At Home with The Calvinists

Photograph by Kait Husmann

People will always talk about a band’s “big break”. Music fans will often trawl through online search engines and magazine or newspaper articles eager to uncover the story of the significant moment in time when a band’s talent finally began to make some kind of impact on the music world. In most instances, these big breaks happen as a result of a stroke of good luck, a case of being in the right place at the right time. Counting Crows’ big break happened in 1993, when the mostly unknown musicians filled in at the last minute for Van Morrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony in Los Angeles. Folk singer-songwriter Jewel was discovered performing at a small local café in San Diego by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea. She was living in her van at the time. In certain cases, a musical act may have a person to thank for their big break; someone of significance who felt that their talent or that “special something” should be shared with the world. Californian singer-songwriter and guitarist Jesca Hoop, for example, can cite Tom Waits as the instigator of her musical destiny. The legendary Waits initially employed Hoop as nanny to his three children, but it wasn’t long before he was giving her demos to the right kind of people, having grown hugely impressed with her distinctive voice and natural ability for inventive song craft. For new Irish band on the block, the Calvinists, that “someone of significance” came in the form of Matt Gross, journalist for The New York Times.

Photograph by Kait Husmann

Home, for the Calvinists, is the coastal town of Bantry in the heart of West Cork. Nestled among mountain ridges, lush forests and meandering streams, the town is awash with unparalleled scenery that draws thousands of tourists all the year through. With an abundance of craft shops and local designers, Bantry is the type of cultural town that has plenty to offer in the line of creativity. Every Friday morning, people flock to the Bantry Market where they will find local craft people, artists and photographers’ creations, all inspired by the stunning landscape of their hometown. Every year, in the height of summer, Bantry plays host to the significant cultural events the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, the West Cork Literary Festival and the Masters of Tradition Festival, all of which draw huge crowds to the town. No stranger to homegrown musical talent, Bantry is also the birthplace of musician and producer Skully, noted for his work with the bands The Chapter House and Métisse, while Jeff Martin of Canadian band The Tea Party and formerly-based Cork rock band The Armada maintains a studio just six miles outside the town. Bands and singer-songwriters from all different music genres also call Bantry home, their talents supported and nurtured by a warm and friendly community only too eager to see them succeed. And now, the West Cork town throws out one of its best yet- the Calvinists- a rock-driven country-blues foursome who can boast Bantry Bay as the backdrop for their daily rehearsals.

I first heard singer and guitarist, Noel Maguire, perform on my first trip to Bantry in February of 2009, a year before he began playing with the band that was to become the Calvinists. Almost immediately, it was apparent that he was in possession of an undeniable natural talent; effortless vocals with an impressive range and smooth yet often gravelly tone. His transition into a delicate falsetto had the ability to stop me in my tracks. Having held down solo gigs in pubs around Bantry and nearby Durrus and Crookhaven, he felt his music interests would be best served in good company- Taidhg Burke, an ambitious bassist with a gift for songwriting; multi-instrumentalist Frank Wieler, who harnesses the ability to command any kind of musical device placed within his hands; and the youngest of the bunch, drummer/percussionist Darragh Coakley, who can beat a cajón drum as if he’s auditioning for Santana.

While the four members of the Calvinists all spent their past years playing either on their own or in different local bands, they eventually joined forces as a result of their mutual desire to spend their days writing, rehearsing and performing live music; that, and their shared appreciation for country-blues. The band’s incredibly close relationship may sometimes come under strain as a result of early morning starts, Noel’s regular overuse of humorous puns or Taidhg’s support of Blackburn Rovers, but their love for legends like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Waits and Woody Guthrie is something they will never fall out over. It was through their mutual love for this particular genre of music that they found their sound.

Like any band starting out in these tough economical times, the Calvinists have spent 2010 putting all of their energy into the band. Packing in their jobs so their attention could be completely focused on their music, the band has travelled all around Cork taking on any gig that came their way. They soon built up a gathering of fans locally, each one impressed with their catchy and distinctive sound. Their energetic sets include the band’s original songs mixed in with a fistful of Calvinists-style covers, all of which radiate with their own unique and inventive twists. From Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash to Gorillaz, these four lads can take any song and make it their own. Since the get-go, however, the Calvinists’ main focus has always been on pulling together their own original set and putting down their debut release, the work for which has now become an imperative.

