- 21 Apr 20
The Ocelots' debut album, Started To Wonder, is out now.
You’ve been on the scene for a while – how does it feel finally getting your debut album out into the world?
Brandon: It’s weird. It makes us more vulnerable to judgement. With an EP out, it’s like, ‘They could go any direction, they have potential’. But releasing an album, it’s like, ‘Okay – this is them, and that’s it’. That’s really scary.
You recorded Started To Wonder in a cottage in Skibbereen. How did that come about?
Brandon: It was pretty random! There’s a Skibbereen market on Saturdays, and we bought two shirts for a fiver off this girl. She was like, ‘Oh, you should come down and meet my husband! He’s just built a studio in the house!’ This was only the second time we’d met her – but she convinced us. We spent three weeks there. You never know what goes on in Skibb!
The folk scene is taking off in Ireland at the moment – but your career has really followed a trajectory of its own.
Ashley: Our career started when we were 17, through a video that went viral. That was five years ago.
Brandon: We were getting all these emails from labels at that time, and we didn’t know what to do. We had no one representing us. Then we headed over to London to work with a major label over there, when we were 18. They wanted us to co-write with producers and songwriters in the industry, but it didn’t feel right. So we took advantage of Ryanair sales, and started backpacking around Europe – busking and playing open mic nights. We created our scene. The touring we’ve done in Australia is from a busker we met in Berlin. Everything we’ve ever achieved has been from travelling around Europe with a guitar and a harmonica.
Have you seen a growing appetite for Irish music around Europe?
Brandon: Yeah, we have the golden passport, and everyone loves us everywhere. But Irish people have experienced a lot. The majority of people I knew were council house, single mammy, pub children – having blackcurrant and crisps, waiting for their mas to come out from the pub. A lot of Irish families come from a place of struggle, as well. You can really hear that in the music.
You’ve spent a major chunk of 2020 touring across Australia – does that packed schedule get intense?
Brandon: On the first Australian tour we did last year, we had 35 shows and pretty much no days off. No one knew us, so we did a lot of pub gigs – where you’re just stuck in the corner of a room. Doing that everyday was so exhausting. This time around, we have Monday and Tuesday off most weeks, and it’s mostly ticketed shows. We’re playing really good venues, and we’ve been treated really well. It feels like we’re on holidays! (laughs)
Ashley: We’re also camping along the way, so accommodation isn’t something we have to stress out about. We have a campervan, so we can pull up by the mountainside.
Brandon: We did a tour of Italy once, and that was the hardest thing ever. We had one gig where we finished the song, and all we heard from the crowd of six was someone snoring (laughs). We had just come from doing a tour with Jack Johnson, so we had such big heads. It was a hilarious contrast.
Ashley: From 5,000 people to 5 – and one of them’s asleep! But touring is always going to have a huge impact on your mental health, because you can’t really control the comforts and variables around you. We’re lucky that we’ve travelled so much – touring is our comfort. We moved to Leipzig in Germany, and trying to find a sense of home when we come back from these tours can be strenuous. Your sense of home gets shook up a bit.
Any plans to return to Ireland?
Ashley: Where we live now, I think we have a better relationship with Ireland. Now I can look forward to visiting Ireland, because I’m not spending €1.50 too much on chicken fillet rolls. And €300 too much on rent.
• The Ocelots’ new album, Started To Wonder, is out now.