Sun 30th Sep #clmf'18 - The Lost Brothers + guests Coughlans 3 pm,€ 20
Coughlans Live Music Festival '18
The Lost Brothers + Guests
Sunday Sept 30th. 3pm
Tickets 20 on sale Thursday April 19th at 2pm
There is something special about two musicians in unison. Solo artists bear the brunt of pretty much everything be it success or failure, joy or misery, it is all on their shoulders. Groups, meanwhile, are mostly perceived as ideal examples of democracy, when the reality is that they are governed by a benign dictator (if lucky) or a cruel despot (if not). Duos, on the other hand, are clearly in tune (and harmony) with themselves and each other.
As if proof were needed, take Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland as the perfect example. Having had previous lives in major label rock acts (respectively, The 747s and The Basement), the two Irish songwriters and musicians first met in 2007 after their bands had slowly slipped off the radar.
We both found ourselves at house parties in Liverpool, recalls Oisin, and discovered that we had the same musical tastes. We started writing songs together for fun no strategies, no game plan.
The musicians instinctive gravitational pull presented them with the Lost Brothers tag, but the name quickly stuck. Indeed, as the songs began to develop, the name started to make even more sense: the music was knocking on doors looking for a home, while the delivery of the songs was hushed to the point where you had to listen very carefully for the beauty of (and melancholy in) them.
The past ten years of The Lost Brothers (which began, says Mark McCausland, with writing songs by accident and demoing them for fun) has disappeared in the blink of an eyelid. Their 2008 debut album, Trails Of The Lonely, was produced in Portland, Oregon, by Mike Coykendall. An experienced sound engineer and musician (collaborations include M Ward, She & Him, Richmond Fontaine, Beth Orton, Bright Eyes), Coykendall set The Lost Brothers on their singular path.
He taught us a lot, reveals Oisin. The most important thing was to come at production in a weirder way. He worked in a haunted attic, and he would use anything from broken microphones to toys to get the best sound to fit the music.
He taught us to be more spontaneous, adds Mark. To capture the moment more than a so-called perfect take.
This intuitive approach perfectly suited the new direction. In their former bands, Oisin and Mark had been dragged around the block by major record labels, so the freedom to do exactly what they wanted (to make music completely on our own terms, with no one interfering, notes Oisin) made their compositions ring out with authenticity.
Every musician knows, asserts Mark, that magic in a studio can happen with the click of a finger. Some bands take a year to record an album, but that first batch of songs with Mike took a week. He taught us that magic.
For every subsequent Lost Brothers album (2011s So Long John Fante, 2012s The Passing Of The Night, 2014s New Songs Of Dawn And Dust), attaining the magic has been key to its end result. Rehearsing songs to within an inch of their lives prior to heading into a studio and making sure there are more than enough good ones has also been pivotal.
So it is with The Lost Brothers fifth album, Halfway Towards A Healing. Recorded in Tucson, Arizona, at the perfectly titled Dust and Stone Studios (operated and owned by producer Gabriel Sullivan and overseen by Giant Sand linchpin, Howe Gelb), the album is another step on the right road.
Over superb twelve tracks, location and emotion are softly suggested. From opening song, Echoes In The Wind, to closing spoken word track, The Ballad Of A Lost Brother (via the instrumental cantina hymn, Reigns Of Ruin, the fragile finger-picking beauty of More Than I Can Comprehend, and the delicate strum of Nothings Going To Change Me Now), the songs reach out like fingers across a warm night to calm a troubled brow. The lyrics match the intimate, tender moods.
I called your name, I called your number. Through the rain, through the thunder. Why turn away, from your man again, queries Oisin (in More Than I Can Comprehend). Through these, and within other songs of bruised heartache and brushed sentiments, there is a fraught sense of people at the end of their tether. The lyrics are, agree Oisin and Mark, much more direct than on previous albums.
The songs that eventually make it onto our records are sometimes the ones we write quickly, reveals Oisin. While the tracks you work on for a really long time tend not to make it. That goes for the live shows, too. The songs that make it onto our set list are just right for us. New material such as The Iron Road and Where The Shadows Go can be dream-state songs that feel right to Mark and I, and sometimes when we sing them at gigs theres a different meaning each time. You couldn't sit down and say specifically what they are.
As a textbook example, take More Than I Can Comprehend, one of three songs co-written with Glen Hansard. You cant get more direct than that one, states Oisin. We have had a tendency in the past to be quite abstract with lyrics, but Glen suggested we go straight for the jugular.
Being tested, and in turn inspired to do and be better, has made Halfway Towards A Healing The Lost Brothers best album to date. Another challenge and stimulus was Howe Gelbs production methods.
He would pick us up in the morning, recounts Mark, and take us out into the desert. Wed walk for hours, then hed drop us back at the studio. Wed go through songs with studio engineer Gabriel Sullivan, then Howe would meet us at the end of the day, listen to what wed done and work on the tracks. All those trips into the desert were to get the environment into our system.
According to Oisin and Mark, in the past ten or so years everything has changed. Unless youre on a major label, says Oisin, theres no huge structure, so for us everything has changed. Now, its all about getting on the road, touring the new material, being excited about an audience reacting to the set, and seeing what happens on each night in different theatres with different songs.
Recording is the best for us, as well, adds Mark. Its our passion, and the more we do it the less we take it for granted. Plus, were not trying to make it in the way we were when we were in our 20s. The goal is still there, but for different reasons. You shove everything aside when youre much younger, but now were sorting out life, or certain aspects of it.
The sorting out of lifes minor irritations, engaging with lifes major upsets, breathing in and breathing out, dealing with sorrow and embracing happiness the rich, sometimes frayed fabric of merely existing imbues Halfway Towards A Healing with a truth rarely expressed.
Many of our albums have been quite desolate, admits Oisin, but this one has tiny slivers of hope. Weve been challenged, and that has made the songs richer. We have definitely polished the gloom a bit! Weirdly, its our most forward-thinking record.
(The Lost Brothers in conversation October 2017 Slane Castle)
Halfway Towards A Healing is released ‪Friday January 26th on Bird Dog Records.
With emotionally wrenching and confessional songwriting they have the remarkable ability of making a large room feel very intimate indeed. With a masterful blend of careful songwriting and tuneful harmonies the Lost Brothers make a lasting impact.
The Huffington Post (live review)
Spellbinding. NME 8/10
Hushed and aching... Mojo
What I love about The Lost Brothers is how their songs often seem quite placid on the surface. Then one realizes just how depth-charged they truly are. Paul Muldoon
Halfway Towards A Healing is a hypnotic stunning masterpiece... babies shall be made to this music across the darkened planet... holy fuck this is good. Howe Gelb 2017
The Lost Brothers are easily one of the best bands of the last ten years. There is a darkness in their music without having to play brutally. If we must have our asses handed to us by a better band, I want that band to be the Lost Brothers. Dan Sartain (Third Man Records)
Lost Brothers are the go to band for an injection of quality. As smooth as aged old whiskey. **** The Irish Times