When Chordblossom came into existence, it was always our aim to shine a spotlight on the artists and bands that make up the music scene in Northern Ireland. We’ve been doing it for over ten years now and one of our favourite methods is our Introducing feature.
Put the kettle on, curl up on your sofa and and join us for a quickfire Q&A with some of our favourite new musicians. Who knows, maybe you’ll even discover your new favourite artists.
This iteration of Introducing features the musical talents of Dander who just released their latest single ‘Knees Must’.
What was the inspiration behind your artist name?
When the time came to come up with a name for the project, I was going through loads of different names and then told someone I was going for a dander one day and the word kind of stuck out to me in my head. It’s such a uniquely local term, but doesn’t need any deciphering if you don’t know it in that way.
Coincidentally, I had already written a couple of songs based around short walks before we were called dander and have written a couple since, too. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s just a fairly easy thing to write a song about. All walks have a start and a finish and loads of imagery on the way. Perfect for a song!
You’ve just released a new single. How did it come about and what does it mean to you?
Knees Must was written during lockdown and is kind of a mix of dark Irish folk and Ennio Morricone style Spaghetti-Western music. We recorded it last year with George Sloan at Half Bap Recording Studios in Belfast and I wrote it a bit like a modern day Wild West showdown set in Northern Ireland, so the subject of punishment shootings fit that theme well. To be honest though, I just kind of came up with the pun ‘Knees Must’ and worked backwards from there!
This is the song we end our sets with, and it always gets the crowd going, so we’re excited to get it out into the world finally. We shot a video for it in Glenveagh, Co. Donegal, which is as close as we can get to a Spaghetti Western landscape, so we’re looking forward to getting that out too.
Have you any more releases or studio time lined up for later in the year?
We’re planning on releasing one more song from our EP as a single in the summer before we release the full EP on streaming services. We’re currently working on demos for an album in the future too, so hopefully we can get into the studio soon to get that recorded.
Tell us about your song writing process.
My songs will normally start with a guitar part and vocal melody, which tend to come together pretty quickly. Then I’ll sing nonsense to myself until certain phrases or words start coming together and forming the narrative of the song.
I’ve never written a song in one go though, and it can take a while for the lyrics to come together once I know what it’s about, and I normally have a fair few unfinished songs on the go at the same time. Once it’s finished or nearly finished, I’ll record it on a voice note and send it out to the rest of the band to work parts out for and we’ll jam it out together from there.
Who were your favourite artists/bands growing up? Have your influences changed over time?
I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who had great taste in music, so I would have heard loads of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, The Dubliners and Hank Williams etc. growing up. All that stuff has had a huge influence on me.
Beyond that, I have always been into a lot of indie from the 90’s and early 2000’s like Radiohead, Pavement, Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens and “Bonnie” Prince Billy among many others. I draw influence from all those songwriters and also more contemporary acts like Big Thief, Joshua Burnside and Johnny Flynn. The rest of the band have a bit more eclectic tastes with rock, metal and blues influences, so maybe that adds a wee bit of edge at times!
The 2022 NI Music Prize has just concluded, what’s been your favourite album and single released this year?
Joshua Burnside’s ‘Late Afternoon in the Meadow 1887’ and TRAMP’s ‘Frankenstein’ are both amazing songs in different ways, and I find it hard to separate them, so I’m just going to sit on the fence and say both of them have been my favourite tunes this past year.
I really loved Laytha’s debut album too. Such lush harmonies/instrumentation and it really works as a cohesive piece. Outside of Northern Ireland, I’ve been loving Lankum’s new album for the same reasons.
If you weren’t musicians, what line of work would we find you in?
We all have day jobs outside of the band, so there’s not much imagination needed here. I (Kevin Brown – vocals/guitar) work in admin for a moderation company, Jennifer Hughes (vocals) is a tattoo artist and works in cancer screening services, James Graham (lead guitar) is a guitar teacher, Stuart Rankin (bass) is a farmer and Scott McGettigan (drums) is a plumber.
If you could collaborate with one artist or band from NI, who would it be and why?
Well, TRAMP had namechecked us when they answered this question last year and it was something myself and their singer Sianna had already talked about before that, but we’ve started doing a little bit of writing together recently, so we’ll see what comes of that in the future. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with such a talented singer and songwriter though, and I’d have picked her for this if we weren’t already technically collaborating.
Someone who I haven’t collaborated with, but would love to, is Joel Harkin. He’s a great songwriter with a nice turn of phrase and I’m sure we could write some nice sad country songs together. Really looking forward to hearing the new album he’s working on when it comes out.
It is intensely difficult to be successful in the music industry. What does NI need to do to invest in/develop to boost your chances?
Well, the recent figures showing the disparities in arts funding between Northern Ireland and England/Scotland/Wales were pretty damning, so fixing that would be a start. There’s a wealth of talent in Northern Ireland and I think people just need more opportunities and they’ll do the rest themselves. I think Derry is a bit underfunded at the minute and has the potential to be a real music hub with a bit more support.
Northern Ireland is small, so if Belfast and Derry were fully supported by the arts sector, every musician would be at the most 45 mins to an hour away from a thriving music hub. That would be a pretty good starting point to develop the musical infrastructure in some of the smaller towns and cities to make the scene feel a bit less disjointed than it does now. None of this is possible without sitting politicians, of course!
What does success look like for you?
We don’t have any grand notions in that regard. I suppose, being able to quit the day job and live off music would be the dream, but that’s not easy these days. As long as we’re happy with the music we produce, and it resonates with some people, we’d count that as success.
You’re going out on tour and can have anything you want on your rider, what would we find on yours?
£1 million each. Cash.
Where and when can we next catch you live?
We’re going to be playing a stripped back set for the Output Festival at the Dead Rabbit/Lowden Guitars showcase in the Duke of York, Belfast on 1st June at 7.30pm. We can’t wait for this one as it’s set to be a great night of music in the Cathedral Quarter and it’ll be our first time down at the Output Festival. We’re also going to be supporting the fantastic Seeds of the Oak Tree in Bennigans, Derry, on 3rd June.
If you enjoyed this feature and fancy discovering some more new artists, we suggest you jump on over to our archive of Introducing pieces.
If you are a band or musician based in Northern Ireland interested in taking part in our Introducing feature, we recommend submitting new music to us via our Contact page and if we enjoy it, you’ll no doubt hear from us.