Out of the Chaos

Cork singer- songwriter Talos told David Hennessy about his forthcoming album which looks at themes like hope and loss, and working with the likes of Lisa Hannigan, SOHN, Sam Keeley and Emmet Kirwan.

Talos, the Choice Music Prize- nominated electronic musician from Cork, has announced his third album.

Entitled Dear Chaos, the album features collaborations with the likes of SOHN and Lisa Hannigan and is produced by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Local Natives).

The announcement is accompanied by the track All Ours which is the second single after Dancing Against the Calm.

The album will be out in October which is also when Talos comes to London to play St Pancras Old Church.

Talos told The Irish World: “I actually haven’t played a gig in three years, would you believe that?”

Talos, whose real name is Eoin French, describes All Ours as a song about hope and the destructive nature of it.

“Sometimes hope can be very damaging, and very poisonous, especially when you place hope in somebody that continues to fumble it and not treat it in a fragile manner.

“I kind of just witnessed someone continue to do that and it was a very heartbreaking thing to see.

“And then that person found themselves in a very tempestuous space mentally speaking and wellness speaking.

“Sometimes you just get to witness that stuff but when you do witness it, you realize that you can’t actually do anything with it or for it but just kind of walk with the person through it.

“I suppose it’s about reassurance.

“It’s about that kind of optimism and hope that there is better things beyond whatever you’re going through.”

Is the album title a reference to the chaos of the last few years? Actually no as Eoin never felt the need to write about something already so documented.

“The album has nothing to do with Covid. Absolutely never mentions it once.

“I wrote so much music over the last three years and there was one piece of music that I wrote that referenced it.

“It’s very hard to make something novel out of something that we’ve all experienced or that we’ve all done.

“I just think writing about that shared and collective experience is just a bit- What’s the point?

“We all went through it. It is what it is. It was a thing and now it’s gone. Grand, get on with it.

“Regards the title, does it sum up the last few years? I think so, it sums up really my own- personality’s the wrong word- shift in the way I kind of negotiate living I suppose, negotiate the world.

“I think what the album is actually about is indifference, and finding indifference in moments that are completely out of your control, but that are chaotic or mental, or just unfair, or whatever. These things just happen.

“There was a painting by Pieter Bruegel called The Landscape of the Fall of Icarus.

“Actually, my co-writer and producer of the record Ross Dowling showed it to me and that kind of sat on my computer and sat on my wall as the keystone image.

“It’s just this landscape image of a man ploughing a field and the sun setting and a city off in the distance and then the very bottom corner is two legs sticking out of the water, just this very indistinct occurrence of Icarus hitting the water.

“Our understanding of that story is that it was this seismic event in the world that people carry as a parable, a warning or whatever it is.

“Whereas the reality of it probably was that exact thing, that people kept doing what they were doing that day.

“The painting itself is primarily about human indifference. That, you know, sh*t happens and you have to kind of saddle up to the chaos and enjoy it or not even, just be emotionless towards it.

“But I think I’m very lucky. Sounds a bit bumper car sticker, but my why for doing what I do became very clear, had to become very clear.

“I get to take these kind of moments that are stressful or tough and turn them into music or write about them or turn them into something be it that they’re beautiful or be it that they’re angry, or be it that they’re dark.

“Whatever it is, I get to make something of them.

“There’s something alchemical in that and that’s a gift.”

All Ours follows Dance Against the Calm which, his first music since 2019, meditated on loss and grief for a future or futures that will now never be.

“The lyrics are based around that moment of realizing like, ‘Oh, those things that I kind of had an idea about that were going to be a future are not now anymore’.

“It is about that idea of mourning, mourning futures that won’t be actually.

“And loss and regret too to an extent. I think people steer away from regret a lot, but I think it’s a pretty powerful thing when it’s used sparingly.

“It’s a very strong fulcrum for real change.

“I would have always held that kind of close as well.