Photograph by Kait Husmann

As far as the Calvinists were concerned, their gig on that October night almost eight weeks ago was going to be the same as any other. Instead, unbeknownst to them, it turned out to be the band’s most important set yet. The foursome took to the stage at one of their usual haunts, treating the large crowd of locals to a number of their self-penned songs mixed in with covers of their fan-favourites. They were completely unaware that on that fateful night, a significant someone was in their midst. Matt Gross, having become intrigued by the band’s name (he had seen it on a poster earlier that day), ventured into The Schooner Bar, pulled up a stool, ordered a pint of Murphy’s stout and opened up his ears to the band’s sound. What Gross felt when watching the Calvinists perform was a similar thing to what Flea felt when he first heard Jewel sing, what Waits felt when he first witnessed Jesca Hoop pluck at the strings of her guitar- he felt as if he was part of something, that he was witnessing something special. Gross approached the band after their set that night, but didn’t introduce himself, so the band merely took him to be another tourist who had been passing through the town they call home.

A few days later, Noel logged into Youtube to find the following message waiting for him: “Attention Calvinists: You’ve been written up by Matt Gross in the New York Times…This could be a REALLY big thing for you. Good luck!” Aware that The New York Times is one of, if not the, most popular newspaper in the United States and read by over a million people every day, Noel found the words hard to take in and almost shrugged it off as a joke, but before long the emails and calls for interviews and gigs came flooding in and the Calvinists were catapulted into the spotlight.

Gross’ article, “Lost in Ireland”, published on 22nd October, included a stellar review of the Calvinist’s gig: “…the Calvinists were awesome: straight-up rock with a country accent, courtesy of the banjoist Taidhg Burke [the Calvinists’ banjoist is actually Frank Wieler], and the range to cover both Johnny Cash and Gorillaz, thanks to Noel Maguire’s effortless voice.“ They’re the next U2!” shouted the older gent next to me…And I believed him; the whole room hummed with enthusiasm and pride. I was part of something. Maybe this was a moment that, years from now, I’d remember as a big one…” Bands who earn this sort of praise and international exposure will usually have been on the music scene for quite a while and have at least one independently-released EP under their belts. In most cases, bands that get this kind of break will already have toured the country supporting various higher-profile bands. When Gross tipped the Calvinists as “the next big thing”, the band hadn’t even played outside of their native Cork. Still, a rare and unbeatable opportunity had landed on their doorsteps and knocked twice, and now it was up to them what they would do with it. With the help of Taidhg’s incredibly supportive mother, Sandra (Sandie) Neff, as their manager (or MAMager, as she joked with me) along with producer and sound engineer Marc de Zoeten, the Calvinists immediately got down to work. In an industry where music representatives are constantly searching for the next “next big thing” and where media attention can be brief and often more critical than complimentary, the band were, and still are, eager to prove themselves.

Just over a fortnight ago, the band invited me into their operation central, Taidhg’s mother’s home in their town of Bantry, to see what all the fuss was about. I spent three days in the company of the talented foursome, learning first-hand exactly what it is they are all about. This is what they had to say for themselves:

Photograph by Kait Husmann

Let’s go through the story of The New York Times piece. So Matt Gross was travelling through Ireland and came to hear the gig in The Schooner Bar. What happened from there?
Frank: He gave us a very favourable mention in his travel article, commenting on the atmosphere in the room and generally bigging up the night. He apparently got talking to a local (Corney Kelly), who told him we were “the next U2”, which he then mentioned in the article. This was taken on by the Irish press and the next thing we knew we were seeing headlines like, “New York Times Hails West Cork Band the Next U2”. Offers for newspaper and radio interviews came flooding in and suddenly we were being asked to appear on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor.

Noel, there was a message left on one of the band’s videos online letting you know about the article; is that right?
Noel: Yeah, there was a message on one of our Youtube videos saying Matt Gross had wrote an article in The New York Times and it had gone to Number 3 on the most viewed list. I didn’t believe it ‘til we looked it up- I thought it was a joke!

What was your reaction?
All: We didn’t realise how big it was ‘til we started getting calls from all different media sources so we really got caught up in it all and didn’t really get a chance to take it in. We still haven’t to be honest but we all agree it’s been quite surreal and complimentary.

