Sydney indie-rock brotherly quintet Castlecomer have been making big moves this year. After dropping their third, most successful, and most rock-influenced EP ‘All Of the Noise’ back in August, they’ve been taking on bigger venues, more crowds, and seemingly some newer genres.
Before they rocked out their Brisbane show at The Brightside, we sat down with four out of five members of the band (devastatingly frontman Bede Kennedy got caught up in flights), Joe Neely (referred to simply as Neely) and brothers and cousins, Joe, Tommy, and Pat Kennedy, to chat about their Spotify success, family bonds, and powerful women!
Your latest EP ‘All Of The Noise’ definitely feels as though you’ve embraced more indie-rock, rather than the indie folk from your previous two EPs. Was that change a conscious decision?
Joe: As you grow as musicians you evolve, and that’s more the type of stuff we’re listening to and the stuff we’re liking.
Neely: Bede also went on a trip to America, so all he had with him was a laptop and a little synthesiser. He didn’t have a guitar, so all he could write on was that little synth. So, naturally he moved away from folk and began putting in more melodic lines.
Tommy: It just kind of happens really. You go in a different direction accidentally almost, not that we are going in a different direction. You just listen to new music and start playing what you like, getting effects that you like, and writing like that. It’s great!
What sort of things are inspiring the band now?
Tommy: Most of the stuff I’m listening to does generally involve a lot more synth lines and whatnot. More drum sounds and more guitar-driven.
Neely: Bands like The Wombats and Catfish and the Bottlemen… that’s great stuff.
So, there was never a really conscious thought of “we’re going in this direction”?
Tommy: No, no. We’re Castlecomer, that’s it. (laughs)
You did drop your previous record label around the time that last year’s single Fire Alarm was released, did that have any influence on the music as well?
Joe: The way Bede puts it is, Fire Alarm was written after the record label was dropped and our song writing was definitely impacted by that. I think the way we operate as a band is also slightly different. We want to be involved in everything, we want to create all the art, and put our best foot forward.
So it was a good change to get away from the record label somewhat holding you back?
Joe: At the time, I think so.
Tommy: Definitely! As a band we’ve always been very adamant about ‘just f*cking do it’, so we like doing our own thing… touring, writing, touring, writing, touring.
Neely: We can be a bit impatient.
I’ve read that you guys wrote some crazy number of tracks for ‘All Of The Noise’. How did you narrow it down to just five songs?
Tommy: It was fucking hard! (laughs)
Joe: I think, essentially, we pick the songs we like the best. At the end of the day that’s what we did, especially with songs like Escapism. As soon as it was thought of as a band, we knew that was a song we wanted to record. From day dot when we were talking about recording it and it was number one on the list, then Fire Alarm came along and was very high up there as well.
Neely: Sometimes it was just a case of judging it based on 30 seconds of it.
Tommy: It’s pretty rare that we all disagree, because generally we all like similar sounds so it works out.
Neely: When we didn’t really have The Noise written, Bede brought it to the band, and then Tom started playing this riff over the top of it, and it just suddenly became one of those songs.
So there were never any particular arguments about song choices?
Neely: There were some discussions (laughs). That’s the beauty of having five band members – one song each!
Joe: There were a few songs that went kind of by the wayside, but the way we see it is that you’d like to be able to do this for as long as you can, so they’ll see the light of day eventually.
Tommy: If you write a thousand songs, you’ll surely get some good ones. That’s Bede and his writing.
Neely: We haven’t written any good songs though? (laughs)
Songs like Judy, with a girl’s name attached to them, always get talk surrounding whether she was just a character from the imagination. So I’ve got to ask, is she a real person?
ALL: Band secrets!
Joe: Just a little hint… yes.
In that case, what does she mean to you as a figure?
Tommy: Young love.
Neely: It just represents powerful women. The power isn’t in our court, it’s with her.
The Judy music video was a little whacked up, where did that idea come from?
Neely: It was actually Pat’s friend Ben Sheen.
Pat: You know how triple j Unearthed have the NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) competitions and their students make videos? A mate of mine did one for Polish Club the year before, and I knew he was doing film but he’d been down in Melbourne for years and I hadn’t been in touch with him. I heard about that video, saw it, and was like ‘wow that’s really cool!’. We got in touch with him and he came up with this concept, with chaos that suited the song. We just wanted to do something a bit different, and weird.
Tommy: All the stuff with the mouth… it’s quite interesting and it sits a bit left-of-centre, but it’s almost kind of intimate. He had some cool ideas though, and we’re glad he could be involved and do things the way he did. It was very different for us!
It’s not uncommon to see brothers in bands, but what’s it like being in a band and being all related?
Neely: It’s actually good.
Joe: I hate them. All of them (laughs).
Tommy: It’s really good because we argue all the time, but we can’t not be friends at the end of it all. Y’ know?
Neely: It may be like ‘I hate you and I never want to speak to you again’, and then there’s a family event on next week and you’re like ‘oh hey how’ve you been?’.
Joe: You live together your whole lives, so you learn how to combat your problems.
Tommy: It’s more of a team accomplishment as well. Having been together for so long, we’re all doing it together.
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding Spotify recently in regards to the benefits, disadvantages and even the unfairness it places on the music industry. You guys can be very thankful to Spotify – I mean Fire Alarm has almost 2 million listens! How do you feel about it?
Neely: It’s not a tangible thing. It’s not like you go to a festival and sell a certain amount of CD’s or whatever. With Spotify, and the streams, it’s just a number which you can see and a lot of it’s been overseas, so you don’t really get the full effect of it.
Tommy: I think it’s good though, because you can be so accessible now. It would be really hard for us to sell and market ourselves overseas, but if you get added to the right playlist, suddenly everyone hears your song. So it’s f*cking good for that.
Joe: As technology grows, it gives you more accessibility. We’ve found that over the years we’ve had more connection through all the different services, even just through Facebook and YouTube. It’s just reaching more people in a way you never could have done a few years ago.
Pat: Anyone can make music now, and share it, which is a really great opportunity for people.