Event Guide (November 2000)
Interview by Lee Casey.
THOUGHTS FROM THE DREAM ACADEMY
Dacianos are a young Dublin band, who recently released their first mini-album, Mis-Showbusiness. An unusually literate and largely acoustic six-song collection, it's been winning friends and possibly influencing people for the last couple of months. So does the value of this world lie in dreams? Lee Casey asks lead singer, songwriter and prospective author, Barry Kavanagh.
Where else does one begin, but at the beginning? Kavanagh responds with good humour to that dreaded first question. "We started about late '95, with a completely different line-up. Within three months, Darragh O'Grady had joined; he was the stand-in bass player but then became the guitarist. Then there was just the two of us. We used to gig as a duo, with keyboards, guitars and effects, but then we went to the way the songs were written, with just piano and acoustic guitar. From there the band grew, especially when Eamon joined, adding strings over what we were doing. We were the core, but extra people kept coming and going." He pauses. "Recently Darragh left. He moved to Mexico to start a new life." This is said with the trace of a laugh. "Otherwise he would still be in the band." His departure obviously caused a shift in emphasis for Dacianos. Kavanagh explains. "We've moved away slightly from the acoustic-guitar led thing. We did so much of that, and the album (which was recorded last year) really captures it. The piano has moved up, we still have the violin, we've also got a cello, drums on some songs and more messing around."
This new unit have just committed the first fruits of their labour to tape, recording a session for the Dave Fanning Show. Apart from a visit to the legendary Ultramack Studio, where they had previously recorded some demos, this was their first trip to a 'proper' studio. It didn't phase them. "We had always built studios ourselves. We would create studio environments in houses, basically anywhere there was a piano. The Fanning session was easier, because there was very little organisational effort needed, but it had to be quicker anyway. At the end of the day though, you end up with a similar result: a room with a dead sound. We don't put effects on our music at all, so it's kind of raw and direct."
Keen to refute in advance any accusations of 'lo-fi' that might be levelled at their home-recording experiments, Kavanagh states, "We record digitally so there's no murkiness. I don't listen to anything that sounds like it was recorded in a shed. I like things to be well done, but also real and direct.' He cites Mark Eitzel, Kristin Hersh and "electronic music" as examples of his philosophy, but is quick to point out that the band is a melting pot of influences. "The fact that I listen to something wouldn't have any bearing on where Eamon is coming from, for example. The kind of musician that Eamon is, he transforms songs by adding melodies, he doesn't underscore it with rhythm or anything."
Away from his activities as lyricist for the band, Kavanagh keeps himself busy with some other endeavours. "I have three unpublished novels. They're up on the web. They're psychological literary things. I think they were good. I think they were accurate in terms of intimacy, and of how the characters are feeling and so on. The stories themselves were hard to sell to publishers, though." He also had pieces in the now defunct freesheet, Analogue Bubblebath. "One of the things he printed was a really old experimental piece that I wrote at college, which I thought was flawed anyway. But I let him run it because I knew him back then. The other thing was just a piece of surrealism, literally in the style of 1920s surrealists. What I'm working on now is a novel based on ancient Taoist stories, because Taoism is something recognisable in the real world. I've transposed the messages of those stories into the present day. I think I might get that published a lot easier I would than the earlier ones."
Kavanagh finds it relatively easy to distinguish between the two skills of lyric writer and novelist. "Generally, it's like separating it in terms of intellect, for prose writing, and emotion, to try and do something in the music. They're separate that way, but there are recurring themes. The songs are more personal. I think you can sing about yourself, whereas writing about yourself is just going to be a diary, isn't it."
One of the most striking lines on the album has to be where Kavanagh states 'the value of this world is in dreams'. He attempts to elucidate. "If it was an argument that one wanted to put across, you could say that the Mona Lisa is only worth something because people believe in it. Otherwise, it would be in a skip, no-one would want it. It's the perception that's the thing." He does have a more serious point to make though. "On another level, working from where I was in the song, I was writing about being trapped. It's a feeling about being trapped and escaping. I'm quite pleased about that song because all the images match each other pretty well."
Forthcoming about his own aspirations, he says, "I've accepted that what I want to do is creative, and I'm going to stick to that for the rest of my life. It feels innate to me. I probably dream about living off it but it's not something where I imagine the work being completed." Kavanagh continues to write, and Dacianos have embarked upon the slow process of recording their second album, one song at a time. Response to the album has been slow, but positive, and he says they are just having fun "moving along". Dacianos have released their mini-album, Mis-Showbusiness on their own label, There Is Hope Records. They often play live, are open to offers, and can be contacted at www.dacianos.com. The site contains an MP3 of their song 'Muse', which can be downloaded for free. Excerpts from Barry's novels are available at www.hellshaw.com
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