Over the six years they have been making music, The Riptide Movement have transformed from a small scale indie-pop act into a veritable force to be reckoned with on the international stage. They have become real heavy hitters, but most impressively, they have never traded in their unique sound. There’s been no crossroads pact with the devil, and indeed, their new album Getting Through contains many of the same pleasures that made their first What About The Tip Jars, so heart-warming.
Ahead of their current tour, we spoke to drummer Gar Bryne about the new album, touching interactions with the band’s fans, and life on the road.
Joseph Earp: How are you and where in the world does our interview find you today?
Gar Byrne: I’m grand and I’m currently sitting beside my Mam and Dog on a cold but fresh night in Dublin. I’m sitting in tonight because we have a 6am flight to Hamburg tomorrow morning for the Reeperbahn Festival!
JE: Though Getting Through your most recent album, deals with some raw subject matter, ultimately has a really cathartic, joyous feel. Was that always the intention from the outset?
GB: I don’t think we had any real intention from the start. We started writing the album kind of by chance when we were touring Germany and some of the dates fell through, so we ended up spending two extra weeks there, rented a house, set up our gear and started writing then. I also don’t really think the album revealed itself until near the end of the recording process. We also spent a week in pre-production with Ted Hutt Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphy’s) tearing the fuck out of the songs and re-building them again, while Mal chased the emotions of the songs and captured them beautifully.
JE: How did you find the process of writing/recording the album?
GB: I absolutely loved it! It drove me mental sometimes and I was close to tears at one stage because we put so much pressure on ourselves to record this album which got us our first record deal and then our first number one album! It was a lot of firsts for us. First time playing with clicks, first time not recording live, first time working with a producer!
JE: How autobiographical is a song like Getting Through?
GB: Now, I don’t write the lyrics, Mal does, but for me, the song is about the band, our journey from busking on the streets in Dublin, to staying together through thick and thin and reaching our goals, constantly building and growing together.
JE: You have never disguised your natural Irish accent. It’s so refreshing, given how many musicians feel they have to sing in the ‘American’ style. Did you ever get pressured in any way to disguise your natural tones?
GB: I think a big part of our band and our sound is Mal’s vocals. He wears his heritage on his sleeve, which was also a big thing in making Getting Through. Ted wanted us to sing with our voices and tell the stories from our own eyes. Making the album felt very much like being at home, as so much of it touches on our families and friends.
JE: There has always been something very subtly traditional about your music, in the way that it pays tribute to its Irish musical roots. Was this something deliberate, or did the sound evolve more naturally?
GB: I think this comes mainly from JPR, our guitarist. He plays a very traditional style of guitar and is hugely into traditional music so I definitely think those elements blend in to form our sound.
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JE: On the one hand, music is now your ‘job’ but it obviously evolved out of being something you did for pleasure. How do you balance the work/pleasure dynamic?
GB: Terribly! I was a chef, and worked horrible hours. We’d be gigging until 2 and 3 in the morning, then I’d be up the following morning for work at 6am. I used to fall asleep on buses, in the changing room and once while driving! Well, not really, I fell asleep waiting on the lights to change! We all packed in the day jobs and took the plunge in 2010 when we were getting busier all the time. It’s absolutely incredible to make a living from banging drums!
JE: Do you ever still get nervous before a gig?
GB: Yeah, all the time but nerves are good, they keep you sharp! As soon as you go on stage, after a song you settle down and everything feels like home again!
JE: Are there any backstage rituals you indulge in?
GB: Ah not really, I warm my chops on a pad, Mal warms up his vocals and the other two lads drink beer!
JE: What is your favourite thing about being on tour? What is your least favourite thing?
GB: The gigs first and foremost! We all love playing. It’s the only time when you’re not worried about anything. The best way to describe the feeling of a great gig is you go into Matrix mode, when everything goes into slow motion and you literally can’t make a mistake! I also love meeting new people and taking pictures: I’ve about 10,000 pictures from our travels to date!
My least favourite thing is a lack of personal space! It can be pretty cramped in a van for hours!
JE: What is the best reaction you’ve ever had when meeting a fan?
GB: We’ve been able to help some people out in bringing their kids to sound checks, sitting them on the drums and letting them play our guitars with us, which is great! This feels really special to me. We recently got an email from a fan whose wife sadly passed away. They were having a send off for her at the Electric Picnic Festival and Mal dedicated a song to her. The crowd got right behind it and it was amazing. Mal also went out into the crowd and gave the guy a big hug. That was very touching.
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JE: What is your favourite song out of all of those that you have recorded with the band? Why?
GB: That’s a tough one. I’m probably most proud of my playing on How Can I Let You Go? I remember recording it in the live room while everyone was in the control room and the light was beaming in through the windows and the studio was filled with this beautiful golden light. Ted was in the control room too bashing air drums at me and I just really connected with the song.
JE: What About The Tip Jars is now six years old. How do you feel about that album today?
GB: I never really listen to it now but must dig it out for some nostalgia! The songs really captured where we were at the time and while I think the songs are good, the production isn’t amazing! We didn’t really have a budget then and all had to chip in to make it but I still think we captured some gems, particularly Pale Green Eyes which is my personal favourite.
JE: Tell me something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
GB: I wet my parents bed when I was 19…Ssssshhhhh don’t tell them…
The Riptide Movement’s Getting Through is out now.