Matt Gross was really taken with the name of the band, in fact, that’s what led him to the gig. What is the story behind the name? Was it anything got to do with the fact that a character from Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin & Hobbes was named after John Calvin?
Frank: Partially that. I have been a Calvin and Hobbes fan since I was a kid and it was where the original inspiration for the name came from. After that I delved a bit deeper into the history of John Calvin and Calvinism and from there learned about his opposition to the use of musical instruments, banning them from churches and claiming that they were a distraction from Godliness. It gives us a bit of a laugh to think that we are the Calvinists, who do nothing but play music. I guess you could say that we are reforming Calvinism. By the way, we are not actually Calvinists!

You are all from Bantry so have pretty much grown up together, but how did you all come to play together?
Frank: Myself and Taidhg have known each other since we were kids and over the years have been in various bands together. Then a few years ago myself and Noel started playing together. Taidhg was out of the country at the time recording in Leeds and when he came home he was looking for a band with the view of gigging and recording his material. Myself and Noel were also looking to work on original material and also looking for a bass player and it seemed like an ideal situation to just team up. We were also looking for a percussionist and Darragh fit the bill perfectly.

You all gave up jobs to focus more on the band. Was that an easy decision to make?
Noel: Well I was gigging at the same time as working and was earning enough to get by on music alone, so I decided to concentrate just on trying to make a career out of music and quit my job. So it wasn’t really a hard decision to make.
Darragh: I was working in Supervalu as well as gigging with the band and practising. Pretty much as soon as we found out about the article, I quit my job- it wasn’t a tough decision!
Taidhg: There has been a few times now that I’ve left my job with the view of living off music as it’s something that I feel is in my blood and totally apart of who I am. It was always gonna be a hard decision, especially due to the fact it didn’t quite work out the last few times, but at the same time music was never something I was willing to give up on completely and knew this sacrifice would eventually have to be made.

Darragh and Noel- Photograph by Kait Husmann

Has music always been what you all wanted to do as a career? Did you know this from an early age or was music something you just fell into?
Noel: It was for me at an early age. I remember my father used to sing a lot around me and I’m sure that had an influence on me. It was my brother, Wayne, who got me into Nirvana- when I was around seven years old he used to have them playing non-stop and then when I saw Nirvana Unplugged a few years on I knew music was what I wanted to do.
Taidhg: It was definately from an early age for me. Since i can remember I have always been surrounded by music. It has always inspired and excited me and when you see how your own music can connect with and touch complete strangers there’s no better feeling in the world. That has always been the case.
Darragh: Music was always something that I wanted to do from an early age. I started playing traditional music when I was 5. I used to be brought to all the sessions in the local pubs and did the fleadh ceoils. It definately had an effect on how I thought about and played music.
Frank: I guess I have been dreaming of a career in music since I started playing guitar at the age of sixteen. Growing up around music sessions also gave me an early love of music so I suppose it has been with me from an early age.

The Calvinists’ sound can be described as country-blues with a strong rock base (and a bit of bluegrass thrown in for good measure!) How did you come to develop this sound?
Frank: It was a bit of an organic process really. Our personal influences are very varied but we all have a common love of American roots music. I guess that our situation also influenced our sound- the banjo came into the band because someone gave it to us at a gig and Darragh mostly used the cajón over the drum kit because we simply couldn’t get a kit into lots of the pubs we played in!

Yeah, speaking of the cajón, it is an interesting choice of percussion instrument for a contemporary band. How did you first get into playing it?
Darragh: Well I found the cajón to be better for intimate gigs and for acoustic sets, and as Frank said, we couldn’t always get a drum kit into venues. But I also think the cajón suits our style as you can get quite a full range of sounds from it.

Obviously you have all been involved in other musical projects before the Calvinists. How did you find it fitting all in together? Were there any issues you had to iron out or did you gel together quite well from the get-go?
Frank: It worked out quite well. The band has grown gradually over a couple of years. First, myself and Noel teamed up playing covers in local pubs, although as I mentioned before we were looking for a bass player and percussionist to do original material with. Then Taidhg came home from recording in Leeds with Marc De Zoeten [the band’s producer] and he was looking for a band to work his own songs. As Taidhg is not only a handy songwriter but also a handy bass player it made sense to team up. So we became a three-piece and started working Taidhg’s songs into the set. Then Darragh joined us a few months ago and that’s when the trouble started! But yeah, we worked well together from the start.

