Thursday, March 05, 2020

Odd Morris frontman Daragh Griffin tells how he's "rolling with it" as he discusses Dublin life and Samuel Beckett

"It may sound stupidly obvious, but life can be really, really fucking class when you realise you're alive."

Words: Linn Branson 

Daragh Griffin, the vocalist and guitarist of Dublin's newest export, Odd Morris, is sitting in the smoking area of Yellow Door Studios rehearsal space in East Wall. It's a familiar stomping ground for the singer and guitarist, and somewhere he and his three band compatriots have spent much time over the last years; something that they share with fellow Irishmen Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. Set on an uninspiring industrial estate, it's not one of the Dublin's most eye-catching attractions, but the facilities have become a hub hotspot for local musicians.

"Yeah," he grins, as he takes in the surroundings, "Carlos from Fontaines D.C. told us about their rehearsal studio in East Wall, and since then we've been in here with all the other bands, we've been a lot more focused. Hearing The Murder Capital rehearse 'For Everything' will do that to you!"

It's hard to get away from The Murder Capital, not just hailing from same city and sharing same rehearsal space. There will be thoughts in the back of many fans' minds of another Dublin band, who, like Odd Morris (the name stemming from the author of a school maths book, named O.D Morris), had just a couple of tracks online and a few gigs under their belt, before playing a SOMA session early in 2018 - as did Odd Morris last year; see part one of this feature - that quickly caught attention and catapulted them 12 months later to a Top 20 debut album, a sold out string of shows and general approbation everywhere. I ask him if he knows who I am referring to?

He smiles: "Our boys, yeah." By "the boys" he means, of course, The Murder Capital.

Three of the band outside 
Yellow Door Studios

How did you come to do that session? Did you feel any pressure of expectation resting on it for Odd Morris?

"We were approached by SOMA back in March about the video, but decided to wait until festival season to shoot it--

As a potential single, or as part of an EP?

"No, not at all. The SOMA video was literally an opportunity to fan the flames around festival season. But I don't think there's any expectation on us at all really, to be honest, or at least as much as there would be for any other band. The video for us was an opportunity to release another tune for free so it was a no brainer."

Was it just 'The Nothing New' you did for them?

"Yea, just the one."

That has such a strong opening, the first 20 seconds or so, and that bassline with the dark guitar riffs coming in, really strike a moody, spine-tingling line.

"Mac's [Ciarán McCarthy] bass and Sam's[Martin, drums] beat complement each other nicely. It all came about really quickly I think. Kris [Hassett, guitar] just started strumming that single chord one rehearsal and it pricked my ear . We just built around it then, good old trial and error."

The title is from the opening line of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy, isn't it.

"Yea, yea, quality," he enthuses, with another broad smile, as he quotes: "'The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.' I remember sitting down to read it for the first time. Opening the book, reading that first line, then putting the book down, and just starting to laugh, and thinking 'what the actual fuck?!' Then pacing around the gaff in a tizzy! How do you follow that, like? He's a wonder - bloody style icon too."

I tell him how I often have recourse to a Beckettism of never conveying anything in a few sentences when you can employ his style of taking the same thing over several pages! He laughs again, before we get back onto his own song, and I ask if I am right in recalling he had previously described it as "a bittersweet reflection on losing our mates", in reference to many being forced to move from the city through the high cost of living there now?

"Yea, totally. Myself and my friends are extremely glad and proud to come from Dublin, we love it. But you can't help feel betrayed sometimes. Our generation are being deprived of young adulthood still living under the roof of our parents, or feeling like they've no choice but to emigrate because the standard of living is better elsewhere. I'm sharing a two-bedroom flat with five random blokes at the moment in Dublin city centre. The rent is cheap for its location in Dublin 1; not ideal, but you do what you gotta do. Pop the earplugs in at night, grand like."

Are you an Irish literature buff, given the aforementioned Beckett reference, I ask, mentioning how there seems to be a very prevalent literary theme amongst several Dublin bands.

