- 31 May 19
A Lazarus Soul frontman Brian Brannigan explains why the band’s incredible new album is a celebration of Irish culture.
The D They Put Between The R And L is already a strong contender for Irish album of the year, and yet it nearly didn’t get made. Following 2014’s Last Of The Analogue Age, two of the four band members, guitarist/producer Joe Chester and drummer Julie Bienvenu, moved to France. Frontman Brian Brannigan felt that was probably that for A Lazarus Soul.
“Last Of The Analogue Age was very well received,” he says, “and I was delighted that I had made a decent album. People liked it and I was happy not to make another record.”
But songwriting bug in Brannigan’s blood, and he found himself continually penning snippets of what might become songs: “If an idea came, I got my phone out and sang it into the phone, but it was the longest I had ever gone without singing songs to people. Out of the blue, Joe asked if I had any songs because he was coming to Dublin. He brought a mobile recorder with him to my gaff and we put down a few songs. And that just kept happening throughout 2017.
“It was an album of circumstance that was put together in a piecemeal way. We made it up as we went along, but it was all put together by the genius of Joe Chester. He’d ask if I wanted drums on a song and I’d get a Ryanair over to France and Julie would put some drums down. The album wasn’t really planned – it came together over a year or so.”
The result sounds anything but piecemeal. It’s a jaw-dropping behemoth, a diorama of the dispossessed and downtrodden that could almost pass for a left-wing manifesto. Its title refers to the way Dubliners often insert an extra ‘d’ in to certain words, turning ‘girl’ in to ‘girdle’.
“My Da used to put an extra ‘d’ into everything and I used to pull him up over it,” the singer reflects. “But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised the uniqueness of that, and now that he’s passed, how much I miss it. So I’ve used a lot of local language on the record. To me, subject matter aside, the album is kind of a celebration of our accent, of our language and our culture.”
Brannigan’s voice sounds different on this record. “I got this idea around 2016; ‘what if I’d never heard any music? What would my voice sound like then?’ I sing my daughter to sleep most nights and I started to consciously sing using my speaking voice, so this kind of grew. When I started writing songs then, I was using more conversational language to write and these songs just came from that.”
Musically, it’s something of a departure for Brannigan, its folk leanings more in common with Planxty or Luke Kelly than previous ALS outings. When these new songs came out like “old world ballads”, he worried: “It was like, ‘what the fuck am I after getting myself into?’” he laughs, “But Joe was encouraging and told me to keep going.”
The anger and rage coming from these songs is palpable, so much so that you almost need an intermission to take a break from Brannigan’s relentless railing against injustice. Does he only write when he’s really angry?
“People have said that the album seems really angry, but I’m not an angry person,” he grins. “I find it hard sometimes to express myself. I’m not the most articulate person in the world and I find songs a way, not even to channel my thoughts, but just to figure stuff out in my head. I’m walking the dog, trying to figure out the world and those thoughts become songs. I’m not raging all the time.”
While seemingly drawn to characters that don’t have a voice, from addicts to immigrants, Brannigan insists that there is a kernel of hope at the heart of this album.
“I moved from Finglas to Maynooth and a lot of this album is about me finding community there through my daughter,” he admits. “For years before I was a Da, I didn’t integrate too well. I would always be coming back to town as it didn’t feel like home to me. But through her, especially her interest in horses, I have found community out there, so it’s me finding a home as well.”
The D They Put Between The R & L is out now on Bohemia Records.