Poet folk with big band moments
Villagers' Conor O'Brien

Conor O’Brien is an Irish poet in the grand tradition. He has been a cover star in his native Dublin for the last year, where big-eyed Irish poets with scuffed jean cuffs and a soul-acute acoustic sound do well.

Tonight, however is Jools Holland, in big grim London town; tonight is the biggest night in Conor’s life; tonight Conor is nervous. He is accordingly head shy then, when approached on a day like this - and the old truth that a chat with a poet will reveal little of his muse holds true.

Lines in the Villagers’ ‘The Meaning Of The Ritual’ contain a knowledge and articulation of the inherent faults of love that the cherubic O’Brien shouldn’t appear to have. However, he’s a grand old twenty-seven, and hates being asked for pompous themes to his work. “I liked Dubliners by James Joyce, but I was never really into all that. I’m gonna have to get used to talking about all this the whole time...Obviously the way a lot of songs happen is because you’re not talking about it so much, you just puke up your angst and offer it up on a plate.”

Conor is set to play alongside Marina And The Diamonds and Paul Weller on Jools Holland, and has also supported Neil Young - when Young would “walk around backstage trailing a cloud of yellow smoke”.

The Villagers’ brand of folk acoustic is offset with a bigger band look (there is a full group of six) with Conor as the creative lynchpin. He’s drawn comparisons with Elliot Smith, yet some tracks like ‘Pieces’ have the flayed emotion of Radiohead, while others like ‘Down’ and ‘Under The Sea’ have a driving percussion to add some ham to the haunches.

O’Brien’s lyrics undoubtedly penetrate, with couplets paired as slickly as stacked cutlery about love’s failure, which will perversely make a legion of teenage girls fall in love.

Words by Miguel Cullen

Where: Dublin, Ireland
What: Poet folk with big band moments
Unique Fact: Drummer James Byrne has his own record label, which the band’s first EP was released on.
Get 3 songs: ‘The Meaning Of The Ritual’, ‘Becoming A Jackal’, ‘The Sun Is Hanging From A String’


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This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the 50th issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from May 7th.

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