. I am involved in a new project that is still in the early stages so watch this space...
Q. What do you feel is your best song?
A. That’s like asking me to pick my favourite child. I’ve been asked this a lot over the years and the answer changes depending on what songs we have in our set lists at the time or what mood I’m in. If I had to pick one from the last few years, it would probably be ‘Bitter End’ from our last album, Demons.
Q. What is next for Hope Is Noise?
A. Hopefully we’ll get back jamming soon and begin writing new music and planning for the next recording. Playing a few gigs would be great, maybe we need to get a post-Covid festival going for later this year.