Friday 30 September 2016

It's the gospel according to Matthew

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

Matthew Devereaux of The Pale
Matthew Devereaux of The Pale

Matthew Devereux resembles nothing so much as a post-millennial mutant of shamanistic superhero and bald bohemian, with a fiendish wit, even wisdom, at his disposal.

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Of his pronounced boho bent, The Pale frontman says, with typical verve: "I like the idea of being unbound. 'Boho chic' is like something to sell shampoo."

The Baudelaire of Timotei laughs. "I love self-exposed exiles and isolation. I do love the romance of being a songwriter - but not in the folky style. Beneath the surface of me is a hippy dude trying to get out, but I am not a Luddite under it. I am quite modern."

Yet he can't be that modern as he lives outside Swords on a farm, "with a donkey and cats and chickens - and my Czech girlfriend.

"I took an unpainted apartment in Prague," Matthew explains, without elaborating as to precisely when. "Then I stayed longer. Then I met a Czech girl. Then she moved here with me. Then my dad died," he says. "He died within four days of me arriving back home."

Did he hang on for you?

"I think he did hang on for me," Matthew smiles, his mind suddenly elsewhere, perhaps; in a sadder place, without his dad.

"I didn't want to move back here but she loves this country. She is more sarcastic than me. That's probably why I fell in love with her."

The Pale, his idiosyncratic band that formed in 1990 and have made 12 or 13 albums, are something of a beautifully kept secret in Ireland and further afield, sonically.

"I am in pursuit of a great record," Matthew says.

You haven't made it yet?

"Then I would not be pursuing it," he replies.

Matthew smiles at my suggestion that, like his late father, he is hanging on for the great record and then he will stop. There is no sign of the creativity faltering, however, as he and his band do David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes for the Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie.

I remember being at one of The Pale's early, highly theatrical shows in Dublin, when Devereux, jumping about like a out-of-kilter Bowie, sang such Pale.classics as Dogs With No Tails, Butterfly, and Shut Up Venus.

"It was theatrical as a way to get over my shyness," he says now, some two decades later. "Our life then was rehearsals wherever we lived," he adds. "We lived in an apartment above a launderette on the Southside of Dublin. Every time I smell a laundrette now, I always think of how the band formed.

"I used have a theory that the chemicals coming up through the floor from the laundrette affected our music and we suffered hallucinogenic side-effects! We couldn't afford our own chemicals, so we went for the cheap ones!" he laughs.

"We were quite strict about how we rehearsed. We rehearsed in the City Arts Centre, which I walked by on the way here," he says sitting in Windmill Lane's studio in Ringsend, "and it is gone - it's like a ghost building.

"We rehearsed six days a week for six months. We developed a sound quite quickly."

Matthew recalls that while The Smiths "meant everything to me", he also grew up with a love of reggae and ska. "There was something of a utopian society to it. I felt it would all lead somewhere. A really big influence on me would have been the idea of fusion."

That idea is finely articulated in the intriguing music of The Pale. Of the band itself, he says with his de rigeur philosophy: "It kind of surprises me that we've been going this long. It was a difficult road to go down. But I chose it. So I can't cry foul. I've been trying to secure a future for the band. The only way we have found it satisfying is to make the art and just get it out there."

Long may the Gospel according to Matthew continue.

To watch the full interview with The Pale, plus two exclusive performances, see independent.ie

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