Signing Irish troubadeurs to Scottish websites feels quite ‘in’ just now with Seamus Fogarty putting put God Damn You Mountain out on Fence, so here’s another example of cross-Irish Sea collaboration with acclaimed songwriter Adrian Crowley’s new album I See Three Bird Flying released on Chemikal Underground.
The man himself had a lot to say for himself so we don’t feel the need to say too much ourselves, but we’ll point out that this is another feather in an increasingly varied cap for Chemikal (comparing this to recent releases from Holy Mountain and the Unwinding Hours is a pointless task), and fans of Bill Callahan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Rob St. John are urged to check out this dry, minimalist, altogether spellbinding album – and then check out his substantial back catalogue!
So without further delay…
So who the hell are you?
Hello, we haven’t met before – my name is Adrian Crowley. I come from Galway in the West of Ireland and live in Dublin city’s North Strand. I make music under my own name and have been doing so for a number of years now.
Describe your sound in ten words or less!
Songs sung in my own voice to music to match.
You’ve been a little under the radar for us so far. Sum up your first five albums?
My very first album ‘A Strange Kind’ was recorded for about three hundred Irish punts in a music resource centre in north county Dublin around 1998.I haven’t actually listened to it in years but as far as I remember it was a brave first step. It was a tiny release but was a way of getting things started and a way of putting some form to the ideas that preoccupied me.
Album number two I called ‘When You Are Here You Are Family’. I recorded this in 2001 with my friends Kate Ellis on cello and Thomas Haugh on drums. We recorded the whole thing in 5 days, mixed it in that time too. I should say that this was a big second step for me. I managed to get Steve Albini on the phone and he agreed to record the album in his studio Electrical Audio. Although I was a total stranger to him, we did have some mutual musician friends who must have told him I was a trustworthy lad. It came together very quickly and was very exciting. So we booked our flights and flew over there for an intensive week. Vocals, electric guitar, cello and drums were all recorded live. The record came out on the New York indie label, Ba Da Bing! Records. The title comes from a photograph I took in New York the week after I finished the album. When I got home and developed all the photos I took around New York I spotted tiny writing on a wall in Soho. ‘When You are Here You are Family’. It seemed poignant to me at the time given certain things that were happening at the time. I still love it as a title. Album number three I recorded in my sister’s house over one weekend and in my flat the week or so after. She had just moved out and hadn’t handed over the keys to the new occupants who were planning to move in after the weekend. It was a pretty low key release. It came out on Misplaced Music – the micro label from Leeds and also on Ba Da Bing! Records.
That was in 2004, so then two years later I decided to record another album – ‘Long Distance Swimmer’. This felt like a new chapter for me. I think I had grown up musically and gained a lot of experience tours and playing with others. Again I recorded this in my sister’s (new) house over one week. It was recorded by my friend Stephen Shannon. My sister had actually asked me to house sit and take care of Rosy, her Dalmatian. I invited James Yorkston over to play a bit on it and a bunch of others over the next few days. It was a bit of a dream week, one that still makes Stephen misty eyed to think of. It came out in 2007 a year after it was finished and got way more attention than my previous albums and even a nomination for The Choice Music Prize here in Ireland. I had waited so long for it to come out that I had already started working on a new album which was to be ‘Season Of The Sparks’
I made that one with Steve in his recently built studio at the end of his back garden. It was a joy to make. Oh and it won the Choice Music Prize in 2010.
Has there been a particular influence on your music?
I think I just absorb things, I don’t have a huge record collection compared with some people I know but seem to gather a lot of ‘stuff’. I’m probably equally influenced by people and places, books and stories, life in general as well as a good tune.
It just started to emerge mostly over the course of a Winter. I spent a lot of time working on ideas in my attic late at night. It was a kind of adventure where I didn’t really want to plan a theme of any kind. I just started playing and writing things down, making recordings and listening back to them the next morning with a cup of coffee. There are many things that ghosted into my mind/the room while this was going on. Part fantasy/ part people and places around me.
What drew you to the musicians that played on the album?
I think they are all incredible and am honoured even to know them. Amazing people through and through. We had played together before but I felt that we had more that maybe we could explore. It was a very easy thing to decide to make happen once the idea came to me.
Will we see you on tour soon? Scotland?
I’ll be playing solo at Eastern Promise in Glasgow on October 5th and then will be back in Scotland again late November opening up for Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat.
You’ll get a full run down of Crowley’s dates over on the Chemikal website and here’s some music – it’s an older song but still feels entirely appropriate for the feel of I See Three Birds Flying.