A Cow In The Water are no one-trick pony!

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’. In part three of our five-part series, our correspondents, Eddie Kiely (FIFA Records) and Eddie Butt (bass player with Emperor of Ice Cream), profile A Cow In The Water.
A Cow In The Water are no one-trick pony!
Cool! Cow in the Water John Lynch, Dion Harley, John Mollaghan and John O’Shea. 

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’.

In part three of our five-part series, our correspondents, Eddie Kiely (FIFA Records) and Eddie Butt (bass player with Emperor of Ice Cream), profile A Cow In The Water.

FORMED in Blarney, County Cork, in 1986, A Cow In the Water were an integral part of the Cork live music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s and were popular on the nation’s live circuit.

Cow in the Water The original line-up (L-R) John Mollaghan, the late Aidan O'Connell, Dion Harley and John O'Shea. 
Cow in the Water The original line-up (L-R) John Mollaghan, the late Aidan O'Connell, Dion Harley and John O'Shea. 

Aidan O’Connell, John O’Shea, Dion Harley, John Mollaghan, and Rory Looney were renowned for their over-the-top, at times bizarre stage shows. These could include special effects, elaborate sets, strange costumes, and even inflated rubber gloves used to simulate cows’ udders. The band combined hard-driven guitar rock with brass overtones to produce a genuinely original and quirky sound.

This allied to their stage antics ensured the band drew large attendances and built a dedicated following.

Cow in the Water singer and guitar player John O'Shea. 
Cow in the Water singer and guitar player John O'Shea. 

Between 1989 and 1992, the Cows released a number of EPs on their own label, ‘Cow Music’, distributed through Comet Records. The band’s debut release, Zodiac Vomit, in 1989, received a positive response and included live favourite ‘Beri Beri’.

This was followed with the release of two more EPs, Liver and That’s Not Your Finger, both of which were recorded at Carigdown Recording Studios. The highlights of these EPs were fan favourites, ‘Memphis’, ‘Let’s Go to the Pub’, and ‘Hector’. Over the following years, the band continued to tour around Ireland, including memorable shows with Aidan Walsh: Master of the Universe, amongst others.

A Cow in the Water live at the Crane Lane.
A Cow in the Water live at the Crane Lane.

During this period, they produced a number of self-released live cassette EPs, capturing the essence of their sound, and were also working on their eagerly awaited debut long player, which was being recorded with the late Dennis Herlihy at the controls, in Knapps Square studios, Cork.

Cow in the Water. Orignal singer the late Aidan O’Connell who sadly passed away in 1996. 
Cow in the Water. Orignal singer the late Aidan O’Connell who sadly passed away in 1996. 

However, in 1996, Aidan O’Connell, the band’s charismatic frontman, sadly passed away, effectively calling an end to over 10 years of recording and live performance. On the 10th anniversary of Aidan’s death and in tribute to him, the band remastered and released their posthumous LP, Hitchhikers may be Escaping Inmates, and held a memorial concert in the Pine Lodge, Myrtleville, where they were joined by a succession of Cork bands and musicians.

In 2017, A Cow In The Water resurfaced with ex-Emperor of Ice Cream drummer, John Lynch, replacing Rory Looney. The band said that “he (John) has provided the creative spark which allowed us to broaden our work into new musical directions, bringing with him an enthusiasm and subtlety to the songs that have allowed us to develop musically”. Additionally, Darrin Mullins (The Driven, Dissolutes) took over production and mixing duties, helping the band to further develop their sound.

We recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist John O’Shea.

Q. Any gigs planned for this year?

A. We are booked to play the Crane Lane Theatre on August 8.

Hopefully, it goes ahead, but we will have to wait and see.

Q. What musical projects are you currently working on?

A. We are in the middle of recording two new albums, both very different, one country/acoustic and the other more rock/punk.

Q. What do you feel is your best song?

A. Of our most recent releases, we really like ‘Break My Bones’, which has been well-received and has had radio airplay as far away as the US and Canada. Also, ‘Dirty Basterds’ is also worth a mention, which we released in 2019.

Q. Who would were your major musical influences growing up?

A. Johnny Cash, Madonna, Stump, Nun Attax, Five Go Down to the Sea, Teenage Fanclub, The Smiths, Dinosaur Jr, Nick Cave, Butthole Surfers.

Q. Where did the name ‘A Cow in the Water’ come from?

A. We found it in the RTÉ Guide. It was a documentary about island people moving cattle.

Q. How do you feel about the music industry today?

A. The ability to get your music out there is a lot easier, but the chance of being heard is more difficult, with the amount of music being released. People don’t value music anymore, not like when we saved to buy an album and played it to death, read the cover notes and lyric sheets.

I still buy a lot of vinyl. We also hope to release on vinyl as well as digital.

Overall, I believe the way people consume and enjoy music is not as good now as when we were younger. The attention given to lyrics just isn’t there. That’s why I love listening to Nick Cave and Johnny Cash: There is a great depth to their music.

Q. What advice would you give to young bands today?

A. Have fun, don’t ever be afraid to express yourself, if it sounds good to you, then it’s good enough. Make music you want to hear, not music you think people want to hear; it is far more rewarding and you will find like-minded people who will come along for the ride and will enjoy the show, rather than a group of people chasing the next cool thing.

“We still have people coming to our shows that started in 1984: That’s 36 years.

The Cows are currently completing two new albums, Dark Country Jamboree and Ireland’s Wonderful Heritage, keeping the music clearly in the realm of the sardonic and sharing their wide influences and styles, with songs like ‘Anger in my Drink’, ‘Sometimes’, and ‘Woods’. Their latest single, ‘I Want to Hit Him (released for Donald Trump)’ goes back to their punk-rock roots, with stinging lyrics and driving guitars.

All of A Cow In The Water releases are available on Spotify, and other digital platforms.

1. Break My Bones

2. Dirty Basterds

3. I Want to Hit Him (Released for Donald Trump)

4. Woods (Musical adaption of a Poem By Robert Frost)

5. Anger in My Drink E

Website: www.cowinthewater.com

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