“Sometimes if you don’t regret something, then you’re not sorry for it or you don’t really understand the gravity of what happened.”

The song was accompanied by a video starring Sam Keeley, the well known actor from dramas like RTE crime drama, Kin.

“Sam’s performance is just off the wall, you know what I mean?

“And we all knew it on the night as well, I think definitely it adds to the song.

“Do you know what it does? It gives it new life actually.”

Eoin can be seen with Sam very briefly in the video. He smiles when we clarify if we saw him or not.

Was there much time for hanging out with Sam? “Oh, yeah. I know Sam well like. I would be good friends with Sam.

“I know Sam through a very good friend of mine, Jack Reynor (Transformers, What Richard Did, Sing Street).

“I go back years with Jack like, years and years and years.

“He’s a good friend.

“Jack would give me the text and be like, ‘You have to meet my friend Sam, you have to meet my friend Sam’.

“And then Jack ended up bringing him to West Cork where I live like, so we just hung out and had dinner and just became good mates.

“Then I just reached out to him about the video and he very, very selflessly came down and spent two days falling around the place.”

The final track on the album Crows features the vocals of Lisa Hannigan.

“I think Crows is the most outwardly expression of grief on the record.

“There’s very apparent loss in it.

“It’s about loss and it’s about grief.

“And it’s the last song on the record.

“The whole record, obviously, is male oriented and I think it was just a perfect way to end the album, that there was Lisa’s vocal on there.

“How it came about was I’m very lucky.

“One of my very close friends is good friends with Lisa.

“I said that I’d love to get a female vocalist and Lisa was top, number one on the list.

“She was absolutely number one.

“She just got in touch with Lisa and she was up for it.

“She came to West Cork, just came in and recorded it.

“It was actually a very memorable moment.

“I remember just like when she was recording it, I was like, ‘Okay, this is something’.

“I think actually, that was probably one of my favourite moments of making the album.”

Eoin is conscious of making the album sound heavier than it actually is due to the themes we have touched on as it is also a very joyful record.

“You’ve just picked three of the darkest songs,” he laughs.

The track Farewell Kamikaze features the London singer-songwriter SOHN.

“The publishing company were like, ‘Is there anybody that you’d like to work with?’

“And he was top of the list for me. He said he was into it.

“We did a zoom thing and out of that came Farewell Kamikaze.

“He’s a good dude. Really, really, really talented guy.

“I suppose the song’s about letting go and saying goodbye.

“I think when we end relationships, there’s two paths of letting go that we can take.

“One is a very grown up and right way to do it which is represented by the word farewell and the other way is burning the house down, I suppose.

“That often feels like a kind of a kamikaze mission because I suppose

you often destroy the person’s idea of you as well.”

A song from a previous album, Dawn, The Front remains very important to Eoin as it was a posthumous collaboration with his late friend Conor Walsh sampling his track The Front.

“That’s a very special song to me.

“We would have been close, we were seeing each other at festivals and just spoken about doing this collab and spoken a good bit online and then his sudden death, it was quite shocking.

“But yeah, I was very lucky that his family were cool with me sampling his song.

“It’s an important song to me.

“I’m proud of it and I would play that song live for as long as it feels right.”

Eoin has come a long way in a short time. His debut album Wild Alee in 2017 was nominated for the Choice Music Prize while The Irish Times called it “a spectacularly assured debut deserving of a wide audience”.

But it is not that long ago that Eoin was lecturing in architecture.

“I don’t know if the plan was ever architecture to be honest.

“I think it was more like, ‘Okay, I’ll do something to keep the parents happy.

“Weirdly enough before I was doing music seriously, I was acting a lot and had planned to go to the states and had a few bits over there, kind of fell through last minute.

“And then because all that stuff fell through, I started the Talos project and (debut EP) Tethered Bones actually came from that.”

His sophomore album Far Out Dust would follow in 2019.

Acting, music and architecture, were you always going to be creative? “I always loved it, I always loved it.

