Wednesday 20 February 2019

How the Lost Brothers found their way home

WE GOT SONGS: Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers
WE GOT SONGS: Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

'Corrina, Corrina, where you been so long?/I ain't had no lovin', since you've been gone," much-trumpeted duo Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland sing with sublime, almost shimmering sadness.

Performing exclusively for the Windmill Lane Sessions on independent.ie, The Lost Brothers re-worked Corrina, Corrina - the country blues from 1928 made famous by Bob Dylan. 

The works of Dylan have no small resonance, of course, for Navan troubadour Oisin. In the summer of 2012, he sang Forever Young at Our Lady Queen Of Peace Church on Dublin's Merrion Road at the funeral for his uncle, journalist Eugene Moloney, who died in June of that year after receiving a blow to the head on Camden Street.

Oisin told me of his late uncle: "His knowledge and love for music were huge and he really loved to share his passion for music."

That passion is embedded in The Lost Brothers' DNA and in their new album, New Songs Of Dawn And Dust.

"The first three albums," says Oisin (Trails of the Lonely in 2008, So Long John Fante in 2011 and The Passing of the Night in 2012), "we kind of saw as a trilogy. And this album is the start of a new trilogy. We went to Liverpool and worked with a guy called Bill Ryder-Jones; and part of Bill's production is keeping it really minimal. Two guitars, two voices - we have stripped it right back with what we do."

Oisin remarks that on their second album So Long John Fante, "we used full string arrangements, bigger brass, drums, full band. But on this album we sat and faced each other - a bit like today," he says as they sit in Windmill Lane's studio on Ringsend Road, "and played the songs."

In terms of the lyrical concerns, Oisin says that they worked for "three years, chipping away. We've got songs like Poor Poor Man, with a stripped-back intro, and Soldier Song - a love song".

The aforementioned love song was written in LA in a motel during three days off from their US tour. "We didn't have a car. We went looking for a cinema. We had nothing to do. So we went back to the motel and wrote this song. I don't know where it came from. The first verse tells a little part of this man's story."

And what is the story of The Lost Brothers?

"I'm from Omagh," says Mark, "and Oisin is from Navan. We both used to live in Liverpool and play in different bands over there. Then we found ourselves at three in the morning at the same parties, playing together. And then an opportunity came up to go to Portland in America to make a record."

Says Oisin of the experience: "We were in Liverpool in October, bored out of our minds, and suddenly we were given two flights to Portland to go and make an album. I'd never been there. We turned up mid-November, oceans of leaves everywhere. We walked every morning up to this attic studio and made an album with Mike Coykendall, who has worked with people like Bright Eyes and M Ward. We made our first album in Mike's attic. Portland is a great city."

I mention that Portlandia, the satirical series on Netflix, set in Portland, Oregon, seems to mark Portland out as a place full of weirdly wonderful humans. What kind of people are The Lost Brothers?

"Weird!" laughs Oisin. "Mark's a good buddy. We've been doing this for seven years. The last seven years have been mad: two suit-cases, two guitars. We made the first album. We never expected to be able to make a second one, which we did, we went to Sheffield and we worked with Richard Hawley's band. And then we ended up in Nashville with Michigan singer-songwriter Brendan Benson; that closed three albums," says Oisin. "So with this one, we just wandered for three years."

To hear the full interview and view two exclusive performances by The Lost Brothers, see www.independent.ie/windmilllane

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