Interview: The Art Crimes Band

I recently checked out a jazzy new song by The Art Crimes Band, titled If Only (Piano Bar Version). It’s an interesting song from a unique new band on the scene – make sure you check the track out once you’ve read this interview!

By Jane Howkins

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Niall Dennehy: Like most in the entertainment business the pandemic was pretty difficult. Granted our health was all good so we can count our blessings there, but we tried to make the most out of the downtime and use the lockdown to write and record in our own homes. A lot of the songs we are coming out with now are a product of our time in lockdown. I think there’s a renewed appreciation these days for new original music. Especially indie bands.

Grace McMahon: To get through the pandemic everyone turned to books, art, music, poetry, movies and TV. Slowly people realised the value and the importance of art in their lives. Many artists in the industry adapted and are now questioning the low value things like the music industry has placed on the artists themselves. All that is now being questioned and challenged. I think we’re experiencing a bit of a renaissance period.

You’ve also recently released a single titled If Only (Piano Bar Version). What can you tell us about the single?

Tim: O’Leary: Well, at the time of writing If Only I was obsessed with jazz theory and I loved the idea of playing one chord and then playing different contrasting bass notes underneath. This juxtaposition of harmony can really sing but can also create a certain dissonance. The interchangeability of these melodic lines lends itself to a certain melancholic sadness which really resonated with me. Lyrically the words came to me in a strange fashion, I went for a few beers with a friend of mine and I ended up sleeping on his couch. He lived on top of a big hill of which I lived at the bottom. Walking home the chords of the song ran through my head like a treadmill and, because my phone had died, I started rhyming words. By the time I got to the
bottom the lyrics were fully formed and I had to grab some scrap paper to jot it all down in case I forgot them!

Have you started writing for a future EP/album?

Niall Dennehy: Indeed. Work began in summer 2019, it’s ongoing and the singles we’ve been putting out are all milestones of our album journey. We hope to have the album out for summer 2023.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

Stephen Kirby: We all come from very different places musically and are very open in
the writing process.

Grace McMahon: I often get lyrics and snatches of melody hitting me out of the blue, so I usually just sing them into the recorder on my phone.

Katie O’Donnell: I usually start by opening up a Logic session, coming up with some kind of demo drum beat, then either adding a bass line or chords next, finally following it up with melody and lyrics. This is the method I usually gravitate towards, but I’m trying to mix that process up a bit these days as it can lead to more creative ideas.

Niall Dennehy: As a band we’ll write together in units. As Grace was saying, she might bring in one of her ideas from the phone. Three of us, might get out a guitar and some percussion, usually in the form of a cajon or a press record, and just start building a song from there. Send the results in the band chat and everyone adds their ideas bit by bit, and it grows from there. Then if we’re happy with the arrangement we either go into the studio to start the recording process or road test it out in front of crowds.

Tim O’Leary: I think after we hammer out the original structure everyone adds their own stamp to it. It might take a day or maybe even weeks until we are all happy with it, but it all comes together in the end. It’s what you could call a slow refinement process.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

Niall Dennehy: Yes, our next single is called Neon Skyline and will be out worldwide on August 26th.

You hail from both Ireland and the USA. Where are you based now and what is the local music scene like?

Niall Dennehy: We’re still based in and around the South Of Ireland. Cork City mostly. Traditionally Cork has had an extremely vibrant music scene. There really is live music seven nights a week in the city. Not the norm for somewhere that isn’t a capital city. But there’s a long history of a substantial music scene in Cork. Since 1978 we’ve had the Cork Jazz Festival where the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Chick Corea and B.B King performed at. And going back further we’ve got icons like Rory Gallagher from here. Music scenes change and evolve of course. After the 2008 crash lots of live music venues and clubs closed their doors here. Some are still closed to this day and others knocked down to build offices or luxury apartments. After two years of the pandemic the live music scene is back now but different, many of the old faces we used to know have moved on to other things or immigrated. But it’s all still positive. The main thing is live music is back and change is great sometimes.

Your music has quite a jazzy sound. What/who influences you most as artist? What have you been listening to recently?

Stephen Kirby: This is always such a tough question as there’s so many avenues you can go down – writer, new/old, style icon… I’ll say Keith Richards, a giant in every way, and David Byrne. I have been obsessed with all things Phoebe Bridgers for the last year or so, she is amazing. Such an amazing writer.

Grace McMahon: I loved soul/R&B girl groups growing up. Like TLC, All Saints, En Vogue. They had a huge influence. Then I found Billie Holiday!

Katie O’Donnell: My brother introduced me to most of the first bands I ever listened to. This would have been the likes of Muse, Arcade Fire and Queens of the Stone Age. He also was the person who introduced me to the world of gigging, which is when my love of playing live started.

Niall Dennehy: There’s definitely elements of jazz to a lot of things we do. Some of us studied jazz back in the day and some of us in the band still play jazz gigs together from time to time. Our sax player Gary fronts his own jazz group. Personally you’ll find me listening to everything… one minute Kraftwerk, the next Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa. The Rolling Stones will forever be a constant source of inspiration for me. Right now I’m listening a lot to the new Tears For Fears album.

Do you have any plans to tour in the UK?

Niall Dennehy: Nothing concrete yet, but we’re working on it. But shout out to anyone reading this who would like to have us play there, do get in touch! Hopefully shows there once the album comes out. We can’t wait to play live and in person for our UK brothers and sisters.

Why do you think people should come and see you live and how would you describe your live shows?

Niall Dennehy: The stage is our natural habitat. We’ve spent 90% of our time on stage as a band week after week for nearly 10 years and as individuals for nearly 20. Clubs, live music bars, small pubs, functions, festivals, you name it. We’ve never lost that joy of trying to move a room full of people, making sure everyone is having a good time.

Gary Baus: I really love the way a good groove takes over an audience when every interlocking part of the band is flowing and it compels a whole room full of people to start dancing. It’s inspiring to see the power of music in action.

Grace McMahon: Totally, the energy of a large crowd, be it in a small to huge theatre – there is something there that you can’t replace.

Any last words for the fans?

Grace McMahon: There are lots of plans on the cards for the future!

Stephen Kirby: Come catch us live. The recording studio is so much fun and we’re very proud of our output. That said, nothing beats the up-close and personal experience. We can’t wait to get back out there, see you there!