'We've a collective love of big 1980s pop'
Ireland's next great pop hopes - Ivy Nations - talk to our reporter about cancer, brain trauma, suicide, darkness, Bob Geldof, The Strypes and getting lost in Paris
Ivy Nations are much-feted purveyors of a kind of big, bright alternative pop sound that had the likes of Kodaline, The Blizzards and The Strypes ask them to be a support act. Their sound is also writ large all over recent single Live By Design, produced by Phil Magee, famed for his sterling services with The Script, Overhead, and the aforesaid Kodaline. Sitting in the sunshine outside the Bailey pub off Grafton Street, Ivy Nations' talk is the opposite of their sound. Guitarist Darragh Faughey is remembering a dark time...
"My young cousin died of cancer a few years ago and she was only aged 19. It really brought the whole family to a stand-still," he says. "It was a difficult time. It was probably one of the first times I'd really faced death, especially with someone so young."
Brian Sinnott (guitars & keyboards) has an equally pitch-black memory.
"A kid that I used to teach guitar to who took his own life at the age of 12," he says. "That was as low as it gets for me, primarily because I could never understand any one at that age having to take that course of action, I could never find any peace with it."
Vocalist Joe Kiernan has a story with a happy ending. "Luckily it has turned out a lot better than it starts," he says, "but my mother was on my sister's hen night in Carlingford. She was sleeping in a mezzanine and she rolled off and hit her head and got severe brain trauma.
"We were brought into the hospital at six in the morning. I had been out drinking all night, as you do. So I wasn't in the best of shape. She was basically told that she had a 10 per cent chance of living.
"She was in an induced coma for two months. She pulled through. But it was a very, very tough moment."
Much much better than we imagined is perhaps how you would describe Ivy Nations. They were one of the highlights of the recent Rock Against Homelessness concert at the Olympia in aid of Focus. Joe recalls that after their slot, Bob Geldof - who was headlining with The Boomtown Rats - came up to him and said: "Nice songs!"
Joe explains that Magee has helped with the band's progression.
"Phil gave us a little bit more structure on our sound and helped give us a direction that we were trying to find."
Brian says the band's "quite poppy" sound seems to cater to a younger, 19/20 upwards college crowd.
"I remember one of the best reactions was at the UCD Freshers' Ball supporting The Strypes. These college kids just went absolutely nuts for it."
So which bands have influenced the Ivy Nations? Darragh says: "All of us have a sort of collective love of music from the 1980s. Big pop choruses." Asked who does he mean when he says 1980s big pop chorus, Darragh mentions Depeche Mode, New Order, Human League and A-ha.
Darragh adds that the origins of Ivy Nations go back to 2011 when he and Brian returned from America and decided to start writing songs together. "We used to play together at parties but nothing really serious. It was not until 2013 that we started to take it seriously."
Ivy Nations might never have come into being had fate not intervened and returned a lost Joe to his family, once upon a time...
"Believe or not," he begins. "When I was four, I was in Paris with my parents, my brother and sister. We were watching a guy play guitar. He was busking. I was glued to it. So glued to it that my parents went off and left me there. I was on my own for about two hours in Paris. I was found in a cafe speaking to some French waitress who had a few words of English and put a call out!"
Ivy Nations play The Grand Social on Liffey Street on June 22.
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