Almost a decade into life as Hermitage Green, Limerick lads Dan Murphy, Darragh Graham, Barry Murphy, Dermot Sheedy and Darragh Griffin have become a mainstay in the acoustic folk rock scene at home and abroad.
There have been tours, of Ireland, Australia, North America and the UK, there have been EPs, an album, record label signing and record label departure, and a memorable, much-shared, cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ in the wake of the tragic death of fellow Limerick star Dolores O’Riordan.
Now they’ve just dropped the video for their latest single, ‘Heaven’, from their ‘Gold & Rust’ EP, which they have released independently. The band signed to Sony Music in 2015 but departed in 2017 following the release of their album ‘Save Your Soul’, so they’ve traversed both sides of the industry.
While they’ve praised “a certain freedom and control” in making the EP independently, they do not look back on their time with a label in a negative way.
“Sony never told us ‘You have to be this way’ but it was just a learning period for us; who we want to be,” explains singer/guitarist Darragh Griffin. “The new EP is more kind of a reaction to the album before. Going into the new EP, we had more of a settled direction and a much more solid idea of our sound. One gained from the other and we definitely learned a lot from our album with Sony that we then put into this independent EP.”
In order to finance ‘Gold & Rust’ the band embarked on a crowd-funding venture. Singer/guitarist Dan Murphy says they’re ‘incredibly grateful’ for the support and the fact the fans made it possible for the EP to become a reality. However, it took them a little time to adjust to the process.
“It was a bit unfamiliar for us. We wouldn’t change anything and we kind of had to do it at that point but it is hard to put the hand out like that,” he tells Independent.ie
Darragh Graham, the band’s banjo, djembe player and singer, adds that it was ‘necessary’ in order to maintain the standard to which they are accustomed.
“It was necessary because we didn’t want to compromise for the EP,” he says. “If anything we wanted to go up a level from ‘Save Your Soul’ and we didn’t want to restrict ourselves because we couldn’t afford certain things for our music.”
Currently touring Ireland and the UK, before heading to North America in October, there’s one (actually, two) dates they’re particularly excited about. Having sold out one date at Limerick’s King John’s Castle next month, they added a second date.
“King John’s Castle is an incredible venue,” says Dan. “It’s a twelfth century medieval castle in the middle of the city with the backdrop of the river Shannon, which you can see from the stage. And then there is obviously the added sentimentality for us because we are from Limerick.”
Despite the fact they’re an instituation in and around Limerick and busy touring the world, they’re humble about their success. Dan admits, “We were afraid that we wouldn’t sell enough tickets for King John’s Castle. But we sold more tickets than we ever have before there. We sold out the first night in ten days so we decided to put on a second night.”
It was at that spectacular venue last year that they performed a cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ in honour of the late Dolores O’Riordan, which garnered worldwide applause.
“When we played at King John’s Castle last summer we all felt like we could not get up on stage that night without making some tribute to Dolores O’Riordan and the band. We were always close to home since growing up in Limerick and we all listened to the Cranberries quite a lot,” says Dan.
“We didn’t expect such a reaction. People just loved it and as a result we kept ‘Dreams’ in our set list and we like to play it now everywhere we go in the world. And every single night, without fail, it blows the roof off the place. And I think that is testament to the great music that the Cranberries made. For those reasons their songs will carry on through the generations.”
Stylistically the band is constantly evolving. Drummer Dermot Sheedy says the changes in sound are mostly due to each member bringing in their own musical preferences.
“I think one of the major changes with the new EP is the instrumentation. We have all picked up new instruments over the last couple of years. Dan really got into harmonica and Darragh Graham got really into didgeridoo. Then Darragh Griffin really got into synth sounds. Barry and I are just having a good time!” he laughs. “That has completely changed the sound of our live gigs.”
‘Heaven’ (watch the video above) is laced with all the aforementioned new elements. It’s experimental and fresh but sounds unmistakably like a Hermitage Green song, and its story is an interesting one.
“I was living with a Buddhist from Japan last year. She invited me to a couple of Buddhist talks in our house and they don’t seem to invest as much thought into the belief of an afterlife after death like we would, being brought up as Catholics,” reveals Dan. “So for me it was about taking the idea of heaven or an afterlife out of the context of this place we go to after we die and putting it into the everyday. That’s loosely what planted the seed in my head.”
Even though ‘Heaven’ emerged from Dan’s mind, song writing is a group effort. The process could start with a lyrical concept or a riff, with the others adding their ideas. Sometimes this includes the whole band and the timespan of just one afternoon, while other times it is two or three members just working on a vague idea over months.
“But that kind of keeps it fresh. If it was one way all the time, I suppose we wouldn’t enjoy the idea of creating something as much. But because we are all equally as creative, there is an ownership for everyone on each song,” expains Darragh.
Bassist and vocalist Barry Murphy adds that every member has different songs they are especially emotionally attached to and that it can be sometimes tricky to work in different ideas when somebody has “a specific way in which they want it written and what it means to them.”
“When you start a song from scratch, each of us can interpret it differently. But I think the longer we are in this band together, the more we are getting used to that and less sensitive to what we have written. We just want to create something together that is brilliant and true to us.”
Tickets for Hermitage Green at King John’s Castle, Limerick are on sale for €34 from Ticketmaster.
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