It’s been five years since Cork band Sideproject‘s last EP Not Waving But Drowning, during which time I just assumed the band had broken up. But no, they’re back with a new EP, They Made You Miss Everything, continuing where they left off. They played their first shows in two years last weekend, in Dublin and Dingle, and tomorrow, Saturday, June 15, the five piece make a triumphant return to Cyprus Avenue in Cork. I asked the band’s Michael and Alan Cusack how it feels to be back, what they’ve been up to in the last couple of years and what the future holds. Good news: we won’t have to wait another five years for their next release. You can stream They Made You Miss Everything below, and the interview is after the jump.
How did the gigs go over the weekend? Was it nice to be back?
Michael: The gigs went really (surprisingly) well. The show on Friday night in Whelan’s was our first show since we played in Dingle at the Other Voices gig trail last December so to say we were a little nervous would be to put it mildly, coupled with the fact that we hadn’t played a Dublin show for over two years, so we were not sure anyone would actually turn up. Thankfully it was a full house and Elk’s stormer of a set before us got the crowd in great form. It felt great to be back on stage and we seemed to pick up from where we left off two years ago.
It’s been two years since your last show in Cork and five years since your last EP release. I actually thought Sideproject had ended. Had the band envisioned such an extended break? Was it enforced? And did you always know you’d come back together?
Michael: We had never envisaged that the break would be so long but in 2009 it became apparent that the band would need to take a break due to a combination of work commitments and life adventures. That summer, Alan and I moved to Dublin for work, Diarmuid moved to Germany to pursue a PhD, Dave was studying in Limerick and Tom took a sabbatical to Australia. Notwithstanding the amazing capabilities of Skype, each of our respective adventures meant that the band had to take a back seat. During the break we all kept writing and playing separately with the occasional gig every now and then when the stars would align and three or four of us would find ourselves at home for a period – many of Cork’s local heroes have helped us over the years, Eimear of KVX fame, Kev Mulcahy of Former Monarchs and the mighty Eoghan ‘Afro’ Walsh all made guest appearances with the band during that time. I don’t think any of us considered calling it a day during the time, we feel that we’ll keep playing gigs until such a time as no one turns up any more. We all enjoy playing music together too much to pack it in simply because life sometimes gets in the way.
In ‘Meet Me In Montauk’, you sing “forget the past and move on”, Did you always know you’d come back together?
Alan: I think there was never really a question that we wouldn’t get back together. We always had it in our minds that a day would come when we would all have the opportunity to meet up and write some new material again. Behind each of our respective work commitments and foreign adventures there was always an unwritten understanding that the band was still alive, that we would continue to stay in touch and that one day we would get back to playing music again. Funnily enough, our lyrics often relate to what’s going on in our various lives at a given moment in time (eg ‘Follow Reason’ directly relates to Diarmuid’s close encounter with Scientology), and while ‘Montauk’ is about new horizons and fresh beginnings I think it is more reflective of our own personal lives than the band’s presence/active status per se. The EP derives its title from a great line by the philosopher Alan Watts in which he explores the importance of one’s approach to working life and in formulating priorities for the future which is something which we all, now more than, feel is important for us going forward. The title helps us to remember his words and make sure that we get that balance right.
The song titles all point towards the band having travelled around the world: ‘Meet Me In Montauk’, ‘Suspended Over White Skies’, ‘Caleb ‘Kai’ Lawrence’ (a hatchet-wielding hitchhiker). Is this your ‘on the road’ EP?
Michael: That’s actually a very fitting way to describe the EP. During the five-year gap since our last EP we all crossed new horizons in terms of our life experiences in conjunction with which our musical interests also developed. As the tracks on the EP were written over this five-year period they can be seen to very much reflect our various interests and passions at a particular time. For instance ‘Suspended Over White Skies’ was written back in 2008 whereas the slightly more technical tracks such as ‘Answer Back’ and ‘Kai’ were written this year. We have tried to ensure that each of these experiences are brought to bear on the EP and to ensure that the songs are as diverse as the years in which they were written. We certainly feel that it is our most complete release so far and has more depth/character than Not Waving but Drowning or Take Shelter From the Stars but I guess we’ll have to let others be the judge of that!
Tell me about the recording process for They Made You Miss Everything. Was it all very natural? It certainly sounds like the band picked up where they left off. How was working with Tadhg Healy?
Alan: The recording process actually came together very quickly and easily in the end which we largely owe to Tadhg Healy. Tadhg was an absolute saint and we really couldn’t have asked for a better person to take the helm for this new EP. It had been five years since we had last ventured into the studio so to say we were a little out of practice would be an understatement. The fact that we went back Data Studios in Kerry (which was the same studio where we recorded Not Waving But Drowning) was a major advantage for us and thanks to Tadhg’s patience we settled back into the swing of things pretty quickly. Yeah, I guess in that sense it really was a case of just picking up where we left off… I should probably say at this point that Tadhg is a master tea-brewer and I’m pretty sure there is no problem which cannot be overcome with a cup of his finest tea or better still his Thai curry.
Since your last show in Cork, it seems like the scene here has really picked up, with bands like Altered Hours in particular really shining. Does it feel like that to you, that Cork bands have pushed on in recent years? Who have you been listening to?
Alan: Absolutely – every weekend that we are down home and manage to catch a live gig these days we are blown away by the strength and depth of the Cork music scene. There seems to be some a collective after forming every time we come home and what excites me most is the diversity amongst them all. Obviously the Altered Hours are gaining huge momentum at the moment which is great to see and beyond them I’m personally very excited to hear what new music we will get in the next 12 months from The Great Balloon Race, Terriers and The Vincents. I also know the Former Monarch lads have a new album coming out too which I can’t wait to hear and the Lamp lads and Elk boys are also due to grace us with new material shortly so exciting times certainly lie ahead.
Finally, do you have any plans further ahead than the Cork show on Saturday?
Alan: The launch of the new EP has coincided perfectly with a new chapter in the long-distance relationship which all five of us have shared over the past few years. In two weeks time Mike is embarking on a cross-continental trip around the world which could last for 12 weeks, 12 months or 12 years but a month later Diarmuid will return to these shores after his three-year stint in Germany. I’ve decided to leave my job in Dublin and relocate to Cork where Dave is, and Tom is only down the road in Dingle so hopefully there will be plenty more from us in the coming months, even in Mike’s short absence. We can set up a live link for Mike to join us from Fiji if necessary. With these new adventures in mind in mind I feel that each of the three gigs and the new EP are very important for us in terms of representing a new step forward in Sideproject journey. Hopefully we can build on the EP with a view to getting some new material back on the shelves of PlugD a lot faster than the five-year hiatus which led up to this launch!
Sideproject play Cyprus Avenue in Cork tomorrow, Saturday, June 15, supported by Elk and Terriers, with DJs Glitter and Trauma and Gypsies with Knives until late. Tickets are €5 or €7 with a copy of the new EP, They Made You Miss Everything. Doors are at 9pm. Facebook event page.