Wednesday 25 April 2018

From beachside buskers to band of brothers

Ready to rock: Hudson Taylor take their cues from the 60s. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Ready to rock: Hudson Taylor take their cues from the 60s. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

And now for something completely different, to quote Monty Python's Flying Circus...

Dublin alt-pop duo Hudson Taylor's reworking of AC/DC's hard rock anthem Back In Black at the Windmill Lane Sessions on independent.ie is a joy to watch - albeit slightly surreal. Two young urchins deconstructing the Oz gods' eardrum-denting alpha male piece de resistance into something altogether different.

"We stripped it down," says Alfie Hudson Taylor with some understatement. "My sister introduced me to AC/DC when I was nine."

"You really took to it," his older brother (by a year) Harry Hudson-Taylor says.

"Back In Black has such an amazing riff!" whoops Alfie as Harry joins in.

The brothers, who formed in 2011, are full of va-va-voom today in the world-famous studio in Ringsend, recalling the influences on their recently released debut album, Singing For Strangers.

"We listened to a whole bunch of stuff growing up. Our parents had a lot of 'greatest hits' albums - everything from Simon and Garfunkel to the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers to Fleetwood Mac. Just a lot of old 60s stuff," explains Alfie, as Harry takes up the tale.

"A lot of stuff with harmony - and that's probably why we picked up on it; we sing a lot in harmony. The first gig I ever went to when I was 11 was The White Stripes.

"It was before Seven Nation Army. So it wasn't like everyone in the mainstream world knew who they were, that kind of thing," Harry says in reference to his hipness and ability to be ahead of the cultural curve - even at such a tender age.

"My 11-year-old self was a bit of a hipster. That gave me an insight into guitar and the blues and stuff like that. We're not blues players, but it definitely gave me an appreciation of a different side to it."

Hudson Taylor's story begins on a family holiday in Italy in 2008. "We brought the guitar with us," says Alfie almost sweetly. "There was a lot of people on the beach. So we just sat down and started jamming, playing little songs by ourselves. We'd do a song that everyone would know - like I'm A Believer by The Monkees."

"Then," adds Harry, "these German people came over to us and said, 'You play music for our friends?' We did, and they invited us back. Night after night more people came along. They said to us, 'Would you put something up on YouTube, to remember you by?'"

And they did. They put up a video, which started gaining a bit of traction.

"So then we realised this was kind of cool and we should do this a bit more. We put more videos on YouTube. We started doing some busking on the streets of Dublin."

Is that what the album is about - singing for strangers?

"Pretty much!" they laugh in unison.

I ask them to describe each other. "Alfie is a lovely gent," begins Harry. "He has got a serious voice for singing, and a very good ability to make up melodies that I wouldn't necessarily, because I think about things maybe a little bit more straight, musically; whereas Alfie will just pick something out of the air. Then we make harmonies and sweet music together," he laughs.

"I'm very lucky to be doing this together with him," says Alfie of Harry. "I think between the two of us, we are a very good match. I've not met anyone who can modulate like Harry. He can go into it straight away and know exactly where he's going."

Harry: "It's like writing a song and we think, 'Let's do something interesting rather than something standard.'"

Alfie: "And he'll take it to a place a little different. He'll change the key. It'll be a sit-down key change and he'll make it very seamless, and be able to manipulate it."

To hear the full interview, plus two exclusive performances by Hudson Taylor, see independent.ie/windmill

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