JFC Talk Debut Albums, Busking
And supporting the Rolling Stones
With Hudson Taylor
The former is 22 and the latter 20, and not only have the Dubliners gained a loyal cult following in the past few years, they’ve also supported The Rolling Stones with just 20 minutes notice, and they’re debut album Singing For Strangers is due to drop next month.
The brothers have certainly come a long way since they were first discovered busking in Dublin then, but they admit they still love to get out on the streets whenever they get a chance - hence the name of their first album.
“We used to busk when we were about 15 or 16 to make a bit of pocket-money,” Harry recalls, “and also just because it was fun. We’ll still do it nowadays every so often.”
“We finished that gig, had a few beers and got ready to go and watch The Rolling Stones, then our manager got a call asking if we would fill in for the support act. 20 minutes later we were up there in front of 50,000 people..."
Alfie continued: “Yeah, our manager originally saw us busking, so I organized a gig – an underage gig because I was 16 at the time, although the promoter thought I was 23 or something – but the promoter pulled it last minute because he said there were too many underage people coming. Quite ironically really!”
“To make up for her coming all the way over from London for the gig, we said ‘alright, screw it, we’ll go busking’,” added Harry, with his brother continuing: “It was the first time it had snowed in Dublin in a few years, so we went busking in the snow and that was the main discovery!
“We realised, yeah, there’s actually people coming over to see us from the music industry. We could learn a bit more about that and maybe live of music one day. It was freezing in the snow though!”
Since then, the group have released two EPs, earned widespread critical acclaim, and now made a long-awaited transition from the streets to the studio.
How did they get the gig? Tom Odell called in sick less than half an hour before the big slot. Hudson Taylor got the call from their manager, and the rest is history.
Harry recalls with a smile: “We were at the Hyde Park gig playing a small stage with 300 people on a hot summer’s day. It was a really nice gig. We were in a tent that was well air conditioned as well, so loads of people came in!
“We finished that gig, had a few beers and a bit of champagne to celebrate and got ready to go and watch The Rolling Stones, then our manager got a call from the promoter asking if we would be able to fill in for Tom Odell. 20 minutes later we were up there in front of 50,000 people, using all of Tom’s gear because they didn’t have time to change it.
“Our faces were blown up 100ft on the giant screens and then we actually got to introduce the Rolling Stones on the video as well!”
Alfie continued: “We got about an hour and a half of play time in Hyde Park that day. It was amazing. Obviously there was so many people that it’s hard to even see the people’s faces in the front row, but we think it went down really well. People came up afterwards and told us that they’d enjoyed it and our parents got to see all the action...
"Busking in London isn't really our. We like being spontaneous and you have to pick times in London..."
Certain dates on the tour are already sold out, and Hudson Taylor have already managed to thank them in advance – by putting an abundance of bonus songs on their upcoming record.
Harry continued: “We got to release the album early in Ireland, which was like a soft-release for us but it was great to get the feedback, because we’ve been living in London for all this time.
“There are actually 21 songs on the album, which is a lot! We have 12 as the main album but then a lot of bonus songs. We’ll probably play every song on the album and more when we play live.”
So was it hard to whittle the songs down to that final 12? “It sort of was,” admits Alfie. “Because in the last four years of writing, we’ve written a lot. We had a lot of songs that we knew might not get released, and we couldn’t do a Deluxe album because it would cost too much, so they told us we could put them all on one CD and call them bonus tracks. We’re really happy with it.”
They launched their album in Ireland-only in February with a busking session in Dublin, and they still go busking in London as well, although admit: “the [strict planning of London busking] isn’t really our buzz. We like being spontaneous and you have to pick times and all in London and be gentle and smile a lot towards the poor commuters!”
Up next for the group? “Lots of touring,” concluded Harry. “We’ve already got a few more songs set aside for work on our second album that didn’t quite fit with our first, but we’re going to be on the road for a while now!
“We’ve got our UK tour, then hopefully a European tour and lots of festivals, and then maybe even another UK tour at the end of the year.”
A busy future then for the Dublin musicians, and with their album yet to drop and plenty more to come from the brothers, it’ll no doubt be a bright one as well.