The Kanyu Tree siblings Shane, Daniel and Oisin are about to launch their debut People Street album after a 25-day tour around Ireland. After working hard all these years, Colin Sweetman finds out whether the Cluskey brothers will be leading the way in modern Irish pop.
“It’s a losing battle – you have to do a bit of both: free streams but pay for downloads – that kind of thing. Whatever is happening at the time you kind of have to go along with it to survive, you’ve no choice.”
“I’m going to say…Stadium. Yes, that would be my favourite place to play!”
Dubliner: What’s it like being all brothers in the same band?
Daniel: The honesty is the best part. You can be upfront with each other if you don’t agree with something. When it comes to writing songs, the process is kind of quicker – you can be honest and say “look, that’s not working”.
Shane: Yeah. At the start we would have been a bit reluctant to gig together.
Dubliner: When was the first time you gigged together, and where was it?
Oisin: Well, the first time we were actually supporting my band at the time, about an hour from Galway, near Tuam.
Shane: He was in a cover band at the time, and he just asked us can we support the band. That was about four years ago.
Dubliner: Who is the live drummer?
Daniel: Well, you know that Shane plays the drums in the studio, but we have to drum live as well of course. Recently though he has had to take a step up front, because singing and drumming was a bit like….[thinks about famous drummer-singers]
Dubliner: …Phil Collins?
Shane: Yes exactly! Visually it just didn’t look that great. When you’re sitting down you can’t be jumping up.
Daniel: Actually, at the moment our younger brother is the live drummer.
Dubliner: So there’s a fourth brother?
Daniel: Oh yea, s*** there’s four of us!
Oisin: We’ve no more brothers after that, we promise.
Shane: We only got him about eight months ago for his first gig.
Dubliner: Was he too young?
Daniel: No no, he used to play guitar until about two years ago when he started messing around with drums. He said he really liked it – we’d already been through a few drummers already – and he said he really liked playing for us. Another plus is that we can tell if somethings not great without much hesitation!
Dubliner: What is your songwriting ritual? Do you just stay in with a few drinks?
Daniel: Yeah I wish I was that cool!
Shane: But seriously, yes we drink – but not when rehearsing. I think we work better when we just go into the music room and do it.
Oisin: Shane would normally bang out a riff or go onto the drums and we’d just go from there really. The best results come when the three of us are in the room together – at the moment its that way.
Daniel: I suppose the lyrics though are just something we do in our own time.
Dubliner: You are with Sony now, were you thrilled when they signed you on?
The Brothers: [Trying to remember the big deal] Sony signed us last March, was it?
Shane: We were very happy about it. We had just finished the album – got it mixed, mastered, whatever – and literally two weeks later they had it on the radio for us. Things moved fast for us after that. I mean, compare it to when we released two singles before and never got any airtime with them.
Daniel: Yeah, even to get an interview like this was just impossible – constantly ringing up people and just, rejection and rejection. They wouldn’t even have us in the college newspapers! [They joke] But you don’t even know how bad we were…
Dubliner: Do you live together?
Shane: No no no. We practice in our old house together but we don’t live together.
Dubliner: That’s probably why you get along so well.
Daniel: Yeah probably…
Dubliner: How tough was it to break the industry?
Daniel: We gigged a lot at the start. We didn’t do any recording or anything until later. It was only later that we went into a studio to record a single – and it’s expensive, always watching the clock tick by.
Dubliner: So your first two singles were produced before your deal with Sony?
Daniel: Yes but only one of them is on our debut album, and even then we had to reproduce it.
Shane: We wanted to do that because we just didn’t get the sound that we wanted.
Oisin: It was too thin. When we did it first, we weren’t used to working in a studio.
Dubliner: Did you add anything to that song at reproduction?
Oisin: No we just kind of re-recorded it because we weren’t fully happy with. We wanted it to sound bigger aswell. The first time we went, the energy from us was good – you know, just banged out two songs in two days. But the quality of the recording isn’t great – so we had some issues with that we wanted corrected.
Dubliner: So you had fun in the studio in England?
Daniel: Oh yea, we got experimental.
Oisin: Over-experimental! But you know, you need that good sound.
Daniel: We often record at home which is fine, but it has to be top quality for an official recording.
Shane: You also need to spend more money!
Dubliner: As artists, how do you feel about music downloads?
Daniel: It’s a losing battle – you have to do a bit of both: free streams but pay for downloads – that kind of thing. Whatever is happening at the time you kind of have to go along with it to survive, you’ve no choice.
Dubliner: Can you download you’re music anywhere?
Oisin: No, you can’t download them for free, but you can hear them all if you want to check before you buy. We also give away free remixes and things like that. I suppose we found a balance where that we don’t make it too accessible but easy enough to check if you like it.
Dubliner: What are you listening to at the moment?
Shane: Well, what we’re listening to now wouldn’t necessarily influence what we’re putting out. I suppose though that we listen to a lot of old stuff like [all together now] Prince, the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles.
Daniel: We like music that’s more about the song than the production of that song.
Dubliner: Do you anything special for your gigs?
Daniel: We’d actually like to get into that eventually. We’re doing our first proper headline tour in a few weeks. At the moment though it’s a bit complicated on stage because we have Shane here playing a bit of bongo then a bit of keyboard and all that. It was a bit like The Immediate.
Dubliner: I remember them alright, always changing instruments onstage, who’s the lead there? Actually, who is the lead man here?
Daniel: That would definitely be Shane here. He’s the front man and the singer.
Dubliner: Do you prefer outdoor gigs or house venues?
Shane: I find that the bigger gigs are easier in a way because you don’t see every single person in the main light. It’s not very personal, you know?
Dubliner: So big or small?
Oisin: I’m going to say…Stadium. Yes, that would be my favourite place to play [laughter]!
Dubliner: So Shane takes care of the business end of the band?
Shane: No no we all do our fair share of work in that department. There’s a lot of different roles behind the scenes.
Daniel: Shane also does all our designing for the album and stuff. He went to designing college, that’s actually were he met the guy from the Immediate.
Dubliner: What about stage-clothes?
Daniel: No we’re rubbish at that. Shane wears a pink suit [pointing at Shane].
Oisin: But joking aside – you wear good clothes, clean clothes – the clothes your mother would say you look very smart in.
Daniel: I suppose, like the clothes that we have on now
Oisin: Without the flip flops of course!
Dubliner: What’s been your best gig so far?
Shane: Actually, Electric Picnic was the best – and obviously at home in Galway at Roisin Dubhs.
Daniel: At Picnic, we played the Crawdaddy stage. It was raining and it’s good though when you’re on a stage in a sheltered stage…
Dubliner: …so you can watch your audience get wet?
Daniel: Ha! No. We were the first act on a Sunday though and it was fairly busy, so we were really surprised about that. It was great.
Dubliner: Do you have a fanatical fanatic – like the one in Flight of the Conchords?
Brothers: Oh yea [trying to think if they do]…
Shane: What was her name again?
Oisin: Penny or something.
Daniel: No we don’t have anyone like that, but hopefully someday.
Oisin: Our Mammy! I suppose…