This month, The Jeremiahs (From left, Julien Bruneteau, Niamh Varian-Barry, Joe Gibney and James Ryan) will make their third appearance in the Burren Backroom.
Joe Gibney is the lead singer for The Jeremiahs, which will perform on July 16 in the Burren Backroom series. Formed almost 10 years ago, The Jeremiahs are among the vanguard of Dublin-based acts that have put a new gloss on the blending of traditional and contemporary folk styles and sounds, and recently released a new album, “Misery Hill and Other Stories.”
On the eve of their US tour, Gibney shared some thoughts about the band’s evolution and general modus operandi.
Q. The Jeremiahs' last album came out in 2018: That was before Covid, which affected so many things, obviously, but when you think of the Jeremiahs of 2023 versus the Jeremiahs of 2018, what else leaps out at you? How have these past five years influenced the band?
A. Well, the obvious thing would be the change in our lineup. When we set out recording our second album, "The Femme Fatale of Maine," in 2016, we had been whittled down to a three-piece band: myself, Jean Christoph Morel, and James Ryan. Julien Bruneteau had come on board as a guest musician playing the flute on that album and we hit it off so well musically and personally that he quickly became a member of the band and a hugely important member at that, bringing so much more color to our sound. At that time, we already had another Frenchman, J.C., on fiddle and the two, being long-time friends, gelled so tightly that the music became so easy and enjoyable to create and to play together.
Cut to the dreaded pandemic with the inception of its crippling travel restrictions, and the band found it increasingly difficult to tour and gig. However, we did manage to get started, despite the hurdles, on album number three and though it required a lot of the writing and arranging to be carried out remotely, we persevered. As soon as some of the restrictions were lifted and we found a window of opportunity, we quickly got together in the studio and laid down the majority of the new album in Bordeaux. Between the jigs and the reels, however, the stress and strain of the pandemic had changed the shape of the band once again and we sadly parted ways with Jean Christoph.
After some to-ing and fro-ing we took on a new recruit in the form of former Solas singer and fiddler Niamh Varian-Barry from County Cork and together we finished the elusive third album here in Ireland. The record features JC and Niamh among numerous other brilliant guests, and we feel it's a testament to the strength of our overall sound as a band, for the sound has remained true and the album has turned out really well.
I wouldn't say that the events of the past five years have only influenced the band but more so tested its mettle, shaped it, pulled it apart, shook it around and put it back together again bringing it all back to ultimately where it started, as The Jeremiahs.
Q. When I think about The Jeremiahs, my first instinct is to say, "They tell stories." Not necessarily every song you do is a story, but a lot of your work seems to be built around narratives. You tend to go for the "smaller," perhaps overlooked or forgotten stories, like the history of a short roadway between Dublin's docks and the Grand Canal, or the so-called Whiskey Fire, or a big storm that happened 1839. Do you make a point of looking for these stories, or do they just seem to come to you when you're not expecting them?
A. The short answer would be both. We do actively look for subjects to write about, but this is usually when the ideas can run dry or become very elusive or feel forced. Ideas that come at the funniest times and from the most unexpected places tend to yield the best results. Song ideas can be triggered out of nowhere and some songs can almost write themselves. Others take patience, time, and, most importantly, nurturing. Waiting for divine inspiration can leave one on the back foot when there are deadlines to meet. Luckily for us, there are no real deadlines set in stone so it gives us more creative freedom.
Q. There are certainly some strong traditional influences to your sound. Are there bands or individuals in particular that have provided a spark of inspiration for your approach to music and songwriting?
A. The influences vary greatly for each member of the band, but there are obvious common influences which make it easier for us to be on the same page artistically and they are, of course, folk songs and traditional music. Speaking for myself, I was brought up around songs. Whether it was The Dubliners or The Fureys or other bands in that vein, they all rubbed off on me subconsciously and it only became evident when I got into singing at a later stage and then progressed onto songwriting. I found myself leaning towards singing and writing folk songs and taking an interest in subjects and stories that fell into what would be deemed as the folk genre. Combining that with the influences of three traditional players, who were also immersed in song from a very young age, made for an ideal combination.
Q. Any particular associations or experiences you have with the Boston area?
A. We have played in lovely Boston on a number of occasions, yes. If I recall correctly, we played the first time at the Burren Backroom series way back in July 2017 and we had a great time and met some great people. We played at the Burren in October 2019 and had a similar positive experience. So, we are excited to return again to the Burren — it is cementing itself as one of our favorite venues to play. Having seen so many great acts over the years, the Burren is a very special stage and we are so looking forward to being on it once again.
For more about The Jeremiahs, see their website at www.thejeremiahs.ie.