Brothers Richie and Jamie Martin have been making sweet, soulful, harmony-driven music together since they were kids.
The Dublin duo formed Cry Monster Cry about seven years ago, releasing their debut album 'Rhythm of Dawn' in 2015.
Now, they're back with its follow-up 'Tides' – another collection of considered and beautifully-played alt-folk.
We caught up with Jamie to get the lowdown on 'Tides', Cry Monster Cry's background and influences, and where the pair see themselves going next.
First things first... can you explain a little about how and when you decided to form Cry Monster Cry?
Myself and Richie are brothers. We grew up surrounded by music, going to lessons from an early age to learn piano and violin. We played together in school off and on. Richie was always the more serious musician, and being the older brother, was in and out of different bands for years. When his last group disbanded, he asked me would I be interested in doing something together. We had never written before. We spent a few weeks in our parents' home in 2012 and wrote The Fallen, our first EP that we released the same year. It seemed to really resonate with people and from there we have grown what we do. We had been asked by a few friends to do a handful of shows. At each show another person would approach us with another gig offer, whether a support or a festival slot, until we released that people were really taking an interest in what we were doing. We started to approach things more professionally, booking shows and planning campaigns.
So you must have grown up in a pretty musical home, then?
Our parents loved music and we were always surrounded by records and tapes. We listened to a lot of different stuff in the car going on road trips in the summer. Our mother played the violin and a bit of accordion. Our father doesn't play, but has a great appreciation and knowledge of music. Our sister Ellen is very musical also, but does it just as a hobby.
Did you share the same taste in music, growing up?
We listened to everything and anything from a young age - ranging from The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, through to our teenage years when we became obsessed with acts like Oasis, Thin Lizzy and The Frames. From the start, genre didn't matter to us; we had a huge appetite for anything creative and interesting.
Who or what would you say is your biggest influence now?
Our biggest influences are creatives that have taken the time to marry together lyrics, composition, melody, mood and production. These are things that really matter a lot to us, and perhaps it's why we take a little bit longer producing records than we should. Dylan is a big influence on us, as he is a storyteller and mood-setter; he's dynamic and keeps things interesting and evolves with the times. I think you can take inspiration away from any kind of music, whether it's a chord progression or an atmosphere, or just an overall feeling that it evokes.
Do you remember the first song you guys wrote together?
Yeah, it was called This New Country - it's on the digital version of our EP The Fallen. It's a bit more country than anything else we've ever done and it hinges around two interlocking guitar melodies that are catchy and upbeat.
You released your debut album 'Rhythm of Dawn' in 2015.
'Rhythm of Dawn' charted a journey from night to morning, with the instrumentation, themes, lyrics and feeling of the songs changing as you listen. There are shifts in mood and subject matter. Nature played a part in it and the image of birds is threaded throughout it, either in lyrics, metaphors or actual field recordings. It was very much a case of using nature as a lynchpin to talk about other things - likening the human side of dealing with life to the changes of a day or a season.
How do you think 'Tides' differs, thematically and musically, from that album? Nature plays a part again, obviously.
With 'Tides', we've tried to strike closer to the bone. There is the theme again - the ocean - but this time, we've been much more abstract with it. The ocean is more of a mood companion in this record. We have tried to share much more of ourselves and be much more honest with it. It still has an element of storytelling, but they are our stories from our lives. The production has been stripped back a lot, and 90% of it was recorded live. We pushed our harmonies up to the front with less reverb and much less layers, singing from the heart – and we built the tracks up with very specific instrumentation. If something didn't need to be there, it wasn't.
Was there any sense of the 'difficult second album' syndrome in the making or writing of it?
After 'Rhythm of Dawn' was released, we found ourselves in a position where we were touring a lot and playing a record that really seemed to speak to people. We were delighted with this, but after the cycle inevitably finished, we were left catching our breaths, asking "What now"? We didn't really have a chance to live the experiences that could be a basis for a second record, something that we knew we wanted to make more personal. So we took a bit of time off. I went travelling for a bit, and went to Japan, Korea, Iceland and Spain taking photos. Richie finished a graphic design course in college and built a house. When we came together again to write, we were decisive about the album we wanted to make. We both went through massive changes personally within that time. There were struggles. We knew we wanted an album that would reflect that, which meant it would not necessarily hold any radio hits. We questioned ourselves and the way we approached things; there were professional setbacks that delayed things a lot, so we had to keep telling ourselves that this album needed to be made. Being an independent band, the whole affair is in your hands. If you have a vision you need to have the energy and skills to see it through. Sometimes when exhaustion and doubt kick in, that can be hard.
You got a bit of attention for your recent video for the title track, filmed in the middle of a lake – who came up with that idea?
We were invited to Brienz by an amazing guy called René Reusser. Himself and his partner Mirjam have a house on the lake where they host private concerts with musicians from all over the world. When we got there, René suggested we play a song in the canoe on the lake. Myself and Richie paddled out with the instruments onboard, and my girlfriend Celia sat on a paddleboard and recorded while René pushed it and swam, adding movement and allowing the camera to do some 360 degree pans. We really enjoyed doing it and when we shared it it got a massive response.
You recorded it in Donegal with Tommy McLaughlin – why decide to record there, and why with him?
Our mother is from Donegal, so first and foremost, the place is special to us. We have always been fans of Tommy's work with acts like Villagers and Soak, and when we saw the giant live room in the studio we knew that it would be the right place for 'Tides' to be born. The calming countryside all around lends itself so well to creation. The opening track on the album is an instrumental piece that was created during a tea break. We have never done anything like that before. It was the song the album was missing though and we love what it adds. There was a great sense of freedom there and a certain disconnect from the world. We were able to immerse ourselves in the whole thing.
What's your favourite song on the album, and why?
It's really hard for me to choose. One of the highlights for me is 'The Final Dance' - the only "heavy" song on the album that features drums. It is unexpected and gets very full-on. We'd only played this song once before, and we were not sure if it would work. We'd never played it with a drummer before. Tommy got a great player named Hugh Law in and we just jammed the song once or twice. We all instantly clicked and fell into this rhythm and groove. It's really raw and angry and sad and crammed full of emotion. I love listening to it. It's about looking at someone really close to you and feeling sorry for them, knowing that it is too late for them to escape their demons
Finally, what do you want people to take from this album?
I just want them to listen to it. I hope it speaks to people. I know for me, when I find an album that speaks to me, I become obsessed with it: what could it mean, how was it made, all those things. I know everyone consumes music in different ways - I just felt we needed to get this out there and give it a chance to live.
'Tides' is out now. Cry Monster Cry play Whelan's, Dublin on October 17th and Cork's Winthrop Avenue on October 18th. See crymonstercry.com for full tour dates.