Interview Live Music

Junior Brother – “I connected with his place in the arcane, weird and demented world”

Kerryman Junior Brother plays support to Dublin’s The Murder Capital at Musik & Frieden in Kreuzberg on Monday, February 3rd. We found the folk saviour ever friendly and forthcoming in conversation ahead of one of the great gigs of the year.

Hi Junior Brother, excited to take your show on the road and to a more European audience? 

I’m always very happy to play for audiences in new places, and I’m looking forward to getting to travel and see lots more of Europe than I’ve seen before. It’s also the longest tour I’ve been a part of so far, so that will be a great experience.

How did the tour itself come about with The Murder Capital?

I think the band’s management got onto my management to ask me to join them on the tour. I’m glad they asked and even gladder I said yes!

© Gavin Ovoca

The Murder Capital are an Irish post punk band from Dublin, who also released one of the great albums of 2019 with their debut, When I Have Fears

The mix of tenderness and humour on Pull the Right Rope resonated with a lot of listeners, not just from song to song but often from one line to the next. Is performing for you every night as emotional a rollercoaster as it can be for your listeners?

Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, it’s a really intense experience for me pretty much every time I play a gig. Live, I try to click into a certain energy that is potent and that taps into a certain frequency which will hopefully be picked up on by spectators and listeners. It’s hard to explain this energy I pursue but I can certainly feel it when I get there. 

You’ve spoken before about the influences of the Kerry landscapes on your music…

The weirdness and natural, ancient atmosphere of rural Ireland is something I try to convey through every aspect of my music, particularly the atmosphere of where I grew up in Kerry. I can’t explain with words the feeling these landscapes bring up in me, so that’s why I put them in my music – hopefully some people will pick up on these distinct, abstract elements but if not, it’s not the end of the world – they’re still there for me.

Junior Brother’s debut album, Pull The Right Rope, was released in May 2019 to great acclaim and was recently shortlisted for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for album of the year 2019 alongside Fontaines D.C., Mick Flannery and Soak, amongst others.

Speaking of Kerry, is Richie Kavanagh’s wit an influence?

Richie Kavanagh conveys through his songs a beautiful sense of rural naivety which lifts my heart and soul every time I hear it. 

You yourself have a rather unique sound, and yet of course we can hear some influences from Planxty to Nick Drake to Joanna Newsom too.

In Planxty I heard the thick atmosphere of rural Ireland conveyed so potently on their album The Woman I Loved So Well. Nick Drake was very important in this very same aspect, through his natural and hypnotic guitar plucking. Joanna Newsom and Derek Bell got me very into harp music, with Newsom’s voice being a huge inspiration to me when finding the courage to sing in my own voice. 

These artists, among others, helped me to shape my style, as I used elements from these and many other sources to create a mixture which sounds different to most things I suppose.

Tell me about your stage name, Junior Brother, is it true that it originates from a play you studied in college and if so, what is the play? And, what was it that drew you to it? 

Yes, it’s a character’s name in The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton, and I read that when I was doing English in University College Cork. The play dates from a period which I feel a strange aesthetic affinity with, late 16th/ early 17th century England. The play is insane and violent and beautiful, and Junior Brother is a malicious outcast in the very outer margins of the action – I connected with his place in the arcane, weird and demented world of the play.

So, you have a few shows in Germany over the tour. Have you been a fan or been influenced by German culture in the past?

Krautrock has been quite a big influence, acts like Can, Neu and Kraftwerk I discovered really early on when I was just starting to get bored of more conventional music as a child. In terms of cinema, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder had a huge impact early on, and of course Werner Herzog is a brilliant force of nature as an artist and is an influence as well.

Show starts at 8pm with Junior Brother, doors from 7pm, Monday the 3rd of February 2020.
Tickets available here.

Musik & Frieden
Falckensteinstraße 48
10997 Berlin


Cover Picture by
© Nicolas O’Donnell

The Murder Capital by
© Gavin Ovoca

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