Still going strong after twenty-two years, Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns chats to Dan Moriarty about the secret to their longevity and the problems with modern music
Having released their thirteenth album A Brief Crack Of Light at the start of this month, Therapy? singer and guitarist Andy Cairns is upbeat and positive with regards its reception. “It’s been great so far. The reaction from the fans and the critics has been in a major part really, really good.” For a band afforded the simple Wikipedia tag of alternative metal, the Northern Irish three piece always reach far deeper than just one genre. Andy proves to be very open and engaging with queries about the new ground explored on this album. “You know there are tracks on there like ‘Ghost Trail’ that are very into a sort of modern electronica, German new beat,” he explains, adding that another track is based on Duke Ellington’s work.
Twenty-two years is a long time for a band to stay together, particularly when the music industry has changed massively since they began. Asking if there was a secret to their impressive longevity revealed a refreshing motivation from Cairns. “We got into it for the right reasons, we really just loved the whole process of being in a band, writing material, being creative and getting the chance to tour the fruits of our labour around the place … I think we wanted to get into the emotive connection with the music as opposed to any aspirations for any kind of fame.” Not that Therapy? have suffered in the shadows; in the early nineties the band were at the forefront of alternative rock, in no small part due to the runaway success of their seminal album Troublegum. The band’s time in the spotlight was fondly recalled. “We had a brief dalliance with the mainstream in the nineties … you know Nirvana were in the charts, agitated guitar music was fashionable. It was enjoyable to have a few minutes playing to bigger audiences and touring countries we’d never been to.”
As for changes in the music industry, Cairns has retained the perspective of a man in love with music. “I think it’s just different times, but you know music will never die. The media that the message is played through might die off and might reformat and reconfigure, but the actual music itself will never die.”
Therapy? were adored by their fans for their innate ability to create not just tracks, but albums in the true sense. Albums built around a coherent and defined creative and emotive direction are becoming an increasing rarity. Cairns’ sarcastic take on this new approach to popular music is succinct and cutting. “I think if you make someone buy these songs which are two and half minutes long and they sound great on a tinny mobile phone at a bus stop, or they’re fantastic for the iPod Shuffle, well then great.”
The early nineties was a vibrant time for Irish underground music, with bands like My Bloody Valentine, Whipping Boy and the reformed Stiff Little Fingers all producing highly acclaimed records. Cairn attests to the influence of the underground music at the time, saying, “We all grew up through the punk and metal scene really. We were very much into what John Peel played, and what we read about in sort of underground magazines [like] Warzone Collective and Hope Promotions in Dublin.”
Therapy? are notably thanked on Whipping Boy’s iconic record, Heartworm. Cairns is happy to reveal that the reason behind this was their coming of age as a band alongside Whipping Boy, often playing on the same bill. They played their first “official” gig in Dublin alongside them, the first actual gig having been an unofficial twenty minutes playing in the Buttery Bar during the Trinity Ball. “We opened for Whipping Boy and within two minutes Fearghal [McKee, Whipping Boy frontman] was rolling around on the floor, and we were kinda going ‘This is pretty cool, we like these guys!’”
Perhaps the lasting impression Cairns conveys is an endearing old school approach to music. Conversation turns again to the idea of albums as a single musical statement by an artist, as Andy nostalgically recalls, “I remember buying London Calling by the Clash and I was thirteen and taking it home and just closing the curtains in my bedroom and playing it three or four times in a row.”
Expressing his point further, he turned to wise words from the late, great Gil Scott Heron. “He said if you go and listen to my album, he wants someone to put themselves in a corner, switch off all distractions and mobile devices for the next forty-five minutes and listen to the work he’s put into making this record for you.” Therapy? may not be a household name, and three middle-aged men playing loud music are unlikely to adorn your younger sister’s bedroom wall, but maybe that is all the more reason to listen to them.
Therapy? play Vicar Street on Saturday March 10th. Tickets priced at €28.00. Their latest album A Brief Crack Of Light is out now.