Cry Monster Cry are brothers Richie and Jamie Martin, whose brand of sweet acoustic folk has caught the ear of many over the last couple of years.
The Dublin duo have just released their debut album 'Rhythm of Dawn', so we caught up with them for a chat about the record, their influences and how pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone was integral to the album's success.
If you want to see them strut their stuff live, they play Galway's Roisin Dubh this Friday, Dublin's Whelan's on Saturday, Cork's Cyprus Avenue on Sunday and Dolan's, Limerick on Monday.
As brothers, music must have always been around your house.
Yeah, music was always around when we were growing up and from a very early age. We spent a lot of time in the car as kids on road trips, so to pass the time we'd listen to our parents' record collection, which was pretty eclectic to say the least.
Who was the first to pick up an instrument?
Richie was the first. Our mother decided to send him to violin lessons at the age of four. Jamie was sent to study the piano a few years later, but once we discovered the guitar, the violin and piano took a back seat, I'm afraid.
Who were your first musical loves? Do they continue to influence you as songwriters today?
Richie: I was obsessed with Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five when I was a kid. I discovered Motown music at a very early age and was hooked from the second I heard it. I don't know if it influences me so much today as a songwriter, but it's definitely played a role in making me the musician I am now.
Jamie: I listened to a lot of country, folk, blues and soul growing up. I think we were always surrounded by great artists that had an impact on us; people like Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel.
So, when did Cry Monster Cry first come together? Do you remember the first song you wrote together?
Although we grew up surrounded by music and played music together all of our lives, it wasn't until three years ago that we decided to work together on what eventually became Cry Monster Cry. The first song we wrote together was called "The March", I think. It was about a king who woke up one day to find that everyone in his kingdom had disappeared in the middle of the night and he was the only one in the whole kingdom left.
You've had success in recent years with This New Country being used on a Discover Ireland ad – how much do such things actually help with exposure?
I think it really depends on the ad or the company; it can be hit and miss. Some bands broke through because of advertisement, luck and timing. We found that it was quite helpful for us.
Let's talk about the album - where was it recorded?
The album was recorded in a place called Studio 2 in Malahide, a studio owned and operated by Keith Lawless. He's the man that we did our debut EP with also and he's a very talented musician and producer. We chose this place because firstly, we love how he works - but also it was handy for us to get to, and it allowed us some breathing room to tackle songs at our own pace.
How does the songwriting in the band work – is one of you the lyricist, or do you both contribute?
Every song is different. We began writing with a formula of Richie in the musical role and Jamie doing lyrics. Over time, those roles have switched back and forth. Sometimes one person has an idea that is pretty much fully formed, or has an almost finished piece that just needs a fresh perspective. Other times, we write together and puzzle out the songs.
You've spoken of how the album has a cyclical theme – running from night 'til morning. Was that approach deliberate?
We didn't realise that it was happening until late on in the recording process; it was a very natural progression, and we love it for that reason. The writing of the album captured a time in our lives, and I suppose that where our heads were at at that moment. When we realised that it could work as one cohesive piece like that, we ran with it and tried to tie it together in a pleasing way.
What other stuff did you find yourselves writing about, either purposely or subconsciously?
We found ourselves writing a lot about our hopes and our fears: I think that they are deeply embedded in the album. It's natural when you think about it - as musicians, you spend so much time and energy trying to make something unique that speaks to people. The journey has joyous highs when things go right and terrible lows when they don't. I think those things became magnified in the record. We wrote about love and life, regrets and fear of death, hopes and worries for the future. It's all in there.
You've certainly covered all the bases there. What about the music? With so many folk-pop artists around at the moment, were you conscious of making a statement with this album?
I think that we stepped away from [folk-pop] consciously more for ourselves. We wanted to push ourselves beyond what we had done in the past. I don't necessarily think that it was required to set ourselves apart; we believe that no matter what, there'll always be room for a song with a nicely formed acoustic guitar melody and thoughtful lyrics. Those songs have always existed and always will. It was more that we wanted to try something new.
Where do you want to be in a year's time? Best case and worst case scenarios?
Best case scenario is that we are still moving forward, reaching new audiences and pushing ourselves creatively. Worst case is… not doing that.
'Rhythm of Dawn' by Cry Monster Cry is out now.