“I think I always was creative.

“It wasn’t really harboured in secondary school.

“I was kind of steered towards sciences and businesses and all that kind of stuff.

“The first thing that I did was draw, I remember drawing as a kid.

“Whatever that feeling is, it’s something that I kind of got hooked on very early.

“And then when I was about 12, my parents brought me to the Salvador Dali Museum actually.

“I think I was very lucky to have parents that were very open to that stuff.

“Music was always played, there was always a high amount of art and stuff.

“And someone like that, proper surrealism, at that young age definitely lit a fire.”

Talos has played support for the superstar Dermot Kennedy.

“I’ve nothing but good words for that dude.

“He brought us around the states, and then a few dates in Europe.

“That was a massive thing for me, it just put us in front of a lot of eyes.

“It was great. It was really slick as well to see.

“I think he had just released his first record and just got to number one in the UK.

“To play those gigs, the buzz was just wild.”

Would something like that or perhaps his Choice Music Prize nomination be the highlight of his career so far? “It’s probably smaller things than that, you know?

“I suppose, one of the things was maybe going to Eaux Claire to work with Brian Joseph, that was pretty slick. Getting Lisa on the track was up there.

“Do you know what’s a big one as well, I’ve been working with Ross (Dowling, producer) for seven or eight years and to be able to maintain a workable- like everybody else has ups and downs and have a few wobbles here and there- To be able to maintain a working relationship with him- He’s the most underrated man in Irish music.

“It feels like my secret, my big secret in a way.

“To maintain that working relationship with someone like that is great.

“I’ve just been very lucky to be surrounded by very talented and good people that have helped bolster what I do.

“I think it’s more like the smaller things, there’s been amazing gigs and stuff and they’re very, very beautiful moments but the real joy is just getting to make music with friends and make art with friends.

“I sound like a self-help book here but that’s nourishing.

“That’s the stuff that you could be like, ‘Okay, I could do this forever’.”

So what is next? Eoin has been working on a play with Dublin Old School writer/ actor Emmet Kirwan. They will bring it to the stage in September for the Dublin Fringe.

“Me and Emmet have been talking about making a play for the last three years. We finally got it together.

“The play is called Accents.”

Does this mean a return to acting for Eoin? Actually he will be onstage but not acting. “We’d spoken about me actually having a role in it. It kind of has moved away from the original idea into something that’s extremely personal to Emmet.

“It doesn’t feel right. It would feel like it’s kind of shoehorned in me playing a part.

“Whereas now it’s just three musicians on stage and Emmet doing his thing.

“But it’s shaping up to be really, really interesting.”

Entitled Accents, the play sees Emmet and Eoin looking at the importance of and preconceptions about different accents.

“Emmett’s starting a new family and again it’s about that idea of futures and lost futures, what Dublin might be for his kids and how accents are kind of badges. People make their own predetermination just from hearing how you speak.

“I would have had that a lot especially sounding the way I sound on record, and then hearing the way I speak.”

Eoin is from the north side of Cork but his accent seems to surprise some who are familiar with his music.

“I personally don’t think it’s removed at all from how I sound on the records.

I think maybe people have a different impression as to what I might sound like in person or something.

“So the play kind of came from that.

“I think Emmet had very similar experiences, and then compounded on top of that he had a baby boy over the last two years.

“We were talking about accents and place and the history attached to those things.

“Him having Bodie put all of that in a different light and it put the whole question of what Dublin will be like for Bodie and what it was like for his family as well.

“What’s very exciting is putting all of that, which is quite weighty, putting all of that in the context of this child, and what the child’s future will be.

“It’s just become incredibly rich actually, something I’m really excited about especially after doing a week of pre-production already.”

All Ours is out now.

Dear Chaos is out on 7 October.

Talos plays St Pancras Old Church in London on 13 October, Pepper Canister, Dublin on 14 October and St Luke’s, Cork on 15 October.

For more information, click here.