'Producing album was like a marathon I'm glad we ran'

Cork-based Kerrymen Deadbog have gone from a two-piece bashing out noisy ideas at home, to a full-fledged shoegaze outfit bearing echoes of the genre’s past, and of their peers and contemporaries in Cork. Downtown's Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with members of the band about their newly-released E.P., and the process of coming together.
'Producing album was like a marathon I'm glad we ran'
Deadbog.

The self-titled debut extended-player of Cork-based outfit Deadbog is an impressive opening gambit: It’s a headlong dive into distortion, texture, and noise, underpinned by reverence for their sonic forebears. Lovingly-crafted moments, reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, give way to Mogwaiesque post-rock panorama, with roots in the Cork DIY scene: One can easily imagine that further sonic excursions will take the local Cork grá for psychedelia in a new direction.

Deadbog began as a two-piece, comprised of Tralee transplants Danny O’Shea and Luke Daly, after the disbandment, a few years ago, of their post-rock four-piece, Aerialist. O’Shea talks about how Deadbog came together, and the decision to go into the realms of noise and shoe-gazing.

“I had, for a long time, wanted to make some noisier stuff, and have always loved big wall-of-sound guitars, and playing with different effects to make things sound interesting, and wanted to start doing some singing again,” O’Shea says. “Luke and I have been playing together for five years or so, with Aerialist and, before that, with Red Sky, Planes, and been in the same circles since we were teenagers in Tralee. I had been sitting on a few song ideas, and Luke and I live together, so we just started playing around with them, recording bits of demos and that, and, pretty quickly, we realised that there was a project there for us,” O’Shea says.

Ideas came together in a piecemeal fashion for the duo, and from different songwriting starting points.

O’Shea talks about a solid body of work. 

“The songs on the EP, in particular, all kind of came about differently: Some will start with a guitar part that just comes from jamming around, others, in particular ‘Vending Machine’, the lyrics came first,” O’Shea says.

“It came from a bit of a rant that I had to myself. I write a lot of stuff down: Feelings, ideas, and so on, and just bank them in a ‘I will use that at some point for something’ note, and I will dive back into my notebook for those lyrics, when a guitar part comes up, whereas ‘Gurus’, the instrumental track on the EP, began with the guitar riff that is throughout,” O’Shea says.

“I found myself humming the melody one day at work and I had to run out of the office and ‘la la la’ it into my phone, until I could get to the guitar in the evening. I’ll usually bring these ideas to Luke, and we would record them and start to write other bits around it. It was great having each other to bounce ideas off, when writing the songs on the EP,” O’Shea says.

The band has since expanded into a four-piece, with the addition of Rory Burke, on guitar (he was a drummer with prog-rockers Gilbert), and musical autodidact/fellow Kerryman JJ Lee, on bass. Lee, who has also been working on solo material, talks about being recruited.

“Danny was joking around months beforehand, and said something to the effect of, ‘Here, are you ready for the inevitable call to be the bass player in Deadbog?’, and, true enough, the call came after a few months, which I was elated about,” Lee says.

Deadbog.
Deadbog.

“Luke and Dan were doing something really exciting; it was a pleasure to be asked to join in. In the lead-up to the four-piece debut, we were adding little touches here and there, what worked and what didn’t work; it’s all a very fluid process. To loosely quote Danny again, ‘bring all the loud pedals you have, and turn all the knobs to the right, like a good man’,” says Lee, laughing.

With Deadbog having impressed with live excursions before the coronavirus crisis, Burke talks joining the band, his and Lee’s influence, and what it’s been like whipping the duo’s songs into live shape as a four-piece.

“I think, Danny asked me, sort of out of the blue, if I’d be interested in joining Deadbog as a guitarist, which I was surprised to hear. I’m a drummer, before anything else, so I was delighted at the chance to do something different from my usual musical experience,” Burke says. “From the get-go, Danny and Luke were keen for myself and JJ to make the parts our own, giving us the basic ideas of what they wanted and then let us mould it from there. It’s been an interesting experience, being away from the rhythm section, and it’s been a lot of fun for me to contribute to the ambience and the melodic aspects of Deadbog’s sound. And lots of pedal-pushing, of course,” Burke says.

The band released Deadbog, its self-titled debut EP, this past Friday, via Teletext Records, a Cork-based gig collective/netlabel of which the band are a part, on musical and organisational levels.

Daly spoke about the recording and post-production processes, after ideas were expanded and settled on, telling a story of DIY graft and collaboration.

“With the exception of some parts of the initial ‘Vending Machine’ release, everything else was recorded and produced in my bedroom. The writing, production, and mixing ended up flowing into each other, so it was a bit of a holistic process,” Daly says.

“The EP closer, ‘Behold the Coagula’, hasn’t even been performed in any real capacity yet. We’re flexible enough in how we approach writing and producing, which really helps keep the creative flow consistent,” Daly says.

“Danny has a clear vision of the aesthetic he wants to convey, so we spent a lot of time researching and messing with different sounds and production techniques from various associated genres. We’re also big believers in the quality of the end product over how it comes to be,” Daly says.

Deadbog's new album.
Deadbog's new album.

“We’ve done everything from meticulously micing vocal takes in a candlelit bathroom, through using samples and virtual instruments to push the sound, all the way to micing up a desk fan during the great heatwave of 2018.

“We also had the good fortune of being able to collaborate with Christine Cusack, a very talented local artist and vocal coach, and Shirley Lam, of Angry Mom Collective. We also worked with accomplished mastering engineer Tony Fitz, who worked closely with us to see the EP over the finish line,” Daly says.

Now that the record is a finished product, how do Deadbog feel about it? This article was written on the eve of the EP’s release, and the band members feel equal relief and pride for the result of their hard work, Daly says. “It’s been a marathon, but one I’m glad we ran. We came close to releasing a lot sooner in the past, even with different tracks.

“As it goes on, you can start to lose perspective, but I’m proud that we persevered and are releasing the EP in its current and final form. We’ve no physical release planned for the time being,” he says.

“But when merch’ tables become a thing again, we’ll revisit the idea.”

With the end result of the band’s hard work in mind, and all that’s been happening outside of the creative bubble, Lee discusses what there is for the band to look forward to at the other side of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The obvious, and most immediate answer, here, is gigging, really. We had some lovely gigs lined up before the pandemic started, and, hopefully, we can rearrange these dates and crack on, once things simmer down,” Lee says.

“Deadbog, for me, personally, anyways, is a great release: Loud, emotionally charged music; there’s no better tonic for the soul. I’d even go out on a limb and say I’m just looking forward to getting back in a room and jamming,” Lee says.

Deadbog’s self-titled extended-player is available now across streaming services, and for download on deadbog.bandcamp.com. Purchasing the album on the latter allows you to add it to your Bandcamp collection, helping build your own personalised streaming service on its accompanying mobile app.

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