TRIBAL INSTINCTS

 
 

Patrick O’Laoghaire of I Have A Tribe sits down with Adam Lawler to discuss the power of presence, the mystery of art, and keeping a childlike point of view.


Meeting Patrick O’ Laoghaire in a café under his studio space on the Northside, he starts with “I love people.” He’s been based here for a couple of months since he realised that, although fruitful, working alone with “a piano on the end of the bed” didn’t suit because he didn’t have anyone around: “When I came here it was like being in college again. When you come down here there’s a lot of movement and chat and swapping ideas. It’s grand doing it on your own but I don’t enjoy it so much.”

“You’d get a bit fuckin’ lonely on a mountain by yourself.”

Naturally open and charismatic, the human element is important to O’Laoghaire. As we sit down with coffee, and a tea for him, it seems like he waves to almost everyone who walks through the door, and describes the people in the area as “magic”. “I’m not designed to do it on my own,” he explains, “I would miss the laughing of it, the pleasure of seeing what someone else sees in it.” Although, he acknowledges that alone time is important “when you’re trying to navigate. But then when you know where you’re at, it’s nice to go with others. You’d get a bit fuckin’ lonely on a mountain by yourself.”

He describes music as “instinctive, trusting”, and the way he speaks about the push and pull nature of performing in a band reinforces this emphasis on collaboration to find something new. “I might find something over here and you might find something over there and it’s lovely then to come back and…” Regroup? “Yeah, to say ‘What did you get?’ It’s not a conscious thing, you don’t have a list of stuff like a scavenger hunt, you just have a notion that there’s something there, and you’re curious as to what it is, so… will we go and have a look? That’s the mentality.” Turning over stones. “Yeah, and that’s very childlike.”

“I’m just a big child making music.”

Retaining a sense of wonder at the world allows more space for growth. O’ Laoghaire describes one song’s development using the phrase “growing pains” — but also keeps it fun. “I’ve found that the more laughing we do between playing the songs the more we get out of them.” He grins. “I’m just a big child making music.”

At one point O’ Laoghaire points out the soundtrack of sunny sixties tunes trickling from the PA, and says that the music in the café changes depending on the weather. This turns out to be a sentiment to which he can relate. The tunes he produces under the I Have A Tribe moniker are amorphous; raw, soulful affairs, with his wise and evocative voice cutting through the mix and an anything-goes approach to instrumentation that belies the earthy folk sensibility at their core.

His magpie approach attracts all sorts of people. On the demographic at his gigs, he says that “it’d vary in age a lot, which is good because you’re trying to make something where time is irrelevant. In one sense it’s very of now because you’re to be present and very much there in the moment but at the same time you’re trying to give a timeless quality to it. They’re playing sixties music here now and it’s not really relevant where it came from because it’s doing the same thing to everyone. People change and things change, but there’s a constant. You’re part of something ancient and also going forward, you’ve got this hand of time reaching out. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“You’re part of something ancient and also going forward, you’ve got this hand of time reaching out. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

He talks much of staying centred, finding the constant in a sea of variables. “If you’re playing with other musicians they’ll bring their own story to it. It’s kind of unspoken. The constant could be the people; we’re standing all together, and the stream of music is going around you. Your job is to be fixed, but to be ready to sway with it.”

Sometimes capturing the feelings he wants leads to wandering down different avenues. He says he’s sometimes more inclined to draw something than try to document it in words: “simple, like circles on a page”. He speaks of a joinery course he’s doing: “You have to cut it the right size. You can’t talk it into fitting”, and is interested in the colours of sounds. The goal is not attaining perfection:

“You’re going to shift and change. You can’t splash around if you’re afraid of spilling, if you’re too aware of what might go wrong. Otherwise you wouldn’t get in the stream at all, you’d stay on the bank. My family come from Mayo, and there’s an amazing waterfall; it’s different every time I go. Now, there are some rocks that are always there. They won’t be there in a thousand years but they’ll be there next week when I go down, and I know the water running over them will be a bit different. I’m aware of that, and I’m excited for it.”

O’Laoghaire then provides a tour of the building, and cheerfully gives directions to a nearby park. He then disappears back inside, to turn over more stones.

 

“Beneath A Yellow Moon” is out now.

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