- 08 Feb 23
With Meath indie-punks Spearside set for a stellar 2023, frontman Oisin Walsh talks live ambitions, brotherly bust-ups and taking inspiration from Bob Dylan. Photos: Joshua Mulholland.
Drawing inspiration from Teenage Fanclub, The Undertones, and other guitar-driven DIY outfits, Meath trio Spearside have taken the essence of punk and put their own unique twist on it.
The band is the natural creative evolution of the Walsh brothers, Oisin and Ciaran, who’ve moved on from previous projects, and this time out added drummer Dylan Zovich to the mix.
“Like a lot of bands, we’ve tumbled around in different forms,” explains singer and guitarist Oisin. “Spearside sort of came about as a lockdown thing. We put out ‘Bus Stop’ and that was pretty much the start of this line-up. So, it’s as new to me as it is to everyone. To others, it might look like we’ve just started and arrived with this single and name, but it’s been in the making for a long time.”
Having grown up in a musical household, Oisín took to music instantly, forcing his brother to follow suit.
“I decided Cian was gonna play bass before he did,” Oisin laughingly reminisces. “I got him to buy a bass with his communion money. Ever since he started playing it he’s been gigging, and we started playing together. He was kind of thrown in at the deep end. I’m a few years older than Cian and I’ve been playing music since day zero.
“There are pictures of me playing the drums at three. I’ve always been obsessive, because our family is very musical. Our dad was in a group for years when he was our age, and there were loads of bands floating around our family. Mom was in a band as well, so it’s always been a done deal.”
Oisin explains how ‘Bus Stop’ came to be Spearside’s first single.
“We’re putting stuff out in the chronology that they’ve lived,” he says. ‘Bus Stop’ was actually my first attempt at the whole, ‘I’m gonna be in a band and write songs’ thing when I was about 17. It’s been knocking around for a long time. It’s not like we put it out because it was the only song we had, and then two months later we wrote another song and put it out. We have our songs and our set.
“’Bus Stop’ is quite innocent. I don’t relate to it as much anymore; I’ve kind of moved on. But because it was the first song of the batch, and it’s always early in the set, it just made sense to put it out the first. Instead of second-guessing ourselves and putting out a song that we wrote this year, for us it was like, let’s keep the chronology of the songs intact. The next single, ’Crack In Your Brain’, was written a few years after, but it’s still been around a while and it’s a staple of our set.”
Harking back to an old Bob Dylan interview, Oisín points out that he, much like Dylan, doesn’t write songs to a specific style or length. While there is a structure to who writes what, and how the operation runs within Spearside – the songs nonetheless are what they are.
“After we released ‘Bus Stop’, someone pointed out that it was less than two minutes,” notes Oisin. “It wasn’t intentional at all. The song has an intro, two verses, a couple of choruses, a middle bit – it just gets through it all in two minutes and it’s as simple as that. ‘Crack In Your Brain’ has the exact same structure but it’s longer.
“We try to not let length or any decisions like that influence where the song is going. It’ll usually feel natural, then you go back and see that it’s less than two minutes. I don’t force stuff like that.”
The frontman elaborates on the nitty-gritty of the creative process.
“We’re very traditional in terms of songwriting,” he continues. “I’d write the songs, come up with the parts, mostly, and then bring it to my brother. He might have an input and then we record together. Cian would write his own songs too and he’d bring them to me. It’s usually in the recording process when stuff gets hashed out.
“Generally speaking, a song is finished before we play it together. We wouldn’t do the whole, ‘Come up with an idea, bring it to the band and jam it out’ thing. And we wouldn’t write songs in rehearsals. We tend to be pretty traditional in the songwriting sense. I kind of sit isolated and manic, recording different parts with loads of guitar pedals on the ground.”
How is it working with family?
“There’s a lot of ripping heads off!” he replies. “I couldn’t tell you what an external opinion of us would be, I can only see it from the inside. I remember when Dylan had just joined the band – we were rehearsing and something stupid happened, and the two of us were having a massive argument. Dylan’s just sitting there quietly, and we laughed at him and said: ‘It’s gonna be like this all the time.’
“When you spend your entire life with somebody, the first thing you’re gonna do is to rip their head off when something goes wrong. But it’s funny when we’re having an argument in front of someone who’s not used to conflict. They think, ‘Oh my god, the band is gonna break up,’ but that’s just like, our thing. We’d be arguing right up until playing the first chord of the gig. Sometimes we’ve actually had rows onstage – not often, but it has happened.”
Spearside have plenty of gigging in their agenda over the next 12 months.
“Our plans for 2023 include releasing music, playing gigs, and being full time rock and rollers!” says Oisin. “We’ll have another single coming out early next year, and we already have some gigs coming up in January as well. Basically, we want to further develop. Each single will further explain who we are as a band. Until we feel a physical release or an album is on the horizon, we’ll just keep plugging away in DIY fashion. But mainly gigs are what we want to do. It’s all well and good with Spotify, but doing it in the flesh is the real test.”
• Listen to 'Crack In Your Brain’ below.
Hot Press' Hot for 2023 issue is out now.
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