In the spotlight – The Art Crimes Band

In the spotlight – The Art Crimes Band

The Art Crimes Band are a six-piece R&B/Soul band from Cork (Ireland) consisting of Grace McMahon (vocals), Gary Baus (alto saxophone), Niall Dennehy (drums & percussion), Stephen Kirby (guitars), Tim O’Leary (bass) and Katie O’Donnell (piano & keyboards). I asked the band some questions…

How and when did the band form?

Niall Dennehy: “We’re all from the southern part of Ireland. Gary Baus is originally from Baltimore, USA. Around 2011 a bunch of us just started jamming around a table in the back of a pub in our hometown of Cork City every Tuesday night. We had no objectives or a name then, it was just fun. Then we decided by September 2011 to book our first gig at a live showcase night called the KC Sessions. Myself and Gary are the only two original members from that era but by 2015 we settled on the group we have now. Takes a while to find your tribe I guess, but that’s life, isn’t it?”

What’s the origin of the band name?

Niall Dennehy: “In the mid-nineties Steely Dan did a tour called The Art Crimes Tour. The band name is a nod to that plus a small joke about how we viewed our early song ideas. Crimes against art.”

If you had to describe your music in a few lines, how would you describe it

Stephen Kirby: “Groovy as hell.”

For those who may not be familiar with you, what would you say makes The Art Crimes Band distinct or unique?

Stephen Kirby: “Diversity. We all come from very different places musically and are very open in the writing process.”

What can you tell me about your writing process – does it come together in rehearsals or is there a primary songwriter?

Grace McMahon: “I often get lyrics and snatches of melody hitting me out of the blue, so I usually just sing them into the recorder on my phone.”

Niall Dennehy: “As a band we’ll write together in units. As Grace was saying, she might bring in one of her ideas from the phone. Three of us might get out a guitar and some percussion, usually in the form of a cajon or a press record, and just start building a song from there. Send the results in the band chat and everyone adds their ideas bit by bit, and it grows from there. Then if we’re happy with the arrangement we either go into the studio to start the recording process or road test it out in front of crowds. But at times there’s a primary writer, ‘Neon Skyline’ for example was mostly all Stephen. So we’ve no set way of composing. Which keeps things interesting and full of surprises.”

Tim O’Leary: “I think after we hammer out the original structure everyone adds their own stamp to it. It might take a day or maybe even weeks until we are all happy with it, but it all comes together in the end. It’s what you could call a slow refinement process.”

Katie O’Donnell: “I usually start by opening up a Logic session, coming up with some kind of demo drum beat, then either adding a bass line or chords next, finally following it up with melody and lyrics. This is the method I usually gravitate towards, but I’m trying to mix that process up a bit these days as it can lead to more creative ideas.”

Your song ‘Neon Skyline’ is currently in our chart, can you please elaborate on what the song is about?

You’re planning the release of an album in 2023. What can we expect from the album?

Stephen Kirby: “‘Neon Skyline’ is the first track I wrote during Covid lockdowns, about three months in or so. It is about rough nights and long days, inspired by a trip to Vegas a few years ago. The chorus is about craving contact, positive or negative, just human interaction. The lyrics are put through the filter of the story ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ by Jay McInerney.”

Stephen Kirby: “More songs about lost love, wild nights, harsh days, romance and pain.”

Tell us a little bit about a normal day in the studio while recording the album.

Niall Dennehy: “Every day in the studio is different. The only time there’s a group of us recording at the same time is to record the guide tracks at the very beginning of a song. So a normal day will be two or three of us at a time in the studio with one person recording their parts. This way we can work around everybody’s personal commitments. Getting six people in the room at the same time can be challenging.”

With music being a universal language, what is the message that you each hope to get across as a band?

Niall Dennehy: “That we can do little alone but together we can do so much.”

What is your favourite thing about playing live shows?

Gary Baus: “I really love the way a good groove takes over an audience when every interlocking part of the band is flowing and it compels a whole room full of people to start dancing. It’s inspiring to see the power of music in action.”

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed at?

Niall Dennehy: “There is a live music venue and late bar in our hometown called The Crane Lane Theatre. We played our first real gig there as this band in August 2011 but also going back further to 2007 as session musicians in other bands. It’s our favourite venue in Cork to play, and after all these years stepping out on stage there at midnight to perform is like walking out into your own living room.”

A venue on your bucket list to perform at?

Niall Dennehy: “Paradiso in Amsterdam would be pretty special… One can dream anyway.”

The music industry is one of the hardest industries to progress in, how do you feel you are doing?

Niall Dennehy: “Right now we just want to keep writing and recording music together, try to be a better band than we were yesterday and maybe pick up some new listeners along the way. Everything else is just a bonus.”

What have been career highlights so far?

Grace McMahon: “There have been so many great moments together as a band. But for me, was the day we all got back into the studio post COVID and just that moment to be all together again was so emotional and special.”

What’s on your bucket list that you’d want to achieve?

Gary Baus: “Someday soon I’d love the band to go on tour outside of Ireland.”

Now that the year is about over, how would you say that 2022 has treated the band?

Niall Dennehy: “I think it’s been one of our most eventful years yet. 2022 has been very good to us. Despite our little hiatus from live shows to focus on writing and recording we’ve gained more streams and listeners online than all the previous years combined. The level of support and love has been overwhelming and humbling. We want to thank everyone for listening and really looking forward to next year..”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

Niall Dennehy: “‘Electric Graffiti’ by Mulholland Jive is a really cool track. Really love the stuff Ben Mulholland comes out with. I’m a sucker for Jazz-Funk fusion always. And I’m going to break the rule here by mentioning a second song and give a shout-out also to Qeaux Qeaux Joans. ‘Last Night’ is a banger of a track.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

Niall Dennehy: “Back in April 2021 our good friend Colm Hayes released his first debut single entitled ‘Mosaic’. It was a duet with our very own Grace McMahon plus myself on drums and our own Tim O’Leary on bass. It’s a dreamy and heartfelt track that explores the relationship between a father and his new-born daughter over a spacey, warm backdrop of guitar and soft beats. We were really proud to be a part of the track and think it deserves to be heard a little more.”

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