If you haven’t heard of Hermitage Green by now then you have been hiding down a deep, deep hole. They are Limerick’s most popular band and they are certainly one of Ireland’s most popular bands. They have been together since 2010 and in that time have managed to sell out the Academy in Dublin, pack out Electric Arena at Electric Picnic, not to mention a sold out tour in Australia. Having sold out gigs all over the world, it’s hard not to take notice of this collective. They started out as a few mates messing around and having a laugh but, these lads have done something which is hard to do in the music industry these days – they are full time professional musicians. Each member has a long list of achievements, in different aspects of life but chose to put all that aside for a chance in music. Olivia Chau chats with Darragh about their whirl wind few years together.
The band is always touring all over the world – did you think when you first started out, that it would change your lives so dramatically?
“Never In a million years did I think we’d be playing all over the world and at festivals when we started out! I was so nervous playing our first gig in a small pub called Aunty Lenaghs in Adare. I thought we weren’t ready and that people would either ignore us or laugh us off! Even when we started jamming in the Curragower bar in Limerick I always thought of it as something for fun to pass the evenings, never as a career! Both Barry and myself, were coming from a sporting background where we were full-time/professional athletes. Our outlook was that playing music was a good distraction/pastime to get away from thinking about training and competitions. The lifestyle change couldn’t be more opposite! From training hard, eating healthy and looking after yourself in all aspects including getting good sleep etc…to a lifestyle of gigging all over the country and world, late nights, after gig parties etc, it has been a dramatic change to say the least! Dan, Dermie and Griff were closer to the performing side of things and had performed in bands previously albeit Dermie, the only one who had performed to a serious level. I’m sure the three lads had thought about playing in a band before but none of us started jamming together with the intention of being a band. It was purely for fun and something to do to pass time and satisfy an urge to play a few tunes. Being in a band was so far from my radar when we started that I spent the first few months, if not years, wondering what the hell was going on! Then when you list those gigs above and think of all of them in the same sentence it is surreal to think we played all those gigs! To think of people paying money to buy tickets to come and see us play songs that we wrote and to hear them sing them back to us during a gig is an amazing feeling that I never contemplated starting out, yet when it happens it’s an amazing feeling. The thing that always gets me is, sometimes before a gig you’d see people queueing at the door and the queue could be 20m long! We’re sometimes walking out to get a coffee or something between sound check and stage time and you see this and it always takes me by surprise. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that! So yes a massive life change, never anticipated it, but loving every minute of it!
As a band, you’re full time working musicians, which is uncommon in Ireland today, it must be a scary and exciting choice to make a decision like that…
Yes, those two words exactly! It’s really exciting. You feel like your living and doing exactly what you want to be doing. It doesn’t feel like work (most of the time). Then again, as you said,it’s also a bit scary. You get busy months where you are financially stable and then you get quieter ones where you are counting your pennies. To be honest, for me that’s the biggest stress of the whole thing. All we need, is to write a hit and become a massive success and then we won’t have to worry about that! Easy! (laughs)
As a very close knit group, can you tell me any mad stories from your travels around the world?
Haha! What happens on tour…let me think… Dan fell asleep in an airport in Sydney after an all-night post gig party. We were all hungover and probably only got 2 hrs sleep, Dan went straight to the airport from the house party, we brought his clothes from the hotel, he was there before us but when we checked, he wasn’t there and we couldn’t reach him on his phone. Little did we know he was asleep 20m behind us on an Airport Bench!A year later we were back in Sydney. Dan got too excited again and towards the end of a night out tripped over his shoelaces and fell. We found him the next morning at breakfast, following his trip to the hospital and 25 stitches! Dan loves Australia!
The band seem to always have a good sense of fun about them and take everything in your stride, do you think it’s because you’re from Limerick, which has a great music community?
I think you are correct. We have a laugh and enjoy ourselves, but I don’t think that’s anything to do with the great Limerick music community. I think it’s to do with Limerick City and the innate humour that is within all Limerick people. Myself being from Wicklow, I went to college in UL and ended up staying in Limerick for 13 years as I really enjoy living here. The best way I can describe Limerick to someone from home who asks me what it is like I say it’s a really funny place. The people have a wit about them that is so quick and is incomparable. There are so many funny interesting characters everywhere you go, who will all have their two pence worth for you, free of charge! You’ll always see something funny or something that’ll make you smile walking or driving through Limerick that you would only see or overhear in Limerick! I’m not sure where that comes from, but nevertheless, I think, growing up or living amongst that is bound to rub off on you and that then becomes part of who you are. I suppose that’s why we may seem that way.
Can you tell us a bit about the next EP?
The approach to writing the songs for the EP has been different to previous releases. All the songs on the EP have been written collectively between the five of us, rather than before where one of us would present a finished song to the group. We feel we have learnt a lot over the year since our last release and hopefully you’ll hear a sound that reflects who we are as a band and keeps the sound of Hermitage Green, but perhaps the songs will get to the point a bit quicker. Live at Whelans, being a live recording, was never going to feature on the radio simply by the nature of the recording. It was simply a means of getting our music out there. The EP will obviously be recorded in the studio as opposed to Live, so hopefully we can lend these songs to the airwaves, and raise our profile!
Now we can’t leave you guys without mentioning your poor old tired blue van? Is it getting close to retirement or does she have a few good years left in her?
Ahh yes, poor auld Jezabel! She gave us amazing times! I can still remember the day she first strolled into our lives (laughs). Yeah she’s coming towards the end. We have two trips to the UK coming up and have had to tell her she won’t be travelling with us. We have to do the dirt on her with a younger model. Hopefully Dermie won’t get up to his usual antics in the back of the sprinter!
Check out upcoming tour dates and releases by Hermitage Green – www.hermitagegreen.com
Words – Olivia Chau
Photography – Tarmo Tulit