Wednesday 14 November 2018

‘There are some sharks out there’ – HamsandwicH’s Ollie Murphy is helping musicians avoid industry pitfalls

Murphy is hosting a showcase for four up-and-coming artists at Whelans on Saturday

Portraits by Dara Munnis.
Portraits by Dara Munnis.
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Ollie Murphy is best known as the drummer for Indie band HamsandwicH, but now he’s harnessing his experience in the industry to manage and mentor and up-and-coming musicians.

HamsandwicH have been on the scene for 15 years and have three studio albums under their belt, all released independently, and Ollie reckons their approach has helped them to avoid some of the pitfalls of the music business.

He credits former manager Derek Nally (who had also been legendary music venue Whelans’ booking agent)  with equipping the band with the knowledge and wherewithal to navigate their careers themselves, on their own terms. 

“We had a great manager in Derek,” Ollie tells Independent.ie.  “He taught me all about the business, and always instilled in us the way it’s important to give advice, to give something back as well. 

Portraits by Dara Munnis.
Portraits by Dara Munnis.

“He spoke about music as a community.  I think with bands coming up there’s often a bit of rivalry and it’s a little bit unnecessary.  He always said to me that it’s like a community and to just help each other out as much as you can.

“Derek was always really good like that.  He had so much time for people looking for advice.  It’s something that’s very simple to do.”

Derek died suddenly in 2010, much to the shock and sadness of everyone who knew him, not least Ollie and his fellow HamsandwicH band members.

“It was awful crushing at the time and myself and Brian Darcy, [HamsandwicH guitar and piano] along with [manager and promoter] Stevo Berube, we took the reins to do the back office stuff and the mentoring stemmed from that.  Stevo is a really good guy.”

Ollie started out mentoring indie rock band Third Smoke, and has also taken David Anthony McGeown’s band Bodies, Pursued by Dogs, and multi-instrumentalist Amy Quirke aka Skywriter, under his wing.

“[It’s about] putting them in touch with the right people and making sure their careers go down the way they want them to,” he says, adding, “There are a lot of sharks out there so it’s about keeping them away from that.”

While HamsandwicH's own experiences in the industry have been more positive than not, thanks in the main to Derek, Ollie is acutely aware that other artists are often not so lucky.

“We’ve heard from other people’s experiences with signing up to record companies, being dropped, and not being able to release their songs,” he says.

“It’s really important to get proper legal advice.  People hear ‘record deal’ and ‘publishing deal’ and they jump at it.  It’s really important to see what you can do yourself.  Why would you be doing that with certain people?  Having said that, there are some really good people out there, really good companies, but there are pitfalls too.”

Being creative is not necessarily synonymous with good business sense and many artists are very young starting out.  Ollie’s advice is practical – treat music like a business.  Many up and coming musicians are expected to play for free in exchange for ‘exposure’, but it’s something that does not sit well with him.

“The whole playing for free thing - you have to buy tickets and do this, that and the other.  It’s kind of soul destroying for a lot of bands,” he says.  "You have to think in a certain way and see it as a business.  If you’re travelling around to different counties and not getting paid it makes no sense whatsoever.”

Musician Hilary Woods last week tweeted that she would not play the IMRO Other Room at Other Voices Live in Dingle this year as it was “just not financially or emotionally feasible or sound to do any kind of gig 'free'/'in exchange for exposure'/no fee to cover costs, for tv corps r otherwise.”

Other Voices issued a statement saying that “artists performing at the Music Trail are offered accommodation, catering and a small fee.  The IMRO Other Room and the Music Trail slot is offered together as a ‘bundle, to an artist.”  They claimed that neither Woods nor her agent, label or team had reached out to organisers for clarification.

HamsandwicH played Other Voices in 2015.  Ollie says it’s “a huge platform for people - television, the Music Trail, and everything.  I’ve nothing but respect for them.”

He adds, “It’s about how you choose what type of gig you can do.  It’s always important to put money back into the band.  Don’t just share it out.  Pay your expenses, but we’ve always taken the model that most of the money goes back in the band.  Use that money to do a video for your next release.”

In the very early days he remembers HamsandwicH struggling to make ends meet while touring.

