not a member? click here to sign up
While the word pop currently raises the hackles of anyone who considers themselves a music fan, Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh, whose music is influenced by the move, XTC and the Kinks, is attempting to set the record straight
Colm O Hare, 10 Oct 2002
Are Pugwash the best pop band in Ireland? Some people seen to think so, including power-pop genius Jason Falkner, formerly with San Francisco band Jellyfish and currently filling in bass duties with French superstars Air. He guests on their new album Almanac and appeared live with the band at their recent Sugar Club residency in Dublin.
“Jason’s’ great says Pugwash mainman Thomas Walsh. “We’ve known him for a while. When he toured with Alanis Morrissette a few years ago he played The Point and then nipped down to The Funnel to play a gig we’d organised for him.”
When speaking of “pop” it should of course be clarified that Pugwash are a pop band in the traditional sense, not under the Louis Walsh definition.
“Pop to me is The Kinks, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Move,” (the other) Walsh explains. “Not the stuff Ireland is going bananas over at the moment. I’ve always listened to certain bands and picked up on people who have been influenced by them. I’ll never forget hearing XTC’s ‘Grass’ in a kebab shop in Inchicore. I got that feeling, that wonderful warm feeling you get when you piss in a swimming pool. It branched me into dozens of other bands. That meant getting into Jason Falkner through XTC, getting into XTC through The Kinks, getting into the Kinks through the Beatles.”
However, Walsh reserves his greatest devotion for 1970’s hit-makers ELO. “I love ELO,” he enthuses. “They were never hip but who gives a fuck. Jeff Lynn is my idol. He was writing, arranging, scoring, and playing all the instruments on some of those records. He’s a genius.”
The influences show. Almanac, Pugwash’s second album boasts a veritable cornucopia of rich melodies, jangly textures, close harmonies and lush strings. The recent single ‘Apples’ and other similarly irresistible gems such as ‘Keep Moving On’ and ‘Emily Regardless’ sound both timeless and yet bang up to date
“The reaction to it was brilliant - all the reviews were good,” says Walsh. “We were even playlisted by 2FM but they never played it. Probably because we didn’t meet up with the DJ’s or send then a little something - you know the story.
“People like myself and bands like Sonora, Saville and Las Vegas Basement are trying to write songs. We’re not worrying about meeting Tony Fenton in Lillies Bordello. Picture House are a great example of that. They so crave it - they’d sing the national anthem naked if they thought they’d get a number one.
“I was even offered a spot on The Lyrics Board,” he adds. “I swear to God you’ve more chance of seeing me on the next episode of Friends than on that show. They said it was re-vamped and it was different to the way it was before so I said, ‘Maybe’. I went home and watched about ten minutes of it and I nearly vomited it was so bad.”
Walsh, who also played with Andy White, Karl Wallinger and Crowded House’s Tim Finn before forming Pugwash in 1999, also has strong words for some of his contemporaries.
“There’s nothing worse then all that enforced angst that’s out there,” he says. “They’re doing these compilations with people like The Frames and Davit Kitt on them. These people are perfectly well-off, middle-class people who have nothing to be angry about. I’ve lived in a bed-sit for eight years and I write songs from the heart. It’s genuine and real. Every time I see a picture of Glen Hansard with a hat pulled down over his face I think, ‘What the fuck is wrong with him?”
As far as Pugwash is concerned Walsh reckons they’ve never been better
“We’ve developed into a really great live band, we’re having fun on stage and people are knocked out by the harmonies. And we’ve two songs on a new film The Acid Eaters, a Pat McCabe short made by TG4 coming out soon. Apart from that all I want to do is record 2000 versions of The Kinks’ ‘Village Green Preservation Society’!”