Friday, June 24, 2011

Versatile Beoga play two Galway gigs to celebrate new album

Bodhrán, Top-end style. The shadow of the left...Image via Wikipedia
The Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell -
Bodhrán player Eamon Murray is in ebullient form as his group Beoga celebrate the launch of their fourth album How To Tune a Fish.
“Keeping busy now,” he says. “It’s all go, thankfully. It’s a good way to be.

Beoga, who fuse world influences with Irish traditional music, play The Crane Bar this Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18 as part of the Galway Sessions festival. Their band’s line-up is Eamon (bodhrán/percussion), Damian McKee (accordion), Seán Óg Graham (accordion/guitar), Liam Bradley (piano/keys) and Niamh Dunne (fiddle/vocals).

Having recorded the previous album, The Incident in regular studios, the Antrim based Beoga decided it was time for a new approach with How To Tune a Fish, says Eamon.

“From February we spent three months recording it – at home this time,” he explains. “Seán Óg, the accordion and guitar player, has a studio in his house. We literally recorded it in his living room, bathroom and kitchen, the whole lot. We took over his house for a few months and locked the doors!

“At home you can take your time and work a bit later, mess around a bit more” he adds. “You’re not under anyone else’s time. It’s a bit warmer and homely; we took our time with it and got it right.”

They experimented with how instruments sounded when played in different spaces, a process that yielded some interesting results!
“I spent a lot of time in the toilet with one of the lads with me,” he says. “That’s where some of the stuff happened, but other than that I preferred the living room – for obvious reasons! Between those two locations we hopefully got it right.”

A combination of geography and a competitive streak first brought Beoga together in 2002.

“Myself and Seán Óg grew up playing together and we always wanted to have a band,” says Eamon. “We got together with Damien and Liam at the All Ireland Fleadh there in Listowel in 2002. Seán knew the lads in a roundabout way and we just sat down and had a night’s craic, made big plans. One of those times where you hit it off musically; we sort of took it from there.”

Eamon was particularly successful at the Fleadhs – he is a three-in-a-row All-Ireland Fleadh bodhrán final winner. How does the competition work?

“You just get up and play a couple of tunes with a musician that you have provided,” he explains. “One of my sisters used to always play at the Fleadh so we’d go up and play. It was nerve-wracking. I decided to leave it for a while. I got a three in a row and I said ‘that’ll do me.’ Anything else would be pushing your luck.”

Beoga’s music has a real freewheeling feel to it and, though they write set-lists, the band can shake it up too.

“We kind of plan as best we can,” says Eamon. “You’d need to have a rough idea of what you’re doing and then sometimes, depending on the gig, you might cut something or throw something extra in. Depending on how you think everyone’s reacting; some people

love the faster stuff and some love the slower stuff. It’s horses for courses. We like to know, to some extent, what we’re doing.”
How To Tune a Fish is a peculiar, but memorable, title. Eamon recalls how it came about.

“Myself and Liam came up with that. We were sort of bashing around names, and that’s often the hardest thing. Whenever you listen to the way we play there’s a few unexpected turns in the music. We thought, you know, why not do something that’s a bit of craic and doesn’t box you in. We didn’t want to call it The Rolling Glens of County Antrim!”
The title of Beoga’s album reflects their desire not to be boxed in and Eamon feels the band don’t fit neatly into the ‘trad’ genre.

“I think it would be something else; I don’t know if you’d actually call it anything,” he muses about their music. “There are a lot of purists who say it wouldn’t be their cup of tea, put it that way. That’s grand, it’s not supposed to be a purist’s cup of tea – it’s supposed to be a bit of craic, and is what it is. There’s plenty of twists and turns, and well and good. It’s successful.”

“I don’t think you could call it trad, I don’t think you could call it folk,” he adds. “It’s something anyway, and I hope the people that are listening to it look at it that way too.”

For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.

Versatile Beoga play two Galway gigs to celebrate new album | Connacht Tribune |

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