Having cleared the post-Covid hurdles that faced many a young band, including building up to sold-out Cork headliners and heading to Dublin and Belfast for gigs - and with a second extended-player in the bag in the form of December’s ‘In Reverse’, it’s an exciting time for Cork shoegazers The Drive. (the full stop is theirs).
There’s a few different reference points for veteran music anoraks amid the sonic tumult the band have thrown their focus into - the turbulence and dynamic of shoegaze’s outer fringes, trip-hop’s reflective sensibilities, clatterslap snare punctuation reminiscent of noise-rockers like Therapy? - best embodied in ‘Gealt’, a recent single taken from the EP.
“We’re very happy with it”, says guitarist/vocalist Eoin Murphy of the EP’s release, “it was a project we were working on for a year, a year and a half. It was the first time we ever went into a proper studio and recorded anything.
“Before, [our tunes were all] done in Logic Pro. Even being able to go into a studio, have all the amps there, the drum kits, all the mics, and just have a bit more free roam, y'know, like, especially with guitar sounds on my end, I was using a lot of distortions, two-amp techniques and stuff like that with a couple of mics, to get some massive sounds, especially on tracks like 'Thin Air' and 'Market Price'.”
Says drummer Alex Redmond-Galligan: “I had to do this separation technique, where I actually tracked each part of the kit in different takes. So it wasn't playing the whole song at once, but with regard to how that turned out, it was amazing to see. Just the clarity you got from the drum sound in the record was amazing.”
“I mean, I'm just really happy with how it turned out,” adds bassist/vocalist Alannah Hynes. It's been the first actual body of music I've had any bit to play in. I'm really, really proud of it, it means a lot to me. Anyone I've talked to, who's listened to it, they're just like, 'this is insanely good'. It makes me really proud and happy that I did that with the lads.”
The trio approaches songwriting with the same rapport and frightening maturity that’s been the basis of their live show - writing since their mid-teens, the EP is a combination of ideas, from songs pulled from Murphy’s back pocket, to a spur-of-the-moment jam that saw Hynes take the reins on lyrics and vocals.
It wasn’t always a clear-cut case of the songs being done, though, before heading to Jejeune Studios in Drogheda, to record with producer Daniel deBurca.
“I vividly remember two tracks being changed closer to the recording,” says Murphy. “With 'Sundown', we were in the studio, we were kind of jamming it, playing it to Daniel deBurca, who mixed and recorded the EP.
“We had cut the chorus bang down the middle. Listening to it now, that first chorus kind-of hangs and picks up in the second verse. It was just something on the day, where we were like, 'ah jeez, the song flows a lot better, a lot different as well, because you're expecting this massive chorus, and it just kind-of cuts. We had the set idea that a lot of the songs on the EP wouldn't go into like the five, six-minute mark.”
“I think for a song like 'Thin Air', we had that song for months in advance, before even going into the studio, and my drum part for it was very linear,” Redmond-Galligan says. “It was the classic 'hi-hat in the verse, ride on the chorus, and it's just swapping between the two'. I remember for the bridge, specifically, thinking 'what if I just keep playing the same beat but I just get louder?'.
“It seems like a really simple idea, especially live, but I was really focusing on dynamics with my drumming, more so than just structuring stuff and being very rigid. That was something I really tried to bring in when it comes to writing this EP as well.”
“‘Gealt’ was a very organic song. We literally just jammed it one day, had the whole song there, and then I went off and wrote lyrics, took one take of vocals in the studio, and it was just, like, perfect.”
That same tune’s immediacy and tightly-knit structure comes across perfectly in its promo video, recorded at Blackpool Rehearsal Studios on Dublin Hill - the band does what it does, packed tightly into one of the studio’s practice rooms, surrounded by its readily-recognisable brickwork, retro-upholstered soundproofing, and obstacle-course-style netting on the ceiling.
While not the first band to shoot live or promotional videos at one of the few remaining band practice spaces in the city, it certainly captures the nature of working away in the facility.
“We had Lorna Egan - @lornography on Instagram - for it. She's done a lot of work for us before, a lot of the photo shoots now on Instagram will have been done by her, and she's really great. I think when it came to the music video for 'Gealt', a big reason why we didn't really want to go out doing a quote-unquote "proper" video was that we wanted the song to do the talking. We feel the song can stand for itself in a lot of ways.
“The setting of Room 6 does add to the tone of the song a bit, oddly enough. The fact that we wrote all the songs in there, most of the songs we practiced and wrote for the EP was in Room 6, we thought it was a fitting setting in a way, we just had to do it in there.”
The band gets to take that rough-and-ready vibe to the stage twice in the coming weeks - following a headliner at Dublin’s Grand Social and an appearance at Belfast’s Gazefest all-dayer, they’re heading for the Crane Lane this Saturday night for a free show at 9pm, while on Saturday April 1, they’ll share the Green Room in Cork Opera House with Pretty Happy and Mossy, in a gig run by mystery promoter Seanie Buttons.
“We're feeling good. It's a bit of a challenge, in a good way,” says Redmond-Galligan. “Prior to this, we were running with a second guitarist for our live shows, so we were maintaining the lead and rhythm guitars, but now we're sticking as a three-piece. It's been challenging preparing for live shows, also trying to fill up the sound with just the three of us. I think what we've been doing, and how we've rehearsed, and especially how the Dublin shows went, we're really happy with how it sounds, and how we're sounding.”
“We've been working really hard on a few good songs,” adds Hynes, “so it'll be nice to play to the crowd in the Crane and obviously in the Green Room - those places mean so much to me, as well, my dad [Dave Hynes - formerly of Shambuenos and currently of The Naildrivers] playing there. So many years back, my first gig I ever went to was in the Green Room [to see him]. It's an honour, I'm really excited.”
The Drive’s ‘In Reverse’ EP is available now on streaming services via Egg Twelve Records.
The band played the Crane Lane Theatre on Saturday, March 4, at 9pm, with support from Kitch, free in; and play Cork Opera House’s Green Room on Saturday, April 1, at 10pm alongside Pretty Happy and Mossy, for Seanie Buttons Presents, tickets €12.50 from corkoperahouse.ie or the venue box-office.