"It's not something that defines us, but yea, of course, I am personally a lover of Irish literature. Lately I've been making a conscious effort to buy and read contemporary Irish writers as they need the money. The classics are great, but they're six feet under. There are equally as talented writers living today who needs to buy milk. The likes of Sally Rooney; our newest tune is actually based on her book Normal People - a phenomenal novel. Colm Keegan is a class poet from Dublin: Randomer is his latest piece of work. Paul Murphy is one of the funniest writers I've ever read. And Donal Ryan, nobody can quite match his skill of getting inside the Irish psyche like he can. But yea, read Sally Rooney's Normal People if you're stuck for a novel."

The four band members ("Sam our drummer is a beautiful human and all-round star; Kris and Mac were in my class in school; Sam was the year below. Sound boys who I love very much") all came out of the Swords area of Dublin, attending the same secondary school, with Kris and Sam growing up on the same street, so there is a strong link to the area, but to what length has it shaped and influenced their sound?

"Eh...," he pauses as he ponders the question, considering his reply. "Our sound... well, yea... well, I mean your immediate environment shapes your perspective on things, doesn't it, so as you navigate your surroundings and then begin to engage in creative expression, obviously what you perceive will find its way into your art. I would think there's a more universal sound to ourselves though, as opposed to thinking Dublin straight off the bat."

You released your debut single 'What Might Be' early last year, recorded with James Darkin whom you also worked with on the SOMA session. He seems to be able to bring out the best in you as a band and transfer that...

He nods in agreement. "Completely, yea. James is great, real good skin and so easy to work with. I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but he really does know how to get the best out of you. For 'What Might Be' going in to track the vocals, he just said all the right things to get you in the right frame of mind. It's all about capturing the vibe with him, really enjoyable."

And while we're on that subject, how would you describe your sound? It comes over as a brooding, post-punk-darkgaze cross between The Murder Capital and Joy Division? I even have heard you referred to as sounding like an Irish Brett Anderson!

"We always thought we were an indie band anyway," he says, smiling, "but I think we've been chucked into the post-punk machine because we've played with Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. Nah, but I think, dynamically, our tunes are becoming more post-punk because we're becoming better songwriters, you know? Knowing when to play, and when not to play etc. I feel post-punk is most powerful in its arrangement.

"But this whole thing of late where totally different bands are being lumped into the same pot, is really dangerous. Like, I feel people will just get fed up of hearing of 'another Dublin guitar band' you know? Musically, we're all very contrasting but our location seems to be the deciding factor for similarities. But, yea, we're actually all into totally different styles of music, but we find common ground when we write which is a strangely beautiful thing."

You earlier touched on the problems with accommodation and living in general, how difficult is it for a band where you are at currently to survive?

"We quit our full-time roles and work little nixers now. Sam is still in college. But to put it simply," he goes on, throwing in a wry laugh, "it's impossible! Fuck it though, it's what we all want to do, and we can't think of anything else. Every band at our level now is making a loss. At this stage there's no money at all in it, pure tokenism. So those who commit, commit knowing it's a money pit. We do it on the basis that it's something we feel like we have to do. That's how I feel anyway, and I'm sure that's how every other artist feels no matter their field."

At the time of this interview, the band had no record label or agent, although Daragh comments that they've "had a knock on the door once or twice", adding that "We're all smart lads, we weigh upthe pros and cons for everything: it's all very democratic. You've just gotta be analytical, constantly planning months in advance and knowing what shows are the right ones to play. The Irish scene is sound as, anyway, no band has ever turned a cold shoulder when tip-toeing around guidance and that. It's a proper community."

You've described Dublin as "a place full of beautiful memories." What are yours?

"Em, well I honestly think I've met some of life's most beautiful people in Dublin, but it's not Dublin alone to be fair, it's Ireland in general. I dunno though. Time is the most precious thing life can offer, and when you use that time to spend it having fun with the people that you love most in the world, there's just no getting better than that, is there? Everyone just wants to have a good time."

And are you, I ask, having that good time right now? "Me? I'm just rolling with it!" he says, with another disarming smile and hearty laugh. "It may sound stupidly obvious, but life can be really, really fucking class when you realise you're alive."

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