Trick Mist: All set for gig at Coughlan's of Cork

After the passing of his beloved grandmother at the age of 96, Trick Mist singer and songwriter Gavin Murray found himself in a period of introspection, regarding the nature of time, change and our relationships to each other. Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to Murray and HowlBux’ Elaine Howley, ahead of their Coughlan’s gig on Sunday, October 23.
Trick Mist: All set for gig at Coughlan's of Cork

Gavin Murray, AKA Trick Mist, to play Coughlan's of Cork.

The loss of a loved one is that most difficult of phenomena - something completely universal to our shared experience of existence, and the meaning and purpose that we forge from connection with others; and ironically, being as utterly unique and impactful on each of our lives as each loss is, a sometimes immensely lonely journey to undertake.

For Cork-based singer and songwriter Gavin Murray, aka Trick Mist, the loss of his grandmother at the age of 96 was the undoing of a lifelong and profound tie to a generation of family and history, that sent him on a period of introspection, resulting in The Hedge Maze and the Spade, his second album, tracks from which form the basis of his upcoming shows, including an excursion to Coughlan’s on Douglas Street on Sunday, October 23.

“It almost came about by accident, really. After she passed away, the wake, and the funeral, that mad intense time, I just took the pen and paper, and just started writing. There were a lot of things that I felt were sort-of bubbling under the skin, vivid imagery.

“I wasn't thinking about art, actually, when I was doing that, I just wanted to start writing, it just felt like a sort of therapy. which ended up being taking the direction of art, it ended up being like five songs, like, lyrics for five of those songs.

“So it was at that point that I realised that there's something going on here, and it was a bit of a kind of a catalyst, realising that there's a lot to be gained from just attacking the space that these lyrics threw up, y’know. Then things got a bit more complicated, and kind-of messy, which I was grateful for - a bit of a labyrinth, a bit of a deep dive.

Musing on everything from the fleeting nature of existence, to the ground from which trees and food spring forth, the crucibles of social and exploratory experiences, Murray’s baritone voice lays long and heavy over instrumentation and sonic manipulation that evokes the space-faring of psychedelia, grounded by folk and trad influences.

“The main arc that things took for this record - I wrote those, those first five songs in that one session, which was a big revelation for me creatively to do that, it was quite a profound experience. I tried to sculpt a story, chronologically, based on that.

“The lyrics came first for everything, and I basically filled in the music around a lyric, they were the driving force behind everything. Any musical decision, any way to sing something, or what kind of instrumentation, or what kind of samples to use, it was all based on ‘how do I convey the landscape that the lyrics demand?'

“Each song demanded a different kind of production, and different kind of treatment and instrumentation, and I think it just all filtered back to the lyrics. I view my music as a landscape, essentially. It's just, from my point of view, about how you want to create it, what kind of tones you want, what kind of pictures do you want to pop up in your mind when you listen to it, and by extension the listeners, y'know?”

Staying on the topic of long-standing connection, Murray’s second album sees physical release via Dundalk DIY label Pizza Pizza Records, the former home of shoegazers Just Mustard and current home of Cork psych-rockers The Altered Hours.

The Hedge Maze and The Spade album cover.
The Hedge Maze and The Spade album cover.

One of its first artists, Murray has maintained his connection to a pillar of a Dundalk ‘scene’ that also numbers the dual faces of dole-rap crew TPM and balladeers The Mary Wallopers, as well as outfits like indie four-piece Future West and neo-soul duo Negro Impacto - an enviable feat for any town!

“It's amazing. I think the Pizza Pizza project is just a really good example of positivity, from where it emerged. It was essentially a collective of people who just wanted to put out records, and they just had the drive and the energy to do so. So there's just a lovely sort of, y'know, 'let's just make this happen' kind of mentality. A good kind of ethical grounding, which is great. It's fantastic just to be working with them again, in this release. They've been helping me all the way.”

As we speak, Murray is getting mentally and physically prepared for the first part of his UK live excursion to promote the record, followed by a brace of Irish gigs with live contributions from Dan Walsh, and in the company of Cork ambient duo HowlBux, including the aforementioned Leeside date at Coughlan’s - an intimate-backroom venue whose walls have contained some incredible music moments over the years.

Murray shares his thoughts on finishing the tour in the award-winning venue.

I can't wait for it. It's going to be amazing. It's actually nice, the way it's worked out towards the end of the tour, just a cozy October Sunday, it's going to be unreal. It's always nice to go to gigs in the autumn, and just a cozy kind of vibe. So that will be beautiful and what a gift to have HowlBux with me, it's going to be incredible, like, totally blessed with the people I'm playing with over the next month. It's just unbelievable, you know, the calibre of people, so can't wait for that. I can't wait to see them.

One half of HowlBux, as well as the frontwoman of the Altered Hours and a gifted musician and sonic explorer in her own right, Elaine Howley is looking forward to sharing a stage with Murray after participating in the LP’s recording, with a three-day run of gigs alongside composer Irene Buckley following the release of solo LP ‘The Distance Between Heart and Mouth’.

Howley’s interest in Murray’s music is rooted in an encounter at PLUGD Records’ previous location, when he brought test pressings of debut album ‘Both Ends’ into the record shop to listen to them over owner Jimmy Horgan’s in-store sound system.

“The first time I heard his voice, it was on a record, but he had come in to Jimmy at PLUGD, I think, maybe hearing the test pressing of his first album on the system. And I was in there in the Roundy, I turned around and said to Jimmy, like, 'what is this?', and it was Gavin, and Gavin was there in the room as well, because he was listening to it.

“It's just one of those things where he has that kind of voice that you do stop in your tracks, like, to hear it. Those messages that are paired to it, his outlook on life, he can really be hopeful, but like, very aware of the dark and light that is in life? So yeah, big fan.”

Lending her voice to album closer ‘Willingdon Island’, Howley participated in a session at Murray’s home studio, finding her own way into the album by working with Murray amid his writing process.

“He got on to me about doing that vocal, and I got to call to the house, and got to the studio, see where the album was made. There was a lot of chatting about his process, things we both do, ways we both have of working.

“I just found it a really enjoyable experience to get a little glimpse into the gear that he was using and the space that he was in. That allowed me to feed into the song and, y'know, put a bit of heart into it.”

Trick Mist’s second album, The Hedge Maze and the Spade, is out now, on vinyl and digitally, via https://trickmist.bandcamp.com/album/the-hedge-maze-and-the-spade.

Trick Mist plays a Tombstome gig at Coughlan’s on Sunday October 23, with support from Howlbux. Tickets €12 available here

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