Now in its seventh consecutive year, Dublin’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival (HWCH to aficionados) showcases the talents of up-and-coming Irish bands, with this year’s event seeing a hundred bands playing six well-known establishments in and around Temple Bar from the 16th-18th October.
One of the acts returning to the festival this year is Kells indie noiseniks and Meteor Award winners, Ham Sandwich. Touted as the Irish answer to Rilo Kiley, the band’s impressive soundscapes range from the pounding intensity of ‘St Christopher’, sounding like a cross between Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to the Sonic Youth-like ‘Keepsake’ showcasing lead singer Niamh Farren’s low-key, yet emotionally resonant, vocal style. What is refreshing about Ham Sandwich is their ability to stick with the full-on sound approach, a feature which lends the group an aura of credibility and potential of endurance amongst their contemporaries whose music is too choked by the rebirth of the synthesizer. The band have been busy working the summer festival scene from Glastonbury to Electric Picnic this year, and are sure to be one of this year’s HWCH’s highlights.
“I was on my holidays instead or something stupid like that”
Speaking to otwo with enthusiasm about returning to the festival for the second year in a row, Farren relates her experience of this localised but highly electric occasion. “It’s absolutely great”, she replies when asked about her opinion of the festival. “It’s a brilliant opportunity for young Irish bands to get heard, we’ve gotten a good lot of press from playing the festival and the tight schedule gives us a chance to focus on our best songs, instead of playing for an hour in front of people who don’t know who you are.” Niamh added that the almost “cabaret vibe” associated with the festival set it apart from the bigger, more international concerts, giving HWCH a sense of individuality.
One band who are making an appearance at HWCH for the first time is Killer Chloe, who under their own admission missed the deadline for last year’s festival under “absolutely tragic” circumstances. “I was on my holidays instead or something stupid like that,” laments lead singer/keyboard player Peter.
With the Sandersons demo release under their belts, these Trinity students echo the bunnymen-tinged wall of punk and electro sounds. Thus they bring a sense of youthful emergency and hyperventilation to the festival. Although, at times the songs can seem a little directionless, the music and lyrics appearing to have been thrown in as the musicians came to them. The listener ends up not really sure whether to take it either completely seriously or with a fairly generous pinch of salt. The group do seem to be playing all the right venues with an impressive example of work ethic ever since winning the Trinity Battle of the Bands last year. However, perhaps it is still too early to write off what could be a promising career of experimental reward. On being asked by otwo about his hopes with regards to the festival slot, Peter states that “hopefully it will boost our profile; it seems to be a rite of passage for a lot Irish bands”.
With acts ranging from luminaries like Ham Sandwich and Super Extra Bonus Party to upstarts like Killer Chloe, the Hard Working Class Heroes festival this year is beginning to look like a treat for music fans. All that without even having to venture further than Temple Bar!