A “big auld weird stew” of sound and circumstance | Emmet O’Riabhaigh as Mamety brings us 'Gudge'

After the end of prog-R&B outfit Shookrah, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Emmet O’Riabhaigh had an itch to scratch. With new solo project Mamety, he brings years of divergent influences together with social commentary and his trademark humour. Mike McGrath-Bryan gets a chat in after the release of debut album ‘Gudge’.
A “big auld weird stew” of sound and circumstance | Emmet O’Riabhaigh as Mamety brings us 'Gudge'

Emmet O’Riabhaigh: Releases debut album ‘Gudge’ later this year.

If you’ve followed the music of Cork multi-instrumentalist Emmet O’Riabhaigh over the years, ‘Gudge’, his debut album under the solo banner of Mamety (more on that shortly) will at once make perfect sense, and feel like a departure.

From his roots in genre-splicing eejits Plinth, to contributing to prog-rockers Lamp, and his involvement in the space-age R&B of the recently-disbanded Shookrah, there’s a broadness and depth of sounds and influences that make themselves immediately apparent.

In other parts of the album, the liberation of being able to act and operate solo takes on its own dimension, veering anywhere from Thundercat-inspired foolishness to the stridence of peak-era Peter Gabriel, an eclecticism that comes from having no real starting point, by O’Riabhaigh’s own admission.

As Mamety Emmet O’Riabhaigh brings us 'Gudge'.
As Mamety Emmet O’Riabhaigh brings us 'Gudge'.

“There wasn't really a plan, it just sort-of happened, and I suppose the lockdowns and coronavirus probably had a big part to play as well, because I just had so much time on my hands.

“I could either, y'know, spend all my spare time, you know, playing Gran Turismo online, or I could pick up the guitar or keyboard or whatever again, and start writing stuff. I just got sitting down in front of (digital audio workstation) Logic and just started making weird ideas and beats, and I ended up recording the bones of a lot of songs.

“It's probably 50 or 60 songs that I started, and maybe three-quarters finished. The ones that made the album are just the ones that I stuck with, and didn't hate after a few listens and attempts at writing and rewriting.”

On questions of ideas and concepts, the obvious one is that of the project’s moniker, which latter-day Cork music nerds will also recognise as the musician’s long-running personal online handle.

It transpires that the truth is a bit more of a study in miscommunication and its consequences, than any notions of writerly whimsy.

“There's a funny story. During college, I was going to get Four Star Pizza with a friend of mine. Going up to the counter, the lady asked me for my name. So I said, ‘it's E-m-m-e-t’, and she was like, 'okay, grand'. So we got the pizza, and she called me and my friend's name, and then she gave us both our boxes. I looked at the label on the box where my name was written, and ‘Mr. Mamety’ was written down. I love the fact that you got that from a clearly spelt name, but it's a catchy name that stuck.”

Mamety is, by sound and circumstance, a latter-stage Covid-19 project, written and recorded at a time of ongoing and profound social change in Ireland and abroad.

It’s a theme that nearly permeates the album despite O’Riabhaigh’s intentions, as he responds to the alienation that the current world creates, amid the stresses of Brexit, the trauma of the Covid crisis, and the looming twin menaces of late-stage capitalism and climate change.

With that being said, the jumps between musical frames of reference do a lot of heavy lifting in that regard.

Then I'd be like, 'oh, God, I f**king love that kind of music, that's what I want to do

“It was always going to be a mix of genres, because I just find it very difficult to, to stick with one thing. I just... I get bored. Or maybe I don't so much get bored, as I listen to some other types of music, and then I'd be like, 'oh, God, I f**king love that kind of music'. That's what I want to do.

“So I could be, y'know, finishing up a song that's kind-of like, a slow ballad or something, or even like elements of Americana, or country or something. And then I'll hear something that's, y'know, prog-metal, and then I'll go, 'no, I really want to, like, get down and dirty with some weird riffs', or, 'so here's some Peter Gabriel or something', and I'll really want to do like a eighties pop ballad.

“Because I never set out to do anything, and make a real goal at creating a new band, I just wanted to make a big aul' weird stew of different genres and just explore them. I know it's probably not the most marketable way of putting it out. It's quite bizarre. But I don't really care, because that's what I like to do.”

One particularly keen example is ‘Why Don’t You Friends Call You Out?’, a melting pot of the aforementioned musical broadness, O’Riabhaigh’s penchant for setting lyrical scenery, and the growing need for questioning of poisonous and outdated attitudes among men in particular.

