In Interview: The Wakes

In Interview: The Wakes

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by Danielle Holian

What is the story behind The Wakes?

The Wakes are a Folk and Roll band playing protest and political songs around a number of different themes. We started out playing covers with one or two original songs in between. Our name comes from the idea of a funeral wake which is where many a song has been sung and many a pint been taken. It seemed appropriate at the time we thought. As we became more confident with songwriting we started to move to writing more of our own material. The band is Glasgow Irish and a lot of the material reflects that. Particularly the second album which dealt with the subject of anti-Irish racism. We got together to play songs and the movement since has been quite an organic one.

What inspired the band to choose traditional folk rock as a genre of music?

We had all been playing in different genres although we had all been playing and singing folk songs for years before. I had learned the guitar playing Irish songs and it had been very much in our makeup before we got together. At the time, we wanted to play Pogues songs as well as more traditional ones and I suppose we didn’t try to come up with a specific sound. It just happened that way over time and as a result of the combination of the instruments involved. We coined the phrase Folk and Roll as opposed to folk rock as we felt that phrase sometimes conjured up bands from a different era and time, who, while being influential weren’t what we would have classed ourselves in the same category as.

How has your music evolved since the band began?

It’s heavier than it was at the start and arguably bigger too. Initially, the electric guitar was a novelty in the early days used once or twice a show. Fingers would generally play it as well as mouth organ but that took away a bit from his playing of that and I’d say that his mouth organ is one of our distinctive sounds. Danny and Conor arrived on whistle and mandolin in 2013 to replace James who played both in the years previously. We tried to add members to get a bigger sound live. Our albums are a lot more layered with other instruments used. I think that the folk element is still there but there are ska, funk, blues in there too. I don’t think it’s as easy to box as it once was. But as I said earlier it’s been an organic rather than deliberate process. I don’t write songs trying to make them sound a specific way. I just go with an idea and let the music dictate how it sounds in the end. It’s nice to hear positive feedback from people who have bought albums or heard songs and have picked out a favourite. I think everyone gets something from the music for one reason or another. There’s often times though that Eamonn will put down the drum kit and pick up the Bodrahn, Chris will put aside the FX pedals and we will play a much more stripped back set.

Who are your influences?

Too many to mention without missing someone out. The Clash and The Pogues for sure. Both Joe Strummer and Shane MacGowan are heroes of mine. Luke Kelly, The Dubliners, Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Springsteen, Jaco Pastorious, Rage Against The Machine, The Specials. I think it could go on much longer than this but I realise there is limited space. We supported Damien Dempsey last year and he had always been a huge influence for me.

Tell us a bit about your music in general?

It’s music in a political vein. They are songs of a social conscience. It’s left wing and often deals with subjects such as anti-fascism and racism, immigration, social unrest, rebellion and taking a stand. Some are songs of the joys of life too like drinking, friendship, and football. Not too many love song’s though. I like to tell stories in songs often but it just depends on what inspires me at the time of writing.

Where can someone access your music?

All the usual spots. iTunes, Spotify for a wee listen, before hopefully buying an album. We pop up on different podcasts and shows from time to time but albums are available from our website for earlier releases, www.thewakes.info, our label’s site www.drakkar.de for our most recent album, and our new one due out in October. Youtube has some videos if you want to see how handsome we were 8 years ago a before the gigging aged us.

Any advice for someone wanting to start a band?

Enjoy yourself most of all. Let what happen’s happen. Don’t put pressure on yourself in the early days and have fun.

Any last words

Thanks for having us. All the best.