How did you feel about being compared to U2? Are you fans of the band?
All: It’s a great compliment for any band to receive, although our style is very different. We do respect them as musicians and for what they’ve achieved but we wouldn’t be influenced by them really.

Yeah, it is true- your sound is quite different to that of U2’s. I think Gross was more referring to the impact he feels you could have on the Irish music scene when he agreed with the comparison. That’s a pretty big thing to live up to.
Frank: Yeah, to be fair Matt Gross was quoting a local who told him that we were the next U2. It was great and made great headlines but we are nothing like them and living up to a comparison like that can be difficult.

Who are your main influences as a band?
All: From blues artists like Skip James, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters to Woodie Guthrie and Bob Dylan. And other legends like Neil Young and Tom Waits. Contemporary folk artists have also inspired us; Ryan Adams, Uncle Tupelo and Calexico have all been an influence on us. And of course the rock element is pretty strong too. We all still love the bands we were into when we started playing- Nirvana and the Pixies being two that stand out. Bands like Tool, Mars Volta, System of a Down and Smashing Pumpkins have all been personal influences. Also, Paolo Nuitini, for his amazing energy on stage and, of course, Jeff Buckley.

You’ve gotten a lot of write-ups in the papers and done many interviews up and down the country now, and had photo shoot done, a website created and even appeared on TV for the first time. Does it feel completely surreal?
All: Yeah it’s surreal but we are getting more comfortable with it and it gives us hope that we will be able to continue doing what we are doing

Have you been asked for any autographs yet?
All: Yeah, which has been a bit mad seeing as Darragh has had to come up with a proper signature instead of an “X”!

Taidhg, you wrote the song “Anchor”. Am I right in saying it’s about escaping a small town and small town mentality?
Taidhg: it’s not so much about escaping a small town as it is about escaping my own demons, which were the reason I was stuck in a rut in the first place. It was loosely based around a pub in Bantry called the Anchor Tavern, which in time became a metaphor for the situation I was in. Ever since I started performing live I was playing regularly in the Anchor and also spent a lot of my nights out in there. Every time I attempted to make something of myself as a musician or just by trying to start a new life elsewhere it would always end up with me drinking or gigging in the Anchor so it became a very fitting name for the song and it just seemed like something good to write about where I could have that bit more fun with the words.

So the song isn’t about Bantry in particular…
Taidhg: No. Bantry town has given me a lot of great memories and a lot of interesting and great people live there. “Anchor” was about a small town I invented in my own mind as a way of trying to explain what I was going through at the time

Considering what it is about, it is kind of ironic that “Anchor” is your breakthrough song, and the band got their “big break” when Matt Gross came and heard you play in a small Irish town. Did that ever strike you as funny?
Taidhg: Well, I think it’s amusing in the way I wasn’t sure I was gonna get out of that whole situation and now have done so publicly. But the song was never about the town as such.

Taidhg- Photograph by Kait Husmann

Bantry has been incredible in the way they have supported you as a band, from Taidhg’s mother to your producer and even those that have helped behind the scenes. Can you comment on this?
Darragh: We’ve been getting great support from the people of Bantry and we still continue to. Sandie has been brilliant and we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without her. Likewise, our producer Marc [de Zoeten] has helped us so much. We always have our regular crew coming to all the gigs and we really appreciate that support. The businesses in Bantry have also been very supportive. We are very lucky to have the support that we have.
Frank: The help, support and positive vibes we have received from the people of Bantry has been one of the best parts of this experience and we have to thank everybody in Bantry for that. Without it we would not have been able to ride this wave so far.

How have your families and friends all reacted to the exposure you have gotten?
Noel: Our families have been very supportive, from the early stages of the band to leaving our jobs to follow our dreams of becoming full-time musicians, which is always nice to have. And our friends have been the same, still coming in strong numbers to all our gigs which we all appreciate so much.