It stands as an early watchpoint on a relatively long and winding sonic road - with its roots firmly in creative indecisiveness and collaboration.

“I wasn't, like, hit with a sudden pang of inspiration that came from like, anger, or frustration thinking about society. What that song deals with, in general, comes from talking to Mini (Cork heavy-music mainstay Ian O'Callaghan).

“I was just saying that because he's great at just coming up with something to write about, and then just writing really kind of interesting, funny, but cynical lyrics, and he always has something in his head to write about.

Just think of some typical character that annoys you, or think of someone in your real life, that annoys the sh*t out of you

“My problem was always, I have loads of musical ideas, but the initial ideas just doesn't come easily to me. So I just asked, 'what, what do you do?' He said, 'just think of some typical character that annoys you, or think of someone in your real life, that annoys the sh*t out of you', as if I was getting advice from Jerry Seinfeld, the observational kind of thing.

“So I found that that person just came into my head: a really obnoxious, toxic person that isn't in your friend group or anything, and, y'know, you'd be glad that he isn't, but you would come across, and they're just a pretty repugnant person, especially when they're drunk. Only kind of cares about themselves, and everyone else is a toy to play around with.

“So I just created this character in my head, and it's kind of talking directly to that person, but then it's also talking to that group of friends, that passively lets them behave like that, lets it happen all the time. It just kind of grew from there, just kind of images of like, like, say, like in the chipper and stuff and their attitude in general, it just kind of came from that. You can blame Mini for that, but he's not the person in the song (laughs).”

As the Covid crisis has played itself out in the past two years, O’Riabhaigh has also kept busy doing a bit of mixing and mastering for others - including O’Callaghan’s own solo project, Auld Blue Eyes.

But when it comes to working for himself, there had to be lines drawn regarding getting things done and out into the world.

“I guess it's just slow and incremental. I just wanted to have songs done, and when I got to the mixing stage, I decided which songs I was going to go with, and then I started mixing them properly. When you make something yourself, it can take as long as you need, and sometimes that's a bad thing, because you can just keep revisiting stuff and listening to in the car, listening it to somewhere else... I tried to avoid that a bit.

Emmet O’Riabhaigh: Releases debut album ‘Gudge’ soon, but has new single out.
Emmet O’Riabhaigh: Releases debut album ‘Gudge’ soon, but has new single out.

“Now, I had the advantage of having recorded real drums with Brendan Fennessy (O Emperor). So we went up to the studio that he runs, and that Shookrah used to practice in as well. We took two days, and just recorded all the drums for the tunes, he was recording me.

“That was a nice kick in the teeth, if I could put it that way, because the songs felt a lot more 'real', that they didn't really just exist in my spare room anymore, on my computer. That's probably when I decided 'I'm going to actually do a real album here, and not just p*ss around infinitely in my room', y'know?”

‘Gudge’ experienced something of an impromptu early debut on newly-created Irish streaming service Minm, before being withdrawn prior to its intended release this year.

The service offers an alternative to Spotify for users and listeners alike, promising a more manageable take on the streaming model, focusing on homegrown artists and offering users things like editorial content, while paying artists fairly, as a percentage of individual subscription fees measured by listens.

The service has been a real talking point in the last few weeks and seems to be garnering momentum. O’Riabhaigh offers his thoughts.

“To be honest, I put it up thinking it wouldn't be public yet. But it was, and I got an email from them saying, 'did you definitely mean to put this up, straight away?'. 'No, I definitely didn't, thanks for telling me.' I heard of it from Mini again, he clearly has his ear to the ground for these things.

“But I think it's a great idea: anything that can take some share away from Spotify is a good thing, in my opinion. Whether it be Bandcamp and obviously, you know, I have put 'You Know Yourself' up on Spotify, and the album will go up there as well. I do it a bit begrudgingly.

“I just know that people, if they're at a house party or something, and they think, 'oh, I'll put on Emmet's album', they'll probably go to Spotify, so it kind of has to be there. But it's just unfortunate that that's the case.

“And y'know, if Minm are going to take their fair share of the market on behalf of Irish musicians, I think that's a great thing, and I wish them all the best.”

Mamety’s debut album, ‘Gudge’, releases this year; debut single ‘You Know Yourself’ is available for streaming and download on Bandcamp, and across all digital services.

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