Sunday 17 November 2019

Bray singer-songwriter Fionn Regan explains to Eamon Sweeney why the best music is all about simplicity, spirit and sincerity

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

The wide-eyed boy from Bray with the bowl haircut looks very much at home sipping his tea in Portobello's cosy Wall & Keogh café. Regan picks up the house guitar and gently strums it as we start to talk. I'm almost tempted to abandon the interview, start pestering him for requests and just sit back and enjoy a one-off private gig.

"Sometimes you pick up a guitar that's worth thirty quid and it sounds far better than the one that costs thousands," Regan muses. "I've got one I adore and there's nothing special about it whatsoever. It's just a plank of wood, but I've written so many songs with it.

"I've done interviews with guitar magazines and sometimes the whole mystique built around what's essentially another instrument seems pointless. Generally, I like to keep things simple."

Keeping it simple appears to be the Fionn Regan motto and his modus operandi for 2012 on the eve of the release of his short but very sweet new album, The Bunkhouse Vol. 1 -- Anchor Black Tattoo.

"Slick-sounding things have me running for the hills," he says. "I think of the original spirit and joy that you hear when you listen to someone like The Stooges.

"You have to pull the car over. The records that have that spirit and tend to be recorded very simply. When I keep things simple, it feels better. This record was about using one microphone."

His latest collection of songs was born out a vivid dream, which sounds rather unusual even coming from Regan's quirky mind.

"I had a dream about having a conversation with the Irish Sea," he reveals.

"It was weird but humorous, basically about finding your spirit or else the waves were going to roll over the houses.

"I stuck it down and that was that. The sea is definitely in my bones and something I'll always sing about. Generally with my stuff, I find if it's hitting the nail on the head, it's usually a sea shanty, or some sort of demented expressionist abstract sea shanty."

Regan is delighted that this album has had such a quick turnaround.

"Other records I've done have had a 10-month lead in campaign," he points out. "I'd find it hard to then talk about the coat I was wearing 10 months ago when it comes to promoting a record.

"You'd have to go and pull that one out of the attic and pretend that you've been wearing that the whole time. It's become more and more important for me to just do it, which probably means there's going to be less touring in the future."

Some would wager that such a strategy is complete career suicide in a day and age when artists must play live to pay the rent, rather than rely on ever decreasing album sales.

"People say I'm brave, but for me it's more important to get the work out," Regan answers. "I just want to jump in and see what happens. It feels like it's coming straight off the spool."

A staggering proportion of contemporary albums and recorded music suffers from one very fundamental and simple flaw -- namely, the production values are prioritised over the song writing.

"It seems to have evolved that way, alright," Regan agrees.

"There's so much stuff out there that's really well produced, but there's no ideas.

"I go back to Neil Young and Leonard Cohen constantly. Having said that, I find some of what Jay-Z does very interesting. I love the directness that he's got. Here's my truth and this is what you're get."

Unsurprisingly, Regan likes to embrace old fashioned methods such as reel to reel tapes. "It's very exciting to have a tape rather just a computer file," Regan believes.

"You put it in the boot and if your car rolls off a bridge, that's it -- it's gone.

"There's never any plan with me. I really am a living example of a cottage industry that's got a bit out of hand. There's no strategy. I only care about the record and doing the best I can when I go and play it."

So, Regan isn't the sort of person ready to trot out a pre-prepared answer to the standard job interview query of where he sees himself in five years time?

"Oh Jaysus Christ, never ask me that!" Regan laughs.

"I've found in the past if I talk about something before it happens I end up inadvertently setting up these roadblocks for it.

"I'm delighted about this record and I'm enthusiastic about the next thing, but after that I don't know. The idea of block-booking the next two years of my life to tour would send me stark raving and screaming mad."

Regan's home town dramatically hit the headlines recently for the right reasons thanks to the heroic exploits of Olympic, World and European Champion Katie Taylor.

While Regan and Taylor obviously pursue dramatically different paths, did he feel a surge of local pride for the Bray girl's exploits?

"At certain times I think what I do isn't that different to Katie," he grins.

"I've been in a couple of bouts. I've had a few big bells ringing too. I don't have a coach though. I progressively manage myself.

"I wasn't in Bray on the day of the homecoming, but I was talking to people who were and it sounded like a real elevation of the spirit. Bray is on the map now, which is great."

The Katie Taylor story has been documented at length in recent weeks, but it continues to be a huge morale booster for the townsfolk to witness the fruits that have sprung from an incongruous-looking boxing gym beside the harbour.

"Again, it just goes to show that you don't really need much do you?," he says.

"It goes back to what I was saying about liking simple things. When you break it down, all I need is a table, piece of paper, pen and guitar.

"From there the amount of things that can happen are unbelievable. When you think about that at length, your pupils start dilating and your hairs stand up.

"Next thing you know you've got a record that you've done with just one microphone and a guitar. Anything is possible."

The Bunkhouse Vol. 1 -- Anchor Black Tattoo is is out today. Fionn Regan plays a one-off Irish date at the Olympia on October 25

Day & Night

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top