Let’s talk about the process of putting your songs together.
Taidhg: Well it kind of varies how the song is born. A lot of the time I’d just be playing guitar and would fall upon a melody I like and the lyrics then tend to flow when it’s catchy enough. I’d generally write about my own experiences or I sometimes get inspired by people around me. I like to write make believe songs too as it’s not as personal. Some songs have gotten political at times too with all that’s been happening. I still want to experiment with it more though. Once the basic chord structure, lyrics and melody have been written I would share it with the band and we’d work on the production side- arrangements, harmonies and what instruments to use etc.

Would you describe “Anchor” as your signature sound? Is it an indication of what we can expect from the upcoming full-length album?
All: “Anchor” is part our sound but we have lots of different elements of influence. We couldn’t really pin ourselves down to one particular genre; we also have lots of rockier elements to our sound.

After the massive plug you got in The New York Times a lot of people are now eagerly awaiting the album. Can you tell me when it’s going to be out?
All: We are giving ourselves a deadline of six months as we have lots of other priorities as well.

Do you now feel a certain amount of pressure to get it out there?
Noel: Yeah, we do but it’s good to have a certain amount of pressure as it gives you the motivation to get more work done. At the same time we don’t want to rush it. We want to take our time and get it exactly the way we want it to sound.
Frank: Absolutely. We can’t let the limelight fade. We have a relatively short time to get this out but at the same time we want the album to be as good as it can be so we do not want to rush things. Usually when a band gets this kind of attention they already have at least one album under their belts but for us it’s different. Because of the hype people will be expecting something massive so we are under pressure to produce.

Since the article went out, your days consist of rehearsing, travelling around the country for interviews, playing gigs and laying down new tracks- literally working around the clock. Can you describe a typical day in the life of the band?
Frank: On rehearsal or recording days we roll in at 9am, but that can sometimes be 11am if we had a particularly late one gigging the night before. It can take an hour of coffee and groaning before we get going but then we get stuck into a new song or go over a song from the day before. The last couple of weeks have been all about getting new original material into the set for high-profile gigs so we were aiming to get two or three new songs started a day and then get them tightened up over the following week or so. So it’s rehearsal for the day with a short break for lunch. We usually finish up at 6.30 for a few hours and then get back to it at 8pm. Or, if we have a gig, we’ll pack up and go to that. Interview days are different; lots of time spent in the van getting to places and lots of waiting around between interviews.

Frank- Photograph by Kait Husmann

You recently had your first appearance on TV- how did that go? Did it feel strange or like something you could all get used to?
Noel: It was very nerve-wracking and a bit crazy at the same time to in less than a week go from playing the local pubs in Bantry to playing The Saturday Night Show. Also, getting to meet everyone in the greenroom after it.
Darragh: I was pretty calm up to about an hour before we were due to go on. Then the nerves kicked in! But when we started playing the nerves just turned into such a buzz. It was brilliant!
Frank: It was a great experience. Of course it was surreal because only a week before we were still playing the local circuit with no notion that this would happen. But everybody at RTÉ was really nice and we were made comfortable. The nerves were kept at bay by the various distractions and I thought I was handling it pretty well, until we were standing behind the curtain waiting to be announced. Then it suddenly hit me. I realised I was actually shaking. I shook out my arms in the hope it would loosen me up. What happened next was like a horrible dream- with all my shaking I dropped the only plectrum I had onto the ground. Suddenly I could hear Brendan introducing the band- our cue to stand by- but I couldn’t play that song without a plec so I started searching the ground like a madman! With no sign of it I had to take my place so I just stood there shaking worse than ever thinking, “what am I going to do!?” Then just as the curtain was lifting I spotted my plec, grabbed it and started playing. If they had raised it a few seconds earlier it would have been a disaster!

Some musical acts have gotten exposure and found fame by going down the reality TV route. What do you make of shows like the X Factor?
All: We wouldn’t even consider it for a second; they change everything about you and it’s too fabricated. DEFINITELY not for us.

So was it important to the band then to make it the old-fashioned way, through constant gigging and word of mouth?
Noel: Definitely. It’s through hard work and gigging that these opportunities come to you. Of course there is the occasional band, like the Arctic Monkeys, who get recognition through the internet but you can’t just sit around and wait for that chance.

