- 07 Aug 15
On the rosy side of his love/hate relationship with music since Turn ended, Oliver Cole is back "on a one man mission to make people engage." After five years, here's his Year Of The Bird...
For a nanosecond, you could have forgiven Oliver Cole's PR for thinking he'd gone full John Cage and embraced the avant-garde silence on his second solo album. "The first disc Ollie gave me of 'the album' was actually blank," the esteemed Pete Murphy recalls as his dapper artistic charge talks up the ultimately audible delights of Year Of The Bird in The Library Bar, Dublin. "There was no fuckin' music on it, so that's how secretive he is!"
"I'm not a reluctant musician," Cole explains. "I love that side of it. But I've always been pretty bad putting myself forward."
It took Gary Lightbody at a London party hearing what his old pal, late of beloved indies Turn, had in the offing to coax him into sharing it with the world through Third Bar Records.
"We have mutual friends and I know those boys for a long time. I was gonna say from another universe! But this one. Snow Patrol used to support Turn when we were playing the likes of Vicar Street and the Music Centre. They still hadn't made 'Run'."
Is there a parallel universe in which the Meath songwriter hadn't called time on Turn in 2006 and they are now touring the same arenas around the world as their Northern Irish colleagues?
"In an ideal world, we probably could have. We were so close to that. We really were. We had he material as well, we just didn’t have the common sense we needed at the time. I look at all the bands who did really well and they had really good work ethics. We didn’t have any of that..."
"Y'know what? In that parallel universe where Turn did really well, we probably would have burnt out pretty fast. That’s just the type of band it was."
Cole might be working at a languorous pace as a solo artist (Year Of The Bird comes half a decade on from his beautiful debut We Albatri), but we should be thankful he's enjoying the process. There was a period, post-Turn, when he fell out of love with music.
"I definitely fell out of love with it. Hated it. I went through a period of drinking too much and doing everything too much.
I remember being at a student party. I don't know anybody, I don’t know why I'm there, it's six in the morning and I'm being really strong and saying: 'I fucking hate music." Then like a scene from a movie, this beautiful girl came through the haze and joint smoke and said this amazing thing to me. She said: 'you can only really hate something you really, really love.'"
Cole says the line knocked him for six and got him back in the game.
"Funnily enough, I started to fall in love with music in a different way. I was really excited when I started again. Maybe it's getting older but there's not enough time in my life. I wanna do as much as I can do now."
Not that you'd suspect he's in a rush from his release history...
"Well, I was falling in love with my now-wife," he says of his time away. "In some ways that helped inspire the record, but when it was done I was afraid to put my foot out."
While Year Of The Bird contains a healthy dose of the dark, Elliott Smith pop Cole adores, the light that came with that relationship is on the record too.
"I would say that. There's a lotta love on this record, a lotta optimism and self reflection. When you do fall in love in the way that I did, it's a lot of things. It's not all flowery, happy things. Theres a lot of ‘am I fucking good enough for this shit? I need to be better. Why am I like this? I need to fix that...'"
These days, you'll find him in the car with his wife, getting excited over sonic pinches of chart pop on the radio."
"I’m just obsessed with the nuts and bolts of it now. I still can’t believe how, when everything is possible, people stick to the same formula all the bloody time. I’m gonna go on a one man mission to make people engage with music in a more serious way."
Year Of The Bird, which takes more cues from the likes of Cole Porter than rock 'n' roll in terms of its strange, fluid structures, is just the start.
"I’m really excited by the possibilities. This record is a step away from that normal structure of a three minute song.
The whole record has a mood. I was a little brave on this one but on the next one I’m going to go mental. I'm going to be batshit crazy!"