Q&A: Caoimhín Ó Raghallai
Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh of 'experimental' folkies The Gloaming on causing a stir in trad circles, their debt to Radiohead and why they aren't Ireland's answer to Mumford and Sons.
Hi Caoimhín. First up, perhaps you can shed light on the rumour that The Gloaming are named after a Radiohead song?
Well, their song, The Gloaming [from 2003's Hail to the Thief album], is probably the only reference to the word you see in recent culture. As a teenager I listened to a LOT of Radiohead. Some of their albums were a soundtrack to my late teenage years.
So it's true then?
Actually, I had completely forgotten about the word when this project got underway. I love Beckett – and he has used 'gloaming' three or four times in his work. A friend of mine from Scotland says it refers to the quality of light you only find in certain parts of the Highlands. It does seem to suit the music. As far as I'm concerned any reference to Radiohead is to be welcomed.
With The Gloaming, the five of you have essentially created a new genre of 'experimental trad'. Any pushback from purists?
It depends on who you talk to. There is a long history of people doing unusual and beautiful things with the genre – things that are today revered as great happenings, although controversial at the time. If you look at people like Sean O Riada... initially the establishment reacted very strongly against what they were doing.
Please don't be insulted – but has the rise of fiddle-bashing 'nu-folkies' such as Mumford and Sons helped your cause?
I have no idea. I don't really look at that broad picture. If you try to predict trends ... well, it won't do you much good. So much in this business is down to chance. All we can do is continue to make the music we make – pour our love and passion into it.
Is it true The Gloaming booked their first live date, at the National Concert Hall, before the band had even sat down and composed any songs?
Yeah, the show was booked, then we got together a few days in advance to work on material. It was kind of crazy for sure. However, as musicians, we are all of the belief that you should put your head down and and get on with things. As opposed to sitting around worrying.
We mean no disrespect when we point out that the 'trad' label carries certain resonances, positive but perhaps negative also. As an avant-garde outfit were you comfortable wedged in that particular pigeonhole?
I can only speak for myself: I am both comfortable and uncomfortable with labels. At the end of the day, it's the music you have to focus on – the music that is connecting with the listener. So it doesn't matter what name-tag you put on it.
Of course, you've broken out of the 'trad' zone and are attracting quite eclectic audiences.
It's been a wonderful experience. I do see lots of familiar faces at the gigs. However, The Gloaming has certainly reached a lot further than any previous project I've been involved in. You have people who aren't into trad whatsoever talking about us. There's definitely a sense that we've gone beyond those borders.
- The album The Gloaming is out now. The Gloaming play Kilkenny Arts Festival in August
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