You guys are only together as a foursome for less than a year and you’ve already gotten exposure most already established bands can only dream of. Do you think it was a case of being in the right place at the right time or did any of you have the feeling that your hard work would pay off eventually?
All: Well we had made a 2-year plan before all this happened to make the album and promote and tour, but we have to say it is a case of being in the right place at the right time and it goes to show you never know who’s watching you, even in a local gig, and every gig is important.

Obviously you’ll get your bands that have been out there years gigging on the music scene and haven’t gotten anywhere as close as ye have, what with the Gross article and having over a million Americans read the band’s name. What would you say to the begrudgers, those who may think you’ve just been lucky?
All: We are under no illusions- we have a great opportunity here that a lot of bands would kill for. We have also worked hard for this and feel that we deserve it no more or no less than any other band but at the same time we owe it to every other hardworking band out there to make the most of this opportunity as we know they would do the same.

What do you think is going to be the toughest obstacle to overcome in getting the band to where you’d like them to be?
All: Getting something recorded and released quickly without compromising the quality or the sound that is the Calvinists.

The internet is a big tool in getting music out there these days, but the internet is also the biggest contributing factor in low music sales. Offering “Anchor” for free download is a great incentive for fans, but how do ye think you are going to push the debut CD once it’s released?
All: Well we are building a fanbase online and our next single will be available on iTunes but as regards to the album we haven’t yet decided what the best route forward would be.

Obviously you are all big fans of music. Who do you think are doing a good job on the Irish music scene at the moment? What Irish acts do you admire?
All: Well, we all agree Villagers are a great band and are going to be huge. We admire so many Irish acts past and present, such as Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Mic Christopher, The Frames, Damien Rice, The Pogues and Interference.

Name an act you think are underrated, an act that more people should be listening to.
Noel: I would say Mic Christopher. He’s only become as big as he is now since his death, which is a shame as Skylarkin would be in my top 5 albums.
Frank: I know Villagers have done pretty well so far and are critically acclaimed but they should be bigger.
Taidhg: There’s a lot out there but Watercress are a band that stick in my mind and should’ve been really big. It’s a pity they split up.
Darragh: I think more people over here should be listening to the Black Keys.

If each of you were stuck on a desert island and could chose only one album to listen to, what would it be?
Taidhg: Right now I’d have to say Villagers’ Becoming a Jackal.
Noel: I would have to say Grace by Jeff Buckley.
Frank: At one time I would have said Lateralus by Tool because it is so complex you couldn’t get bored of it but i haven’t listened to it for years. Right now I could listen to Becoming a Jackal over and over.
Darragh: Mine would be Editors’ An End Has a Start.

Photograph by Kait Husmann

Bands can play anything from smaller venues like pubs/bars to huge festival stages- what would be the ultimate venue for you to play?
All: We would prefer the intimate setting of the smaller venues but of course we would also love to experience the buzz of playing on a big stage in front of a large audience. The venue itself doesn’t really matter as much as, for us, it’s more about being lucky enough to perform in front of any crowd.

What gig have you found yourselves at in the past and thought, “man I wish that was my band up there!”?
Frank: I found myself at the Frames’ gig at Electric Picnic and the crowd were amazing- they were so proud of their band. I think a crowd like that would be amazing to play for. It was mobbed too.

Who would be the ultimate band to tour with?
Taidhg: I would say Paolo Nutini. Or Bob Dylan for what he’s done for music and I love his songwriting style.
Frank: I would also say Bob Dylan because it would be amazing to tour with one of the last living legends.
Noel: I would probably say Placebo.
Darragh: If I could say anyone then it would have to be the Rolling Stones.

Obviously you can’t give away any info at the moment, but have you been receiving interest and offers from music companies?
Noel: We have received a lot of interest but, as you say, we can’t discuss it at the moment- sorry Elaine!

Some bands choose to release music independently these days, even manage themselves and have control over every aspect of the process. Have you a preference about working alone or with management? What will you take into consideration before signing with someone?
Frank: We are staying open-minded about our route but we will make sure whatever happens that we have control over what we release. Obviously there is a lot to be said for the contacts and experience offered by music companies but that being said the creative process and our integrity comes first.

