ARTS AND FEATURES — 25 March 2014

By David Hennessy

They have already played to packed audiences supporting The Strypes and with the endorsement of DJ Chris Moyles, Dublin four piece Raglans are prepared to fill the same houses with their names on top of the bill.

The radio DJ came to see the Raglans finish their February tour in support The Strypes and was so taken with their music, he recommended their video Digging Holes to his 3.17 million followers.

24-year-old lead singer Stephen Kelly told The Irish World: “I was downstairs after and he came up to me and said: ‘I love your music, I think it’s great, I can’t stop listening to your album. I’m always worried when I come to these gigs that they won’t play the album but you played it in its entirety. I loved it.’ I was just like ‘that’s brilliant’ and then we didn’t hear anything from him. We presumed he’d say something about the gig, he didn’t and then all of a sudden he tweeted the video with the message ‘play this three times and you’ll be singing it all day’. He’s got 3 million followers which is cool. It’s good to get the support of someone with that much reach.

‘We’ve been getting lots of plays on BBC Radio 1 and radio 2 from Huw Stephens and Dermot O’Leary. We’re getting some really good support now which is great and the album isn’t out so hopefully when it comes out, things will really start to kick off.”

Working with Jay Reynolds (renowned producer with Elton John, Pulp, The Verve), the band have produced an album of feel good guitar music free of pretension. They have already received great press in The Sun and The Mail on Sunday and Stephen, who is already semi-based in London, explains the UK has always been a big part of the Dublin-based band’s focus: “Yeah, from the start we wanted to go hard or go home and we just felt that from the start it would be pretty hard to make  a career solely from being a success in Ireland because there are only  a couple of examples of bands who have been able to do that: Aslant or The Coronas are probably the only ones I can think of so the odds aren’t great. From the start we wanted to get out and we also wanted to see as much of the world as possible with the band playing gigs in different places, Europe, England, America, Australia, we’ve done some of them but we want to keep working hard to get more and more and play to more people.

“Because of the viral nature of the internet, we’ve got fans all over Europe, Argentina, America, Australia so it’s good we’ve got a proper amount of fans in all these places so it’s just a matter of time hopefully.”

Raglans have also supported The Courteeners and HAIM. April will see the band play their first headline tour of the UK ahead of playing their first UK festivals in the summer: “It’s very exciting. The support tours are great, especially when you get to do it in places you haven’t played before. We did Cambridge and Brighton with The Strypes and they’re territories that we had never actually played before so to go there and have a chance at playing to a full venue straight off the bat means that now on our tour, we’re going back there. They really are so important these support tours.

“A lot of the time, people go to gigs and see support and they’re not too interested but luckily when we’ve done support, people have been really interested and taking notice and we’re just very lucky with that, I suppose.”

So how did the band come together? “We started playing our first gigs at the start of 2011 but Sean (O’Brien), the lead guitar player, just joined about 18 months ago now and it really changed the whole dynamic of the band him coming in so we feel like a fresh band.

“Conn (O’Ruanaidh) and Rhos (Horan) who play drums and bass are childhood friends, which is great because they’re the rhythm section and they’ve got this siamese understanding which is good. Me and Rhos met at a music festival, he was playing in an old band, I met him there and thought he was great and asked him if he wanted to play with me: He said no. After the festival I sent him some of the tracks I had and he said yes and then Conn joined after that and Sean played in a band called Trap Door who used to support us when we first started and we always thought he was amazing and then when we were looking for a new guitarist, we asked him to join and he said yes straightaway and it’s been great.”

Their latest single (Lady) Roll Back the Years is accompanied by a London shot video and tells of Stephen’s experience with a lady with not so honourable intentions: “I was doing an acoustic gig in Liverpool, I must have been about 18, 19 and she actually cornered me in the hotel and tried to make me come to her room and I just said: ‘F**k that’. So I just ran for it and went back to my room and played the guitar and wrote the song, it kind of fell out. It was pretty funny, I wrote the tune envisioning what I would have done if I’d got into the room or whatever but yeah, that was never gonna happen.

“That’s the first video we did in London That’s filmed in east London on the canals there. We were on a UK tour at the end of the year and it was winding up in London and we wanted to get a video shot so we only had 4 hours to shoot it. We drove from Newcastle, left at 6 in the morning and got to London at 12, shot the video until 4 and went and did a gig in Shoreditch. It was a long day. You can see at the start, we’re walking around: We all look a bit pissed, a bit tired.”

So are thoughts already on the next album, even at this early stage? “We’re more focused on the gigs ahead so if we are thinking of new songs, we’re thinking of new songs we can add to the set because we see that as the best test of a new song anyway: To get it ready, be happy with it and then take it out on the road and then see how it goes down well live. Then we’ll start to give it some thought for studio because we’re predominantly a live band, we love playing gigs to people and our music really suits a live atmosphere and now that we’ve got an album, we want to take it as far as we can. Then we’ll worry about album two.”

The debut album Raglans is out now. Raglans tour the UK from April 8. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/Raglans.

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