- 22 May 02
Cork Independent outfit The Waiting Room have just released their debut album Losing Patience, yet they're quite prepared to hold on to the day jobs for a little while yet as Marc O'Sullivan discovers
At eight o’clock on a Sunday evening, Cork city centre is oddly quiet. The few passersby on Union Quay cast glances at the upstairs windows of the Lobby Bar, where Waiting Room are running through the sound check for tonight’s gig. The occasion is the launch of their debut album, Losing Patience, which they recently finished recording at Secret Garden Studio.
Waiting Room are Nigel on guitar and vocals, Dave on bass, Laois on violin and vocals, and Wayne on drums. In keeping with what is fast becoming a local tradition, they eschew use of their surnames. So too does Chloe, who, as well as being sound engineer for tonight’s gig, took charge of recording the album and contributed piano to the instrumental ‘7lb 6oz’.
Apart from Dave’s composition, the aforementioned ‘7lb 6oz’, all the tracks on Losing Patience were written by Nigel. “They’re all about personal experiences, mood swings,” he says of their subject matter. “It’s not as if I read something in the paper and then write a song about it or anything.”
Waiting Room’s sound is marked by its melodic guitars and murmured vocals. Apart from Laois’s otherworldly violin, the effect is not unlike that produced by the late, and much lamented, Stars of Heaven, a band neither Nigel nor Dave is old enough to remember. However, both readily cite contemporary Irish acts like the Frames, the Redneck Manifesto and the Jimmy Cake as influences. “Outside of them,” says Nigel, “we all like Radiohead, Mercury Rev, Ben Harper and a lot of the ’60s singer/songwriters.”
Dave and Nigel are both graduates of the Music Management Programme established by Çhris Ahern at Scoil Stiofain Naofa in Togher, while Laois is completing her second year on the course. Like Niall Connolly’s Token Mellow Band and Fred, two other groups who got together on the music programme, Waiting Room recorded their album and are releasing it at their own expense. “Stiofain Naofa opened our eyes to the record industry,” says Dave. “We used to think all you had to do was get a deal and you’d be in the money.”
“Then we realised that record deals can actually be scary,” says Nigel. “Sometimes bands are worse off with a deal than they’d be without one. That’s why so many bands round here are setting up their own companies and releasing their own music.”
Waiting Room have been doing things for themselves more or less since they started. “It’s been educational,” says Dave. “Organising our own gigs and everything has been tough, but we’ve learnt a lot from it.”
When it came to recording the album, the band were confident there would be enough local sales to meet at least some of the costs involved. The rest they raised themselves; while Laois is still at Stiofain Naofa, and Dave is currently completing a computer-aided design course, Wayne works in a restaurant and Nigel is engaged in a career he firmly believes will eventually wipe out the remaining debt. “I’m gainfully employed by Maxol,” he says. “At the moment, I just tend the shop at a filling-station, but I hope to work my way up and become a petrol pump attendant.”
Now that Losing Patience is available to the public at large, the band are hoping for radio airplay and a busier gig schedule, particularly outside Cork. “We’ve made a video for one of the songs, called ‘Know Your Place’,” says Nigel. “Actually, a friend of ours named Warren Bridgewater made it; he’s really creative and did most of the work on it himself.”
“We did a lot of the filming down along the docks,” says Dave. “We also got footage of a Christian group doing a sort of dance thing in Daunt Square. The video’s being shown on No Disco in the next few weeks, and we’re hoping to put the song out as a single.”
They are also feeling the need of proper management more keenly. “We’re all busy enough as it is, so at this stage, it’d make sense for us to have a manager,” says Dave.
“And maybe even approach a record company,” says Nigel. “It’s something we’ve never actually done, but now we’ve got an album under our belts, it’s probably time we tried.” Not that Waiting Room’s future is dependent on their being signed by a major label.
“If it comes to it,” says Wayne, “we’ll just finance the next album ourselves as well. At this stage, we’re used to being self-sufficient.”
An hour or so later, the Lobby is packed to capacity. Nigel, Dave, Laois and Wayne take the stage and launch into ‘Screams’, one of those poignant three-minute pop gems you wish would go on forever. Happily, when it draws to a close, they follow it with a stream of other three-minute pop gems you also wish would go on forever, all of which are recorded for posterity on their shimmering debut.
Waiting Room are a band who may well take the scenic route to success; watching them revel in the sheer pleasure of performing their music, however, it is hard to imagine them ever losing their cool, or indeed, their patience.