I’m getting hits on my own blog every day from American readers who have a huge interest in the band since Gross’ article was published. Would you like to head to the US for a tour? Any plans in the pipeline for this yet?
Frank: We will definitely be considering a tour in the States. There are plans in the pipeline- nothing solid yet- but a chance to tour in the country that produced so much of the music that inspired us would be amazing

With everything that’s happened so far, what’s been your favourite part of it all?
Taidhg: Performing- I just don’t think you can beat the buzz of playing in front of a crowd.
Darragh: Yeah, playing live to a good crowd.
Noel: TV- it gets our music out to a wide audience and it was a totally new experience for us.
Frank: The rehearsal and recording process is something I actually enjoy, taking a song and seeing how it develops.

What advice would you have for bands starting out?
Frank: Ask us in five years!

Your first major gig outside of Cork is going to be in Workman’s Club on December 21st; are you looking forward to it? Why should people come see you?
Taidhg: We are really looking forward to it as we have all been working really hard to put our original set together. As for why people should come- well, it’s their chance to come and see what all the hype has been about and make up their own minds on what we are about as a band.

What’s coming up after that? What can fans expect from the Calvinists?
Noel: Well hopefully they can expect to see us around for a long time to come but firstly we must concentrate on recording and releasing our debut album and promoting it, so we’ll see what feedback we get from that.

Photograph by Kait Husmann

Ideally, what would you like to happen next? What does the term “success” mean to you?
Darragh: Well for me I just wanna be able to keep doing this, what I love, for many years to come so if we can find the resources to do that then for me that’s what being successful is.
Taidhg: To make any kind of dent in the music scene and build up even a small following would be enough for me; just to know our music has touched someone.
Noel: For me, ideally, what I really want is to be able to tour with the album and get to see the world while enjoying what I love to do- playing music. That would spell success for me.
Frank: Success means being able to survive doing what you love, which in my case is playing music, and having the freedom to create music and follow my dreams.

If it all works out, do you think fame will change you? Or will Bantry kick your arses and keep you all grounded?
All: We’ve all been through a lot in our lives and we could never take this for granted, so we can’t see ourselves changing. And our friends and families would definitely keep us grounded!

No matter what the band and I did over the course of my visit to Bantry, whether it be dinners by the open fire in Sandie’s cosy cottage, drinks after the band’s gigs in their local haunts or a mighty night-time session where everyone was encouraged to bring their musical talents to the table, all of our conversations continually came down to one thing- music. It is what these four lads live and breathe. The late Jeff Buckley once said that music was “his mother and his father; it was his work and his rest…his blood…his compass…his love…” The same is true for the Calvinists. If one thing is clear from being in the presence of this band, it is that music is everything to them. Music is the only reason they do what they do. The journey they are currently on as a result of Matt Gross’ write-up in The New York Times isn’t about the fame or the popularity. It isn’t about the money (although they agree a little bit of that wouldn’t be bad considering the current state of the country!). For the Calvinists, it’s all about the music.

Photographer Kait Husmann is based out of West Cork. More of her beautiful and artistic photos can be viewed on her official website.

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About Elaine

Elaine first became obsessed with music at the tender age of three, when Santa brought her a copy of The Bangles’ Different Light and a Fisher-Price tape recorder. Throughout the years, her obsession grew and her tastes developed, leading her to begin her very own blog where she regularly rants about everything she loves about music. Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff features everything from interviews and gig reviews, to features on Elaine’s favourite musical acts, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Ryan Adams, among hundreds of others. When Elaine's not ranting about music on her blog, she likes to go to gigs, run down the stock level in pubs all around Ireland and lie in the dark with her iPod on shuffle. Elaine currently lives in Limerick but dreams of someday relocating to a California-based Volkswagen camper van.
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5 Responses to At Home with The Calvinists

  1. Eilis Devoy says:

    excellent piece of work Elaine and it all really reflects what the lads are about!!

  2. Eoghan says:

    Wow, great interview. My friends saw them play in deBarras in Clonakilty a few weeks ago and were also suitably impressed. He said they have so much energy and were so tight. He hadn’t seen an Irish band as tight

  3. sandra neff says:

    This is a superbly written piece of work Elaine.I really enjoyed the interview! The Calvinists rock! Kind regards, Sandie x

  4. laineykirwan says:

    Thanks so much guys- really glad you all liked it.

    – Lainey

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