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Interview: The Kilkennys on finding their sound, their name and their niche

Article taken from The Irish Post By Joe Giltrap on March 16, 2015 First things first, are you all from Kilkenny? We are all from Kilkenny except Robbie. He is just over the border in Laois and gets a bit of stick for that, but his mother is from Kilkenny so he qualifies to be in the band. How did you get together? We all went to St.Ciaran’s College in Kilkenny. We were all friends, into sport and all that, but we discovered along the way that we all had a sort of folk/traditional past. Our dads used to play in pubs so we knew the songs and we got together and thought maybe we could get a few gigs in pubs. We started to get a bit of a following from people who had been at college with us. It gradually got a bit bigger with a student following and we were playing gigs every weekend to a couple of hundred people. I had a job as a barman in Kilkenny and I was the first one to say I wanted to concentrate on the music and maybe produce a record and see how it goes. It must have been a difficult time in Ireland then, musically speaking, because the ballad scene was gone? It was. Early 2000 it was a different music scene. Our music wasn’t fashionable. It wasn’t cool and we kind of kept it to ourselves and I hate to say it but we were a little bit ashamed or embarrassed to put it out there and say ‘hey we like doing this’. People were saying that’s old school like the Clancy Brothers or The Dubliners so forget about it — that’s in the past. But around 2008 a serious folk revival with the likes of Mumford & Sons and other big folk acts and suddenly it was sexy and cool and fashionable and the last five years for us have been really successful because of that. Internationally it’s cool again. A lot of the Irish bands have to travel abroad to make a living, is it possible to sustain a band in Ireland? Well what I found was that from around 2004 — the good times in Ireland. All the bars and clubs had live music. That lasted until 2008 and then the bubble burst. We were called Uisce Beatha at the time and we decided to try for gigs in the UK and Europe. We tried a tour and it was a failure because of the name so we had to re-think it. We looked at The Dubliners and all the work they had done over the years and I don’t want to sound like we were jumping on the bandwagon but I said to the lads that as we were all from Kilkenny and it’s a recognised name around the world why don’t we call ourselves The Kilkennys. I was unsure at the start but the first tour we did in Germany it caught on. I think they saw us as a younger, faster exciting version and from that point on we were The Kilkennys and that’s when we started touring outside Ireland. Choosing material to perform can be a problem in bands, so who decides on the repertoire? It’s always been a democracy. We all bring our ideas to the table and it’s like a band of brothers. We fight and argue but we all love each other. If someone has a good idea you can almost immediately tell that there is a consensus, or you can see the eyes start to roll and you can have a fair guess as to what will or won’t work. But that sort of comfortable thing only comes with being together over a long period of time. Is it still the original line-up? There have been a couple of changes. My brother Adam no longer plays and we have a new guy — Davey Long — who is also from Kilkenny. He has brought a new freshness to the band and he is a great songwriter so we are starting to do some original stuff. We are putting a modern twist on the old traditional and folk stuff plus gradually introducing new songs and ideas. The Kilkennys are on tour from the West Midlands to Preston from April 24 – May 12., 2015.

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