“It’s a tough one if people aren’t paying.  As HamsandwicH we would never not pay a support band because in the early days we’ve been in the same instance where you’re doing three shows and taking money out of your own pocket to go around to these shows and paying your own accommodation.  If you were to put that money back in to the band that’s a day recording.”

The band has no such worries now, with three critically-acclaimed albums under their belt.  Their latest single release, Bodies, landed in December 2017 but there is no release date for a fourth album, just yet.  They prefer to take their time with the creative process.

“We’re taking it at our pace.  There’s a lot of personal stuff as well, just families and life, basically, getting in the way slightly sometimes!” laughs Ollie.

“Niamh [Farrell] and Podge [McNamee] were doing vocals the other day with our long term producer Karl Odlum.  It’s really important to get it right.  We’re under no pressure.  People put a lot of pressure on themselves – we have to do this, we have to do that.  Take it in your own time, set your own deadlines, and break them sometimes, and set more deadlines, and put stuff out that you’re proud of.”

In the meantime there’s a tour with two December shows in Whelans, the venue where Derek first spotted their potential.  “I love that venue, I always have,” says Ollie.

The Wexford Street venue is also the location for a showcase he’s hosting on Saturday October 20 for Bodies, Skywriter, and Third Smoke (check out their bios below). Munky will also feature in the showcase and  IMRO and Golden Plec are on board for the event, which he is hoping to roll out to other cities and towns across the country.

Tickets for the Olly Murphy Presents showcase are priced at €10 and are available from www.wavtickets.ie and on the door, subject to availability.

 

MUNKY

MUNKY are an alternative rock band mixing disco grooves with grungy psych guitars. Their music is funky and furious, drawing influences from 70s disco and funk, 90s alt-rock and modern day psychedelia to produce their distinct sound. Their live shows have created a word of mouth buzz for their energy and quality.

In less than a year they have played Whelan’s Ones To Watch twice, opened for Le Galaxie, The Hot Sprockets and Raglans, been picked by Hot Press as one of the must see BIMM acts, played in Aviva Stadium and at festivals including Longitude festival, YS festival & Electric Picnic. Their first headline show sold out the main room of Whelan's and garnered high praise in reviews.

 

THIRD SMOKE

Third Smoke are an Irish indie rock band that build performances around a mixture of raucous gang vocals, dynamic harmonies and the chaotic swapping of instruments by five seamlessly synchronised multi-instrumentalists.

Musical influences range from the likes of the Dandy Warhols, Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, Glass Animals and Fleet Foxes and through years of dedicated writing, exploration, format changing and continuous touring they have established a live show that channels a blend of anthemic melody driven indie rock together with powerful vocal interplay above a wall of crafted sound.

 

BODIES

Originally the solo project of multi-instrumentalist David Anthony McGeown, BODIES now play as a four-piece live band with the addition of Nathan Maher (guitar), Danilo Ward (bass) and Scott Johnson (drums). BODIES were one of the highlights of the Whelan’s Ones to Watch summer showcase festival. At this gig, having broken his wrist two days previously, David managed the first two songs with his hospital wrist brace, but was feeling restricted as the audience swelled. Never one to compromise, David ripped off the brace halfway through the gig so that he could play unrestrained - albeit with a broken wrist. Their sound draws influence from the likes of Radiohead, Muse, Manchester Orchestra & Sigur Ros.

Having released an EP, ‘Soak’, in November 2017 to critical acclaim, BODIES upcoming debut album ‘Drench’ features collaborations with members of some of Ireland’s most prominent bands such as Squarehead, Kid Karate, Blooms, Kodaline and Overhead the Albatross.

 

SKYWRITER

Hailing from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Amy Quirke started out as a drummer in a local band. Gigging at every opportunity across the length and breadth of Ireland, not only cemented her reputation as a multi-instrumentalist but also sowed the seeds for her own solo material.

Amy moved to London and then Melbourne, Australia to focus on writing. Combining the energy of both cities with her own real life experiences, she has developed her own brand of honest song writing, and after a stint in Los Angeles, California, Skywriter was born.

Taking a from working with Shane McGowan amongst others, Cronin brothers Mick and Johnny welcomed Skywriter to Live Transmission Studios to record her self titled debut EP. Amy collaborated with some of the midland’s finest musicians including Dec Murphy of The Blizzards on drums.

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