Not content with bringing the rest of The National with him, Bryce Desssner has Lisa Hannigan and Justin Vernon lined-up for this year’s Sounds From A Safe Harbour extravaganza in Cork.
“It’s going to be Christmas in September!”
Bryce Dessner is looking forward to his second time curating Sounds From A Safe Harbour, the eclectic musical happening – “festival” seems too inadequate a word! – which returns to Cork from September 14-17 and finds Bryce accompanied this time by the rest of The National.
“It’s the first night of the tour, so it’ll be nice to do it in an intimate venue like the Opera House, which always brings the best out in artists,” he proffers. “We’ll try some different arrangements and some songs we don’t normally play.”
It’s all supposed to be hush-hush, but Bryce is bursting to tell us about the Irish guests on The National’s imminent Sleep Well Beast album.
“Lisa Hannigan, who’s become a good friend of ours, features quite prominently on it along with the RTÉ Orchestra,” he reveals. “My brother worked with her on her At Swim record. Lisa is one of the most interesting voices in music. I love what she did with that Seamus Heaney poem. She channels folk in a really creative way and is definitely one of the artists at this year’s festival.
“I did some arrangements for Sleep Well Beast with her pianist, Cormac Curran, and violin-player, André de Ridder. Justin Vernon is on there too.”
We’ve received high-grade intel that Mouse On Mars and NYC quartet So Percussion also feature in the album credits.
Despite being royally rained on recently at Kilmainham, the aforementioned Mr. Vernon and the rest of Bon Iver are taking care of Friday night headlining duties at Sounds From A Safe Harbour.
“I can’t claim the credit for that,” he laughs. “Mary Hickson, who ran the Opera House for years and directs the festival, is as thick as thieves with Justin, who’s an artist that really thrives in these more intimate creative environments.
“He’s going to be coming early, along with a bunch of other people, to work on some new collaborative stuff for the festival. It’s like you’re maybe creating something for the future or opening a window into some other world. We’re going to go in there with a blank canvas and see what happens.”
The Sounds From A Safe Harbour one-offs don’t end there.
“Pretty much anybody who’s involved in the festival is going to be invited to play pop-up gigs in more improvised settings,” Bryce resumes. “We’ll have some backlines and people can get up and do whatever they want to do. That’s what’s beautiful about the festival – it’s a safe place to try things you mightn’t necessarily do elsewhere.”
Bryce fell in love with Cork the first time The National played there to around 70 people in the Triskel.
“We’ve gigged in Cork at least four times now, and the journey down is always so beautiful,” he enthuses. “You’re getting the Ireland you dream of. The city is very friendly, open and diverse, which probably comes from it being a port. I love the pub culture; some of the big highlights last year were the unplanned things that happened in pubs. We hung out on a navy ship; did a residency at Lismore Castle; and had Cillian Murphy compile a mixtape for us.
“The bar was set pretty high in 2016, but I’m confident we can raise it!”
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