Silences Luna EP launch with support from Son of the Hound & Brand New Friend
Friday 15th April 2016 – Bar Sub, Belfast
On Friday night at the obscure Bar Sub in Belfast, Silences kicked off their latest UK tour to support the release of their third EP, ‘Luna’. The band cease to rest in promoting their new material to a crowd of both justifiably impatient fans and newcomers to the band’s ambient indie sound.
Commencing the night was relative newcomers Brand New Friend, Taylor Johnson’s latest musical endeavour. Eager to capitalise on their success at our very own Kickstart competition this year, it is easy to see why so many have predicted this band as Northern Ireland’s next success story. The group’s quasi-angsty lyrics and drum magnitude contrasted heavily with a gleeful keyboard-pop genre and saturated vocal harmonies, creating something entirely unique in technicality, while remaining strongly familiar to fans of pop-rock.
Throughout each song, Brand New Friend relentlessly exhibit the energy and erraticism that you might associate with their music without ever having seen them. This adds to the feel-good film soundtrack impression akin to Christofer Drew’s demo discs, and the creative decision to replace overdriven guitar with Lauren Johnson’s keyboard riffs suits the lo-fi uniformity and frequency lapses towards which Brand New Friend aspire on their many demo tracks. Ending on their debut single ‘I Was An Astronaut’, Brand New Friend conclude with a well-rehearsed song familiar to more than a few in the audience.
Next on the bill is revered folk band Son of The Hound. Trying out a full band lineup, the triadic harmonies of frontman Michael McCullagh blend effectively with his backing musicians to convey the traditional Irish revivalism that fans have come to expect. The audience was treated to deep and powerful versions of previously established songs such as ‘Captain Of This Ship’, providing a novel take on McCullagh’s solo acoustic performances and recorded material.
This was also Son of The Hound’s first show since releasing their latest single ‘Galway Rain’ which has been well received throughout the country and further overseas. This new song demonstrates McCullagh’s ability to manipulate an archaic style, changing just enough to make it new and exciting for fans of alternative folk and indie music while retaining its rustic charm. The live vocals are as raw as the studio version, and that stylish Irish tone suits the musical accompaniment perfectly, evokes traditionalism in a way that is impossible to replicate. This is music that mixes the dark and light of life experience, adhering to McCullagh’s own jovial on-stage assertion that “life will eventually break youthful enthusiasm.”
Finally, we have headliners Silences in support of their Luna EP. A respected name in Northern Irish music since their incipience in 2013, the band have alternated between solo and band performances more recently. Tonight, we receive the full band treatment which conveys the substantial (yet still ambient) timbre of their latest work.
Silences have now played shows in the UK, Ireland and even Austin, Texas. This is a band that have worked towards moments like this in their music career, which is shown through the excitement in the crowd. Beginning the set by rallying against being “awkward” and “doing that really cheesy thing”, frontman Conchúr White delves into the impeccable amalgamation of gentle falsetto and carefree indie rock that distinguish Silences from their local contemporaries.
Deriving obvious influence from Sigur Ros and Bon Iver, Silences are Northern Ireland’s answer to the alternative indie adoption of recent years. Blending catchy melody with shimmering reverb, dynamic playfulness and chord changes in songs such as ‘Breathless’, the band demonstrate the technical virtuosity and public appeal of their latest EP. They carry onlookers through the extremes of post-rock choral outros in “There’s A Wolf” and the echoic emotion of their lower registry, with the respective reactions of their fans echoing the sheer physical effect of their music. Atmospheric at low volume and utterly cathartic at the louder moments, Silences explore every nook and cranny of the alternative indie genre.
As they leave the stage, we observe something rarely seen in shows featuring Northern Irish bands at any level of commercial success: demands of an encore. Sure enough, White returns to the stage to play us out with the closing track from Luna, ‘Carve Me Open’. A primarily acoustic song, this is a strange choice for a final goodbye considering the amount of energy in the room. However, it seems to work well and results in stripping away the band to Conchúr’s original singer-songwriter aesthetic. Attempts to end the night and say goodbye struggle against the crowd’s cheering, and this image is what epitomises the effect Silences have on the Northern Irish demographic. This show helps to define how far Silences have come in such a short time, and hints at what can only be an upward trajectory for the future of their musical career.