Turning up to watch one of the first live acts of Hard Working Class Heroes, the pan-Dublin music festival taking place from today until Saturday, was an experience about as far from could be expected of a rock band playing a city centre gig.
Wandering into Accents Cafe, just off Aungier St, you’d have been forgiven for walking straight past The Orchid Collective, the folk rock band due to gig there that afternoon, casually having a cigarette outside.
After a couple of minutes, a twang of tuning guitar strings, and a polite request for a glass of water, leader singer Dave O’Shea threw himself straight into the opening bars.
The 20-minute set that followed was a perfect demonstration of how this unassuming folk-rock four piece can make time stand still.
With their layered, open-chorded guitars, beautiful heartache melodies, and harmonising that the likes of Band of Horses would envy, The Orchid Collective held their audience as closely as if they had shared a pillow with every person present.
The initial bemusement and quiet small talk from the patrons died down quickly, not a person passed the open door whose head didn’t turn, and by the climax of their closing song, the goose-bump inducing “Blindfold”, every eye and ear in the place was completely transfixed.
A brief thank you to their listeners, and the lads were outside once again, taking in the fresh air and cigarette smoke. Despite having “only woken up about an hour ago,” Dave, Shea, Hugh and Dara were happy enough to give Babylon Radio an interview.
With such an emotive and ambient sound, you seem to be just as capable of raising goosebumps with a stripped down, acoustic performance as you would with a full set. In your opinion, what kind of venue suits your sound best?
Lately we’ve been bringing our own sound man to bigger gigs, and he’s been able to replicate the sound in every venue. But every room sounds different, some places have got big PAs, and we kind of give off this big sound, but we still like how we sound stripped right down to the bare bones.
Any personal preferences?
We’ve got favourite venues; there’s a couple of places in Galway we like, and we’re a big fan of Whelan’s in Dublin, where we’ve played a lot of gigs, and the Sugar Club as well.
You’ve been compared to Bon Iver, who famously locked himself away in a cabin in the woods to write ‘For Emma…’. Are there any factors which you find influence or improve the way you create your music?
There aren’t any cabins, but every time Dave is getting into a relationship or out of a relationship, he writes about a million songs. It’s either the honeymoon phase or the break up phase; the honeymoon phase is great but whenever he snaps out of it, we’re like, “Alright man, finish it!”
Aside from the likes of Bon Iver, James Vincent McMorrow, Fleet Foxes, all of whom have been cited as influential to your music, who would you say has influenced the sound of The Orchid Collective the most, directly or indirectly?
The beauty of it is that we all have a lot of different musical interests. The harmony thing probably comes from Dave and Shea being really into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and that whole folk scene, whereas Hugh had more of a McCartney’s Beatles upbringing, and yet we all went through our pop-punk phases and grunge phases. That whole mix gave us kind of a folk sound, but with all the layered guitars and the harmonies.
In what ways would you say your sound has developed since The Orchid Collective formed?
We started off more folk based, but it’s got a lot heavier. You can hear the difference on the new EP. If you listen to tracks like “Lay As Stone”, which we made earlier on, to the stuff on “Courage”, there’s an audible difference, as the sound has got heavier as we’ve progressed.
How important are festivals like HWCH for up and coming musicians?
We’ll see! It’s really good to be included in the line-up this year. There seems to be a lot of opportunities for bands here who are trying to get a bit bigger, especially with all the guys who work in the industry over for the convention. It brings a lot of people from the music industry over to Dublin from the UK and all over the place, which is great for bands like us.
Finally, what are your aspirations for the band? Are there any hypothetical situations you would like to find yourselves in, as a group of friends and band members?
Playing certain bigger venues like the Olympia would be good. It would be great to get to a point where we’re singing our songs and hearing people singing them back to us. And touring beyond Ireland is definitely on the bucket list, places around Europe, maybe. Or even America… although that might be a bigger bucket!
The Orchid Collective are playing live at Wigwam tonight as part of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival, details of which can be found here.
The band are currently touring across Ireland, and have a new four-track EP called “Courage” out on 21st October.