With their second EP ‘Caravan Sessions’ now in the bag, I met up with three of the guys from the band, songwriter Oisín Magee, Cathal Mercer and Oisín O'Connell to chat about the new release.
The title of the new EP is self-explanatory, exactly what it says on the tin. Oisín Magee started by telling me about how it all came about. “We have a caravan at Downings in Donegal and we spent two days up there at the end of August recording the new EP with myself, Oisín and Paul Mooney who laid it on a six track. I thought that it would be a good idea just to get away from everything, just us and the music.
“Myself and Oisín would go for a half hour walk while Mooney mixed it and then we would add fresh ears to the whole thing which was different.”
With just picturing all the equipment and instruments, as well as the three fellas trying to move around it sounded cramped but Magee assured me it wasn’t. “It was a big enough caravan” he said. “We turned the middle bedroom into a mini studio for recording the vocals, so although there were three of us there, you felt like you were alone when you were singing”.
“Yeah, we were singing through a sock on a coat hanger” Oisín O'Connell added amidst laughter.
“Yeah, it was very, very make shift” Magee told me. “I think it was very pure, very raw, but that was the sound that we were after.”
“I think that it gave a nice cosy and intimate feel to the whole thing” Mercer agreed.
“We went up there with one mic and recorded, then someone else would go in and lay it over that, and then again on top of that and so on. We even had a five part harmony on ‘I Can’t Escape’” O’Connell said.
The Easy Street Pickings - I Can't Escape
So, the four track EP was recorded over two days in a make shift recording studio in a caravan in Donegal… and yet the production quality is exceptional.
“Mooney was fantastic” Magee said. “The first thing that he had said to me was that he didn’t care how long that it takes to record because he enjoys doing it, and the production was fantastic, all on a laptop and a brick of a six track. He actually features on some of the songs too, singing and playing guitar. I like it when a producer can take something that I have written and find another direction to take it in.
“I think that it is a totally different EP to what we would have recorded in a proper studio. Sometime the studio can become a bit stagnant when you are recording but we had the beach right on our doorstep so if you needed a break, you simply took a short walk.”
O’Connell agreed: “Yeah, it was impossible to get your head fried up there. You could leave it with three steps and then come back completely fresh and ready for more. It was very enjoyable to record.”
The Easy Street Pickings - Short Ballad II
The EP opens with the catchy ‘I Can’t Escape’. “We spent the most time on that track actually” Magee said.
“I wrote it two months ago so it is a very fresh song and we had only performed it twice live but it just felt right. When we were performing it live the harmonies were hitting right and we felt that we definitely needed to record it.”
‘Short Ballad II’ and ‘Come with Me’ are the next two track’s on the record “I suppose you could call ‘Short Ballad II’ a love note. I actually wrote a ‘Short Ballad I’ and the reason why I call them short ballad is because they don’t have a chorus.“
The Easy Street Pickings - Come With Me
Magee continued: “We recorded ‘Come With Me’ before with Oisín ó Scolaí at Super Native Records for the first EP but Mooney had listened to it and thought of another direction in which to take it. We had some free time so we decided to record that too. “
The EP finishes with a cover version of the New Basement Tapes ‘Kansas City’ and what a version it is. The New Basement Tapes is an album featuring a collective of musicians recorded under the moniker The New Basement Tapes. They basically put music to recently discovered lyrics from Bob Dylan which had previously been unrecorded. Easy Street Pickings’ version, I believe, is superior. It’s stripped back, more pure and true to a sound that you could imagine Bob Dylan would have wrote for ‘Kansa City’.
The Easy Street Pickings - Kansas City (New Basement Tapes Cover)
Magee finished by telling me what the plans are for the future. “At the moment the aim is to get as much exposure as possible and get as many original gigs as we can to get our music out there throughout the country.
“It’s funny because most people are trying to break America, but we’re trying to break Belfast!”
And speaking of Belfast, the guys will be playing at the Sunflower Bar this Friday (30th September) in a ‘Strppd Back’ acoustic night. They will then be back in the North West performing in Limavady’s Frank Owens Bar on Thursday 6th October before returning to Derry Friday 21st October at the Grand Central Bar.