Ireland's finest
The Great Escape 2011: Villagers

Every year The Great Escape seeks to partner up with a different country. Ireland has been selected for 2011, so we’ve picked some of our highlights from the emerald isle.

Villagers are a band to look out for at The Great Escape this year. They’ve already created musical waves with their ambient indie acoustica and these waves are flowing right through into the summer of 2011.

Technically they’re a band, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a one-man-and-his-guitar scenario. The boys in the band take a backseat as frontman Conor O’Brien shines through. He’s the songwriter from the group and it’s this song writing that has earned him a well-deserved Ivor Novello nomination; Becoming A Jackal is up against Foals and Everything Everything for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. Their debut album, also titled Becoming A Jackal, caused quite a buzz in 2010 receiving a Mercury Music Award nomination.

O’Brien grew up in Dublin watching the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal and this influence is apparent in his music. Described by the Guardian as having “an eerie sense of disquiet”, Villagers play weird and wonderful folk music and have drawn comparisons with Elliott Smith and Sparklehorse.

The most apparent display of spook can be found in the video for their single, How To Become A Jackal. O’Brien sings as though he’s physically restraining some strong emotions, keeping his cool with a torrent of passions bubbling just beneath the surface. It goes on to a kaleidoscope of swirling O’Briens, before hunks of meat hanging in the background begin falling to pieces and start merging into jackals jiving around behind O’Brien. It’s beautiful and disturbing and has got a very Brothers Grimm feel to it.

At the request of French actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, O’Brien wrote a song for her to record and release for Record Store Day 2011. The result was Memoir, which was released as a 7” on Domino on Record Store Day. Memoir was the title track, but the release was coupled with Villagers’ Set The Tigers Free on the flipside. Before the big day, Memoir was a track we were particularly impressed by (hear it on HERE) and it went down a treat. Record Store Day 2011 was a resounding success, with Rough Trade East doubling its profits on last year.

Villagers’ summer has already kicked off to a sunny start. Last weekend they played at Brudenell Social Club as part of Live At Leeds. Then it was straight down to the Camden Crawl where they drew in the crowds lulling the crowds with their soothing tones at the HMV Forum in Kentish Town. Playing alongside Saint Etienne, The King Blues, Miles Kane and Toddla T, the Camden Crawl boasted an eclectic array of artists but Villagers were right at home performing for their loyal followers while, undoubtedly, wooing a whole bunch of new fans.

Villagers have previously toured with Tracy Chapman, Elbow and have supported Neil Young. This summer, the band are set for big things with their UK tour performing not only at The Great Escape, but also T In The Park and Latitude.

Villagers appear at The Great Escape festival in Brighton on 12th May at Unitarian Church and on 13th May at the Pavillion Theatre.


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