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Madness to the Method

IT'S been a long day for Thomas Walsh and Neil Hannon. Up at the crack of dawn for some "breakfast telly", it's now approaching dinner hour, and the cricket-loving duo are, well, a little tired. What's more, it seems to have affected Walsh's intelligence, too.

Or maybe just his knowledge of foreign names. "I'm not slowly going mad. I'm trying to make sense of my massive geographical mistake there on your surname," he explains, as Neil pulls up a chair beside us. "This is Chris Wasser, Neil", he says. "Surname-wise, where would you go with ‘Wasser'?"

Nibbling on a handful of nuts, Neil pauses. "Vassar!" he exclaims. "German for water!" Good man, Neil. "Well done," laughs Thomas, "high fives on that one."

For the record, Thomas thought it was Australian -- but I've promised to let that one go. What matters is that the most unique collaboration in pop this country has produced have decided to bring one of last year's finest Irish albums on the road. For two shows. Then again, The Duckworth Lewis Method has never been a "band" per se, more so a coming together of rich and intelligent songwriting and ambitious yet accomplished ideas. For a record about cricket.

Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but if you've yet to hear the likes of The Sweet Spot or Meeting Mr Miandad, at least take it from me that the leader of Dublin's Pugwash and the man essentially known as The Divine Comedy have created more than just a novelty album. This is in a league -- or test -- of its own. So, how on earth did it all come about?

"I don't quite remember what happened," offers Neil, "but we were probably just in the pub talking about how we're gonna make an entire album about cricket. And then we did. I'm still baffled."

"I thought we had something we could work on," shares Thomas, "because I remember coming back from the writing session very early on with Neil, and having the bus fare home from his house, and I remember just having a batch loaf in me flat and thinking 'I wouldn't mind a chicken sandwich'. I went into a shop in Crumlin and walked straight out with a cooked chicken -- without paying for it."

Eh, I don't know where this is going, I say. "I have no idea, either," smiles Neil. "This is a great story," continues Thomas. "I remember saying to myself, 'yeah, I needed a bit of chicken, but why can't I buy some chicken? It's 2008, I should have enough money to buy some chicken' and I went home and thought, 'I need to kind of start getting myself together and getting a few things together'."

Ah, I see . . . I think. As Thomas further explains, he quickly realised how productive and promising a collaboration with Hannon could be. It was a chance to have some fun and create something different. A chance to evolve as a songwriter.

"Did you like that chicken story?" he asks.

"It did smack of desperation," replies Neil.

"Ah, some desperate moments, you know? It was a nice chicken -- four days out of it . . ." he continues. Oh dear.

"It's all to do with bloody-mindedness, really," says Neil. "That other people might have those ideas in pubs, but it's what happens the day after -- that is the difference. And I have never been afraid of making myself look like an idiot for the sake of pop music, because I love pop music, and I think you need to put your credibility on the line."

"I don't think I've known anyone as silly as Neil can be," agrees Thomas. Of course, one of the most noticeable aspects of this weird yet wonderful concept album is that there's a sense that both guys were having the time of their lives while making it. They are genuine cricket fans . . . right?

"Well, I mean, we couldn't have written an album about cricket if we weren't cricket fans," laughs Neil. "We would be the biggest bluffers in humanity -- I think we would have been shot. And we would have got found out."

Indeed, they would. A Choice Music Prize and Ivor Novello nomination earlier this year signify the level of respect and appreciation that's been bestowed upon their fascinating little project. Funnily enough, they've since written and recorded their own Irish "National Anthem", too. Is another album on the cards? Thomas just smiles. "Neil: one, two, three . . ." Cue a resounding "yes" from the both of them. And, while they don't quite know where to start just yet ("best just to go in and see what happens") it seems as though we haven't heard the last from Walsh and Hannon's collective pool of scintillating pop.

In the meantime, they might even bring the first record to America. Well, at least Thomas thinks it isn't a bad idea. "I think that is the worst possible idea I've ever heard!" says Neil.

"But that's probably one of the best questions yet," interrupts Thomas. "Yeah, I'd say, absolutely. . .They're not bothered about the subject matter in America. The English were bothered with the subject matter because they wanted us to get it right. Over here, we just keep getting asked 'why?'" Neil butts in: "And our answer is, 'why not?'"

The Duckworth Lewis Method are live at the Olympia Theatre tomorrow


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