Next Wave #976: The Clockworks
While the geographical distance between the friendly, laid-back Irish city of Galway and London is somewhat considerable, the difference in music trends is greater. With a culture that is largely fostered by the rich number of singer songwriters, the diversity in the British capital is manifold.
But Irish post-punks The Clockworks are seeing the benefits of both worlds. Things have continued to go from strength to strength since earlier days of playing and writing in calm surroundings, juggling rehearsals and local live shows. The historical city provided a perfect base for artistic exploration and well as the shaping of sound and identity.
“There was no pressure to conform and because of that we came here and tried to take that with us to London”, reflects frontman James McGregor. “Galway is a good drive from Dublin. I’m grateful that we stayed there for the first while, it makes big city life easier. London is an inspirational place in terms of writing lyrics. I love cities, it’s because I was born here, and I grew up here. But I moved to Ireland when I was twelve.”
Raw and ferocious, the four-piece also includes guitarist Sean Connelly, drummer Damien Greaney and Tom Freeman on bass. Having played together for three years, they are linked by a passion for some of the same bands combined with a shared determination and energy.
“All the greats worked hard”, the singer insists. “You either want it or you don’t. We’re passionate about what we do and what we’re trying to do, it’s important. The only failure is not trying, you can’t fail if you don’t try. But if you can say that you’ve worked hard for something, then you’ve made it.”
Signed to Creation 23, the record company Alan McGee founded two years ago, The Clockworks are excited to be part of the label’s original vision. “Alan is really inspiring, and he just loves music”, enthuses McGregor. “He’s a romantic as well. It’s part of why we get on so well. There’s definitely that element, it’s just us and him. We are dreamers.”
Initial exchanges took place on Instagram, and it was the description of their sound as “a punk version of The Streets” that sparked McGee’s interest. The first single release was ‘Bills And Pills’ followed by ‘Stranded In Stansted’ in 2019, and ‘The Future Is Not What It Was’ came out earlier this year.
The songs are interjected with sharp, witty lyrics that take inspiration from a poet like John Cooper Clarke. The frenzied, observational style depicts a critical, social conscience. Detailing a relentless telephone customer service experience, the new single ‘Can I Speak To A Manager?’ tackles the frustration of trying to settle an issue with a faulty laptop. Humour and real life portrayal, it’s all in there.
“I feel it’s like a microscope that zoomed out slowly, slowly, and eventually became a telescope”, the singer explains. “I wanted it to be the most particular story I could think of. So particular, so specific, and then see if I could make something universal out of that. Essentially, it’s about frustration and disillusionment. I guess you can hear it in the song, the chorus says it all.”
Musical influences are far-reaching and include Arctic Monkeys, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Interpol, Kendrick Lamar, The Cure, The Smiths etc. “I guess we all grew up listening to nineties punky indie bands, we came to music from listening to those bands. Mike Skinner was unique, he had a strange crossover.”
“It’s more a combination of everything we love”, he reflects. “The more music you listen to, the better your own music is going to be. Having your own sound is about how well you can bring your taste to it. We don’t’ sound like The Cure, but there could be a big Cure influence on the drums in one of our songs. That makes your music more interesting.”
The music industry is a fast-paced environment. The first part of their adventure is already coloured by excitement. “It has been three years, and it feels like forever”, McGregor concludes.” We always worked hard on our music, we appreciate a work ethic, and we’ve done that from day one.”
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Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Oscar J Ryan
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