Lockdown didn't mean a Slowdown for Art Crimes Band

Ronan Leonard catches up with drummer Niall Dennehy and discusses a new single which looks at how mental health is often overlooked
Lockdown didn't mean a Slowdown for Art Crimes Band

The Art Crimes Band

THE Art Crimes Band are a name that many will know as a mainstay on Cork’s live music scene for well over a decade - in particular the Cork Jazz Festival Gig Trails - but their drummer and co-founder of the band, Niall Dennehy, reckons they have only found their own personal sound in recent years, with their new single ‘In The Dark Of The Evening’.

It is the fruition of their development, “channeling the late night soundscapes of the early 1980s L.A. studio “golden era” pioneered by the likes of Quincy Jones, Toto and Steely Dan.”

While the live music industry world has been turned upside down, inside out since last March, Niall is resolute that it wasn’t ‘downtime’ for the Art Crimes Band.

“While live music concerts went on hold we had time to focus our efforts in other areas of our careers.

“I run and operate a recording studio so I was able to focus more time on that. The extra time awarded to us was not ‘free’, we did our best to use it wisely and continue to write, record, produce and promote.

Niall Dennehy. 	 Pic: Hilda McMahon
Niall Dennehy. Pic: Hilda McMahon

“We’re looking towards the end of the pandemic and we want to be ready.”

Niall and the rest of the group had identified this single to be a new chapter for the band, and while they would be forgiven for postponing this gear change they are sticking to their guns.

“This is a pivotal moment for us as we turn our backs on the typical bar gigging scene of eight years and we will now focus solely on developing our career as an original outfit.”

We had to keep practising, growing, learning, evolving and finding our sound

The Art Crimes Band released their debut album in 2015, but Niall looks back on it frankly as one by a band still working themselves out.

“The album was called Radio and we launched it at that year’s Guinness Jazz Festival. It was a mix of different ideas really from the previous five years of our existence. It had no focus, we were still searching for our sound, our place but we felt we had to get some form of an album of original material out.

“The material on the album is something Niall reflects upon. “Many of our friends and peers had been writing songs since 14 or so. We were in our late 20s and merely ‘white belts’.

“We had to keep practising, growing, learning, evolving and finding our sound.”

One other issue that held back The Art Crimes Band’s progress was much more serious, as Niall elaborated.

“The album’s promotion and follow-on gigs were stifled in February 2016 when I slipped and fell into a marina in Lagos, Portugal, and ended up in an induced coma. The guy who saved my life that night was our bass player Tim O’Leary. For the first few days my outlook was not looking good. I could not breathe on my own. Doctors said after the first three days I might not make it; then a few days later it could be six months before I came out of the coma; but after two weeks I woke up.

“We went on a hiatus for most of that year but as soon as I was recovered we were offered a residency in Readen’s on Washington Street. We played as house band there almost every week for two-three years. We played a mix of covers and our originals. We knew we had to keep doors and opportunity open, and do a mix of both if we wanted to keep working for the time being and keep making a name for ourselves.”

However, the decision has been made by the band to focus on their own original material. While the new single fits as a response to the mood of the Covid times, it was in fact started well before the lockdown.

“Believe it or not it was already written and we debuted the song on Arena on RTÉ in October 2019 as a live acoustic performance. Tim is also a member of the legendary blues and alt-roots outfit One Horse Pony.

“I’ve played session drums with OHP for years. We’ve always exchanged song ideas and helped to co-write and one night Kevin Morrison, their harmonica player, had an idea and melody for a song called ‘In The Dark Of The Evening’. He gave it to Grace - our lead singer, songwriter and the first lady of the Art Crimes Band - and Tim, We did the rest from there. The arrangement was done by us and the song produced by us.”

While the song covers universal themes, it was inspired by an individual, as Niall continued.

“We had a friend in mind who struggled more than others with mental health and so the lyrics were based around the idea of reaching out for help and talking to friends - knowing you are not a burden. Also at the time we were contemplating deaths by suicide in Ireland being 412 in 2019, according to National Office for Suicide Prevention, and deaths on the road being 141 in the same year, according to Road Safety Authority. This is what the other inspiration was for the song. So many resources going to road safety… but little or none going to mental health.”

In The Dark Of The Evening is
released today and available on all streaming platforms.

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