Cork indie band The Drive hit 2022 with a big gig and a new single

Part of a new generation of young Leeside bands tipping the hat to Britpop, shoegaze and C86, The Drive have gone from dealing with the Covid crisis stopping them before they could get off the ground, to drawing a crowd at Cyprus Avenue last Friday night. Mike McGrath-Bryan catches up with the young four-piece ahead of their new single’s release.
Cork indie band The Drive hit 2022 with a big gig and a new single

Cork northside band The Drive have started their post-Covid excursion as they mean to go on, with a big gig. Pic: Lorna Egan and Philip Corkery

If there’s one thing we’ve been covering a lot of in these pages over the past two years, it’s the struggles of young musicians and emerging bands over the course of the Covid crisis: fewer gigs in changed circumstances, less ways to form communities and offer mutual support, and oftentimes, writing and practicing processes compromised by lockdowns as well as newly iterative or incremental exercises in collaborative songwriting owing to working remotely.

More important has been how bands have discussed their fears, frustrations, and the ways they’ve seen for themselves of picking things up and moving along as the crisis has developed, eventually gaining confidence over time to discuss how they’d begin to get things rolling in earnest as the end of the crisis loomed.

The Drive are releasing a new single. Pic: Lorna Egan and Philip Corkery
The Drive are releasing a new single. Pic: Lorna Egan and Philip Corkery

Enter The Drive. (the full stop is theirs), formed in 2018 and hailing from Cork’s northside, who have started their post-Covid excursion as they mean to go on, with a gig that went from a small affair booked for Winthrop Avenue, to pulling quite a substantial crowd in the main Cyprus Avenue venue upstairs. After two years away from gigs, and with new single ‘SNFC’ on the way, it had to have been validating for the crew.

Guitarist/vocalist Konrad Radzki discusses the new tune. “That song has been around for me and Eoin for at least two years now. It was the first song that we had creative input from someone outside the band's original members.

“Alex (Redmond Galligan, drums) joined, he put in his two cents, and when we first met up with Allanah (Hynes, bass/vox), that's when she put in her two cents. It's been changing for the last two years, and it's a completely different song than what it was.”

In short: it’s not been a great time to be picking up an instrument and quelling the primal angers, loves, lusts, hurts and fears of youth by drowning them in noise, with the upshot of getting to play for others.

All the rites of passage are either gone or compromised, and they’ll take a different form when it comes time for the city’s scene to pick things up in earnest. Eoin Murphy (guitar/vox) discusses how they made the best of their time, and waited The Circumstances out.

Coming into COVID, we had two really big gigs planned, literally within two, three weeks of going into lockdown

“It was the best thing that ever happened to us. We were playing a few small gigs back at the end of 2018 and throughout 2019. Like in the summer of 2019, we played Fredz and that was really big for us. We were able to go out of the county for the first time in December of that year to play in Kilkenny, which we'd later go back to. Coming into COVID, we had two really big gigs planned, literally within two, three weeks of going into lockdown. We were in talks with f**king (Galway dreampop upstarts) NewDad, of all bands, and it never went through. Yeah, so definitely very disheartening.”

“But the lack of live shows really kind-of forced us to focus on our writing process, I feel,” adds Alex. “Just purely writing music and just, like, filtering out and kind of sorting out our own inputs, and how we write together. And I think, overall, that's actually made our music a lot better.”

“Everyone knows their role”, smiles Konrad.

"The second I started playing with the lads, it was an easy, straight-in-there kind of fit," expounds most recent band member Alannah, "over the pandemic, I was just at home, my creativity was on the floor, like, it was non-existent, and since joining the band, I started writing my own songs again, I actually find myself just picking up everything else, it's just been really good for me."

It could be your writer beginning to show his age, but there’s a certain comfort and even heart to be taken in seeing a relatively recent young cohort of indie, psychedelic and shoegaze bands start to properly happen around the city.

Deadbog, Mossy, If and When, and Cork scene-adjacent outfit Sulking are tied variously by sonic similarities and geographic commonalities, exploring sounds and dynamics while also processing the collective trauma of the times.

It’s tempting for your writer to try and scare up a narrative of scene-building, so to speak, but while the band shares roots with others in and around its genre in the city, The Drive. are digging where they stand for inspiration, and content to forge on their own for the foreseeable future.

“We kind-of just found that we had this habit of just texting bands, asking them, 'oh, could we support you? Could we do this? Could we do that?'”, says Eoin.

We just said f**k it, we're just going to do it ourselves

“Over COVID, we just said f**k it, we're just going to do it ourselves. There's no point in asking someone for support, or trying to get onto these promoters, you know, when nobody's really going to look at you, unless you've sold out this show, gotten x amount of streams.

“So it was always kind of a more DIY approach for us. Yeah, trying to do it ourselves, and always taking the help we can get”.

To that end, the band has joined up with Waterford-based managers/label Egg Twelve, whose own incremental growth and adjustments have run parallel to their own.

Having been spotted early in their live run, the outfit has helped them release singles and their debut EP, book gigs, and make inroads in the notoriously difficult world of streaming playlisting.

It’s more work than it’s ever been to get a band up and running, especially now - and the band are keen to discuss how things look from square one for a young band making headway for themselves from below.

“It was very weird, Egg Twelve came to us actually, it was very weird," says Eoin.

"I had sent demos of our songs to Finn Cusack from The Wah, he and our manager, Luke and are good buddies. Luke texted me like six in the morning, saying he like our first single, he asked us to join. For about two weeks, we kind-of left them on read.

“We didn't know if we wanted to join with this label, that was just starting off. We were like, 'is it going to do us more harm than good?' But it was probably the best decision we've ever made as a band."

“We didn't have an outside perspective on the industry side of things, so when Luke came in, it took a lot of weight off our shoulders, and kind of let us focus on the music,” chimes in Konrad.

Taking to that stage on Friday night, after two years, and the uncertainty of whether the upgraded gig was capable of moving enough tickets to full the newly-expanded Cyprus Avenue in an unseated configuration, The Drive. no doubt intended to show those in attendance exactly what their next steps are.

Not that you’d tell by the band’s demeanour a few days after the fact, over a Zoom call, phasing between disbelief and coolness about the whole affair.

Just crazy to see that many people there, watching you, doing what you love

"It was so surreal to us. I sat in the green room the whole time. I came out for the amazing support act, Iona, but other than that, I was on stage, off stage and gone,” Alex enthuses.

“It was really, just crazy to see that many people there, watching you, doing what you love, and doing stuff that really means a lot to you."

"I wasn't nervous beforehand at all. It was one of the strangest feelings, I think," adds Konrad.

“Probably my biggest gig so far, but when you know you are headlining, and when you know that you're going to be going onstage and the people are there for you, that gives you a certain confidence, I think. People are here for us, people are here to see us. That's showing what we have."

The new single from The Drive., ‘SNFC’, releases on February 4 across streaming music services.

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