Autumn Owls – Interview

Friday 28th September 2012

Line Up:

Gary McFarlane
Will Purtill
Adam Browne

Since the Autumn Owls were chosen to play Dublin’s Hard Working Class Heroes music festival in October 2007, we’ve had two extremely well received EP releases, but no full length album, until now. It’s certainly been worth the wait, so I speak with Gary to find out more.

Firstly I want to congratulate you on reaching your Pledge Music target. With only a few hours remaining you went over your target, which you’ve decided to give to the charity Project Night Night. It seems that Pledge Music is a great tool for bands right now, would you agree?

Thanks. We were delighted to make the target. We are very grateful to everyone that pledged and really appreciate their support. It is a great tool for a band. We wanted our album to come out on vinyl. We felt the music deserved that format. Unfortunately the manufacturing of vinyl is expensive. Pledge Music gave us the opportunity to sell the album along with demos and other rarities to fans earlier then the release date which in turn allowed us to finance the vinyl. It also helped us to communicate with people interested in the band and let them know what we were up to and how preparations for the release were going. To make some money for Project Night Night who provides homeless children with books and stuffed animals was excellent.

You’ve done the whole process without a label, which has to be a lot of work for any band. How has that been for you all?

I suppose for a long time you don’t really think about it. For most of the time we are just obsessing about the music side of things and making sure the album sounds just how we want it to. The longer into the process it goes, things do become a little overwhelming and there are so many details that need considering. Thankfully we had a manager that could advise, organise and coordinate the whole thing. Doing things independently means that budgets are modest, so there can be times when it’s stressful trying to make it all work. Overall I would say that we have learned quite a bit about other sides of the industry that we would have never thought about before.

How did you all meet, and was it with the intention of starting a band or did that come after?

Adam [Browne] and I are friends a long time, going back to when we started secondary school. Around that time we were both really getting into music and both would have started playing guitar around the age of 13/14. We started a band with other friends a couple of years later but always had problems finding the right drummer. It wasn’t until we were in College that a friend of ours put us in touch with Will [Purtill]. It was then we decided that there was not such thing as the “right drummer” and that we would just have to put up with this mentally unstable person being behind us on stage.

You’re gathering quite a lot of media interest at the moment. Have you had any airplay on mainstream radio?

Yes we have been lucky enough over the years to get some airplay. Irish stations have always tried to support the band. At the moment, “Spare Room” (the first radio single) from the new album has been named single of the Week on Phantom FM, which is an indie radio station here in Ireland. Our last EP got radio play from BBC too so hopefully it will be a case of more of the same with the new stuff.

I’ve seen a number of different genres to describe you, such as folk, indie rock, and post rock. How would you describe your music?

To be honest I’m not really sure. I’ve been consistently bad at answering this question for quite a few years now. I don’t think we have a particularly unusual sound that is very difficult to classify but I’ve never really been interested in genres or the need to put our music into a category. Most of the songs that I write do sound kind of folky to begin with. When we work on the song as a band, more of the original guitar melody tends to comes out allowing us more space to experiment with different sonic layers and details. I suppose it’s these efforts that make people think of something between folk and post rock. We once played a show in Toronto in a venue that was known for putting on heavy rock bands, one of the audience that night who was clearly disappointed with the lack of heavy riffs (and our dress sense) described us as Cardigan Rock. I still think that’s the best description yet.

What would you say makes you different from other bands out there?

Once again I’m not really sure. We do work hard and are very meticulous about how every little detail sounds in each song. We spend quite a bit of time working on the arrangement without committing to one particular way. We like to explore some other ways of doing the song first. We are all capable of playing different instruments which can be great for generating different ideas and approaches.

You’ve spent some time in other countries, but just how far afield have you taken your music so far?

We have been fortunate enough to play around lots of places in the US. We have played a bit in Canada and around a few places in Europe like Italy and Norway. We played a great festival called Positivus in Latvia which was pretty far afield.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given so far, and who gave it you?

I recently met my uncle at a family wedding. He was a bit of a rock star in his day and is still a great singer. He told me not to do heroin. You can’t argue with that piece of advice.

The festival season might only just be finishing, but do you hope to be playing at any festivals in 2013?

Yes that’s important to us. We plan on playing as many festivals and shows as possible over the next year. We will be playing throughout Ireland until Christmas and then in the New Year we plan to go to the UK. Hopefully after that we will be appearing at some festivals.

What’s the ultimate aim for the band?

Our own clothing line.