Entertainment Music

Thursday 12 December 2019

Songs of social anxiety and being broke

Emotive: Patrick Sheehy, of Walking On Cars, performing in Whelan’s. Photo: Fiona Morgan
Emotive: Patrick Sheehy, of Walking On Cars, performing in Whelan’s. Photo: Fiona Morgan
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Walking On Cars are emblazoned on the front cover of the new edition of Hot Press - the magazine charts the Kerry quintet's "inexorable rise"; the Irish Times is even proclaiming thus - 'Dingle band avoiding the pedestrian route'. Signed to a major international record company (Virgin EMI), Patrick Sheehy, Sorcha Durham, Paul Flannery, Evan Hadnett and Dan Devane have great expectation on their young shoulders. Hype springs eternal?

Actually, the indie-folk alternative-pop firebrands are a triumph of substance over style: at its best - as their debut album, Everything This Way, proudly attests in places - their music is shudder-inducingly emotive.

Unsurprisingly, their cover of We Don't Eat, by James Vincent McMorrow for the Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie, was simply beautiful. It says something - something good - about Walking On Cars that they chose to cover this track by McMorrow.

The temperature in the famous Ringsend studio appeared to change when they performed the song - not least when Patrick Sheehy sang the lines about: "If this is redemption, why do I bother at all?"

Driving On Cars' new single, Speeding Cars, has sweet echoes of Kodaline and The Coronas and Snow Patrol but that is largely an irrelevance when you give the song a few listens and the sonic magic is revealed further with lyrics documenting demons in the dark and of a love that no one knows.

"And," as Patrick sings, "if I stood in front of a speeding car would you tell me who you are." Who Driving On Cars are, however, is a question almost as interesting as Patrick's enquiry about trying to look into the very soul of another. There must perhaps be something in the air in that very remote, if incredibly alluring, part of Ireland that they hail from.

Sorcha recalls that when Walking On Cars, who formed in 2010, first decided to "take things a bit seriously, they rented a cottage at the edge of the peninsula in the middle of nowhere - with the Atlantic right outside the window. We stayed there for about six months. We didn't have any car. There was no internet, no TV."

"It was just instruments and us in this old cottage," says Patrick, adding that "a fair few tunes" that are on the new album were written "in this inaccessible, even lonely, cottage by the sea".

"We were isolated but we were thinking about our sound and where we wanted to go with it," says Sorcha. "We just play what sounds good."

Sorcha (who is a trained classical pianist - you can hear that influence if you listen carefully on certain Walking On Cars' songs) continues that the band go into their writing sessions with a sense of the intuitive and tend not to over-analyse their music.

Do the comparisons with Kodaline/Snow Patrol/The Coronas ever bother them? "No, not at all. You are always going to be associated with other acts," says Sorcha.

"I think we're in the indie-pop-rock genre," says Patrick. "The Kodalines, The Coronas, the Snow Patrols are all in the same bracket of music. So we do get compared a lot, but it doesn't bother us. So it is nice to be in the same sentence as them."

Asked about the general lyrical concerns, Patrick says: "I trend to write about things that bother me."

And what's that? "Being broke," he answers.

"There's a few songs about being broke. Social anxiety. That kind of stuff."

I ask Sorcha what bothers her.

"Sometimes I bother you!" jokes Patrick.

"I'm a total stress-head," laughs Sorcha.

To watch the full interview with Walking On Cars, plus two exclusive performances, see The Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie. You can also watch the sessions on TG4.

Sunday Independent

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