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Guggenheim Grotto Interview

Guggenheim Grotto have recently released their excellent second album "Happy The Man". We talked about it and other things with Kevin.

Hello! How are you doing at the moment?
Very well thank you.

Since this is your first interview for us (hopefully first of the many to come!), can you please introduce the band.

At present there are two of us in the band - Mick Lynch and myself (Kevin may). Mick plays guitar, viola and sings. I play guitar, piano and sing.

Can you tell us the story behind the name The Guggenheim Grotto? We are rather curious about it!

We picked the name out of the air after a brain storming session. Or at least we thought we made it up. About a month after we came up with the name an art handler for the Guggenheim museum in New York got in touch with us asking if either of us had ever worked in the Guggenheim. He went on to explain that there's a room in the Guggenheim Museum in New York that the art handlers fondly call the grotto - it's where they hang out and have a coffee.

"Happy The Man" is your second album and is, at least for us, one of the most pleasant discoveries of the year. What can you tell us about it? How was it all created? Has it been traditionally difficult?

We recorded 'Happy The Man' with Producer Shane Power who also recorded and produced our first album with us. Like our first album, 'Happy The Man' was recorded in Shanes house - we used his living room, bedroom and hallways. Recording in someones home brings with is it's own benfits and problems. On the plus side you are not under the tyranny of the clock which often happens when you are paying for studio time in a commercial studio. Homes tend to be more pleasent to record in and have a more relaxed athmosphere. Shane has a stunning house and for the live room we used his sitting room which is a beautifully converted cow shed - full of charachter and warmth. One of the frustrating aspects of recording in someones home is that each day we would have to set up all our microphones and cables and then take them down again at the end of the day since the rooms needed to be liveable in. Shanes wife Naomi was very understanding as this whole process went on for a year in total.

And where did you drew influences from? We seems to hear lots of various tidbits scattered around.

Both of our albums draw influences from a lot of different sources as Shane, Mick and myself brought our own tastes in music to the table. Our approach has always been to follow the song where ever it wants to go rather than try to fit it into a predefined 'sound'. So on 'Happy The Man' we flit from melodic pop to folk to rock to electronica diversions and ukulele ditty's.
We've seen that your music is often described as a mixture of pop and folk music. How would you describe it? We feel its definitely more than a mere mixture of pop and folk music especially in songs such as "Sunshine Makes Me High" with it's elaborate arrangements and dreamy quality that runs through the entire album.
Both myself and Mick learnt our songwriting craft on the open mic circuit in Dublin. I think because of this our songs have a strong folk quality. They have a narrative and forms and structures al influenced by folk. When it comes to arranging them we like to take them somewhere else, dress them up in other genres but most of our songs begin life on just an acoustic guitar. When we're finished with them in the studio certainly some of our songs don't really belong in the folk category but the music business demands that we be classified as something definite. I don't mind so much being boxed in like this as both 'Happy The Man' and it's predecessor went to number one in the folk chart on iTunes in America, which was nice.
[ Guggenheim Grotto ]

Guggenheim Grotto

And how does it all work out live? Unfortunately, being in Croatia stopped us from seeing lots of your shows.

Untril recently we toured as a four piece band. Since Shanes departure Mick and myself are exploring touring the album as just the two of us. It has required us to rearrange a lot of our songs to suit a duo (we play keyboard, acoustic guitar, viola and ukulele) but we are delighted with the response we are getting from it.

You have both website and myspace profile so what do you think about those services? Can they help a band to break through? The more we look at it, there seem to be something there. After all, it helped us discover you and your music and that can't be a bad thing!

Social networking sites are a very valuable tool for emering bands. They are a cheap and readily available method for bringing your music to a potentially huge worldwide audience. This wasn't available 8 years ago when the only way an unsigned band had to reach a new audience were the traditional radio, press and hard touring routes which are all very costly. The down side of it means you are now competing for your fans attention with everyone who has a budget home studio and an internet connection. What hasn't changed trhen is that it still takes hard work and quality to pop your head above the crowd.

What is your opinion on all the release schemes going around these days? Do you think the future of music is online or that these are just clever marketing plots that work in a certain moment?

I would say that the future of music is both online and in the physical world. Sharing music easily and freely online and digitally has become an important aspect of modern culture. A shift has taken place in how people view and value music and it would appear that we are still going through a transitional phase where those involved in the business side of music (myself included) are re-evaluating how to sell music and make a living out of making music. Physical products will always have a certain appeal to people as we are physical beings and like to touch and hold objects. Perhaps the physical packaging will become a boutique product and we'll see more desirable packaging and packaging of a higher quality than the traditional jewel cases and digipaks. I can also see CD shop's becoming fewer and artists selling the bulk of their physical albums at their gigs. Meanwhile in the digital realm music will become even cheaper again via monthly subscription based payment methods where it's an all you can eat type of deal for the listener. The way I see it these different release schemes that are being used at the moment are a labels way of not only staying afloat in uncertain times but a sort of research and development for new models of music business. Only time will tell which methods work and which don't.

So what's in the future for The Guggenheim Grotto?

We head to America at the begining of 2009 to ply our wares and do some cheap shopping in the sales over there.

And our final question, what are you reading and listening to recently?

I'm listening to Lisa Hannigans debut Sea Sew which is a delight to listen to. And I'm reading Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, a novel of the fantastic kind.

kris // 11/02/2009


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