Fogarty hails from the West of Ireland, a prerequisite any aspiring folk artist dreams of, and in the past year has uprooted from a tiny village on the outskirts of Limerick to London; a dramatic move for most and it has certainly been a big change for the singer. “I realised it was now or never so I just took off. We’ll see in the future if that was a good decision or not!” Fogarty was lecturing at the Institute of Technology in Limerick, Ireland, and has intermittently lived in America, Berlin and Dublin.
Following rave reviews from The Irish Times’ journalist Jim Carroll and discussions with James Yorkston of a collaboration album after supporting him on his tour three years ago, Fogarty wanted to dedicate his full attention to his music. “It suddenly moved beyond the realm of doing this for a laugh when things get published. I’ll probably have to go back to doing it for a laugh but I’ll see how the next couple of months pan out. It’s exciting!”
Fogarty’s ideal as an artist is to be true to yourself. “The main thing for me is to write a good song first. It doesn’t necessarily have to have words but it has to be strong.” he says of his own music. His folk and electronica influenced songs are laced with humorous lyrics and images of birds with dinosaur bodies. “A lot of the songs are really personal so I would dress them all up in jokes,” he laughs. “I get a bit scared of completely showing my hand to the (millions) of people that are going to buy the record, so I would introduce a surrealism and something absurd into them to make them a bit different.” He notes how easy it is to sound similar to everyone else as most songs are about the same fundamental things- life, love and death. “A lot of my songs are somewhat different to that and I’ve introduced my own personal style into them. I do have country songs that follow that formula but these ones in particular are definitely as a result of living where I lived and being on my own, and having way too much time on my hand to reflect on things.”
The songs in question are on his upcoming debut album God Damn You Mountain, a record that has been in the pipeline for a couple of years now and after a lot of humming and hawing about EP’s and LP’s, has been mastered in Scotland and is being released this week on King Creosote’s Fence Records. The album is made up of three parts; the first two songs came out of the same 20 minute experimental track on the laptop improvised over a couple of samples. “I took the cool little melodies that came out of it and transposed those to the banjo first, realised it worked better on guitar and then adapted it to that,” he explains of his process. “Some of the tunes would start on guitar and others would start on laptop and make their way back the other direction.”
It’s this intertwining of electronic music and the more traditional sounds that gives Fogarty a unique appeal. Rita Jack’s Lament is a cross between a recording of an old woman speaking of her youth upon returning to the house where she was born in the South West of Ireland mixed in with electronica, sounds of sea shells, alarm clocks and guitar, violin and banjo. This juxtaposition elevates his music- lifting it from a traditional folk album to a blend of psych-folk electronica that is moving with the technological times.
The second part reverts back to a traditional note, with songs like the ambient Little Mama, album titled God Damn You Mountain, which curses a mountain for stealing his favourite yellow t-shirt, and The Undertaker’s Daughter. The latter song’s lyrics are strongly influenced by his time living in a remote cottage in Ireland where he wrote and recorded the majority of the album. The village itself consisted of five pubs, a church, a corner shop and a funeral home and this was a situation he had put himself with the intention of writing songs. “I wasn’t able to moan about anything in terms of not having the facilities to write and record because the space in the cottage was perfect,” Fogarty admits. Upon choosing the cottage, a lot of clapping and humming was performed in order to test out the acoustics in the house, something which his landlady didn’t even bat an eyelid at.
Fogarty found it really inspiring being isolated out in the country. “It was a deathly quiet cottage and I spent all my time there. Ye go a bit mad but it gives you a lot of time to dwell on things; things that have happened that have meant something to me. It was therapeutic in a way and that’s where a lot of the songs came from,” he says.
“And then I had this river beside me. It just worked at picking things out of my head. I had a routine where I would walk down to the river to a blissful spot where I’d sit for hours, and one of the places I walked passed was the funeral home. I started thinking about a story with the undertaker’s daughter- and she’d be like the grim reaper- just nonsense really… But that’s why I say ‘tall lady of pale complexion’. The banjo on that tune is laid back and fun and mirrors the routine of walking down to the river.”
The final part concludes with The Evening Lay Down Upon Us, the only song that was recorded in London and rounds off the album perfectly. “I was weary of the fact that I was no longer living in a little village in the middle of nowhere anymore so it was a challenge. I worked really hard on that last part.”
Fogarty has a busy schedule for the next couple weeks with festivals and support slots to attend to. He has just played alongside King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, James Yorkston, Errors, Hot Chip and Django Django and the Eye of the Dug festival in Fife. His album launch party takes place on Thursday 19th at the Wilmington Arms in London and he has confirmed gigs for the Camden Crawl in May and Green Man festival in August. He is also supporting Yorkston on his ten year anniversary tour of his Moving Up Country masterpiece. And after these gigs? He wouldn’t mind an early retirement in the Bahamas- as long as the acoustics in his abode were suitable enough for recording.
God Damn You Mountain is available now on vinyl via Fence Records.
Words by Helen Kenned