Treaty City Rising: We Come In Pieces
Ahead of their latest guerrilla swing of UK dates, Limerick math-punks We Come in Pieces talk about their city, their experiences, and crossing the water on tour, in the first instalment of a mini-series on WTHB this week.
A city built by the river Shannon, nearing the edge of Ireland’s southwest, Limerick has been built (and rebuilt) on its people over the decades, thriving on an innate sense of pride, community, and in musical terms, a certain something simply being in the water. It would be easy, and tempting, in fact, for your average hack to just name-drop the like of The Cranberries and the Rubberbandits, and leave it at that. But an eye on musical developments over the past decade-plus in the Treaty City reveals the story of a community of disparate, eclectic and fiercely independent musical personalities, working in near-tandem to lay the foundations of a music scene that reaches deep into the city’s daily life. Genre communities like metal and hip-hop have long had regular homes & major all-dayers in the city’s venues, while in the late 2000s, magazines like Crude, and frontier-spirited social channels like Flip-It TV kept grassroots interest consistent among music heads.
In an inspired dose of long-term thinking, local club nights like D.I.E. (Dubstep/Indie/Electronica) fostered and maintained connections with the city’s student population via societies, and the MusicGeneration project brought out the best in local musicians, giving them a space to teach music in the inner city, and provide a collaborative, supportive way into the city’s scene for subsequent waves of rappers, producers and musicians. The result is a scene now regarded by many as the best in Ireland: DIY veterans like metal collective Bad Reputation and newer outfits like DIY LK co-exist and often collaborate, bands and artists have made spaces for themselves to develop and create on their own terms, even going as far as erecting PAs on the street for guerrilla lineups, and festivals like the annual Féile na Gréine (‘festival of the sun’) and the bi-annual Siege of Limerick metal all-dayer are among national gigging calendar highlights.
One man that’s seen this development firsthand is Kieran Hayes, drummer and vocalist in Limerick math-punk power trio We Come in Pieces. A product of the various waves of DIY music that came through the city in the country’s pre-recession years, including punk bands like The Demise, he’s more than earned his qualifications to talk about the city’s grassroots cultural development. “Limerick is absolutely hopping at the moment, and between Bad Reputation, DIY LK and Seoda Shows, among others, we have a fair amount of loud bastards coming through, and from within. The Limerick I grew up in had a really diverse music scene, and while it was a little threadbare on the band and venue front through some of the recession years, it is really blossoming. All tastes are catered for whether you're a loud fucker, a quiet fucker, a folk fucker, et cetera, and such. It's a beautiful thing, and long may it continue.”
Invested with a sense of pent-up urgency, and the band’s twin tendencies for immediacy and technical proficiency, third long-player ‘Stop the Rot’ was self-released last year. The band’s first album in six years and the first with its present line up, as Kierans Hayes and Sims added another of their namesake to their collection, in guitarist Ciaran Culhane, also of local tech-metal wizards Shardborne, and promoters Bad Reputation, as well as a prolific producer/engineer. The process of writing and recording, however, remained consistent, with longtime collaborator Culhane remaining at the desk, as well as behind the riffs. “The writing and recording was the same as our previous releases, generally. We've always been a band to jam away and work things out like that organically, as opposed to slaving away over ideas. It was Ciaran's first album playing guitar with us but he had recorded, mixed, played a little sneaky keyboard, and sang on our previous two albums. The biggest ordeal in the six-year gap between releases was having a place to practice regularly. We went through a number of practice spaces that closed down, and eventually resorted to silent sitting-room practices with electric drums and everyone on headphones to get going. Since we got settled in a place, the tunes have been flying out when we can get together.”
If there’s any upside to such a long downtime between releases, it was the opportunity for them to re-emerge in earnest as a new generation of DIY musicians and gig-goers was filling venues in Limerick and other cities around the country, affording them the opportunity to road-test new material, and introduce new heads to songs from an accomplished string of albums and an E.P. The record was well-received among genre fans, something that Hayes is looking at a sign of musical growth. “We're delighted with how it turned out. We didn't have any expectations when we started it, and we're not a band to demo ideas much, so a lot is left to what we're each feeling on the day of recording through the process, which makes it quite fun throughout. The ‘Stop The Rot’ songs make up the bulk of our set at the moment, and the more we play them, it really feels like these are definitive WCIP tunes. And hopefully we'll feel the same way after we release the next album.”
Irish city-central scenes always have a lot of genre crossover, just by sheer dint of population and DIY camaraderie, but even before the current crosspollenation of ideas in their home city, WCIP were one of the few punk(ish) bands playing the aforementioned Siege of Limerick all-dayer, a biannual national pilgrimage for metalheads, always free in, and offering a fourteen-hour marathon of Irish and international outfits, from black metal purists to rock‘n’roll revivalists. Hayes discusses the event’s importance to the community, built on its accessibility. “The Siege is the absolute highlight of our calendar, and we've found the metal crowd to be the absolute best bastards to play for. Personally, my favourite Sieges were always the ones with a few punk/hardcore bands on the lineup, like Only Fumes and Corpses, Ilenkus, Bailer, The Turn, Neifenbach, and recently Worn Out, who have torn it up at a couple of recent editions. The greatest strength of the Siege in my eyes is the different varieties of, not just metal, but heavy music in general, that you get from the early afternoon until early morning. If you like it loud, then there’ll be something for everyone, and even if you're not hugely into your music, it's a great night out among the friendliest of bunches.”
Punk rock and the community that attends is one thing, but in terms of performance and place, there’s a natural home for the band that’s developed in recent years. WCIP’s love of pro wrestling has been no secret, with the Kierans growing up as fans of the WWF/WWE product that, until recently, was a staple of Sky viewership on weekend nights. This penchant for the sport of kings has led to them playing live at events, and creating entrance music for, Cork-based promotion Phoenix Wrestling, often touring the greater Munster area. Hayes mulls over the challenges and advantages of working in the context of scene-setting? “It was the offer of playing at a wrestling show that lit a fire under us, to get moving again in 2015. We played the after party of an OTT (Over the Top, Dublin promotion) show in November 2015, and we haven't much looked back. Last year we partnered with Phoenix Wrestling to open the shows, and play some entrance music, and it has been the most fun for a bunch of lads who have been fans since childhood. The independent wrestling scene and independent music scene in Ireland have an awful lot in common. It's a lovely marriage, and hopefully we'll get to do more shows going forward. Friends of ours in Fights and Fires, from Worcester in England, have done some wrestling shows as well and it always looks like a great time. You can't beat the power of live music.”
The band is heading to the UK this month for a quick run of gigs to round up their summer, as part of a gig-swap with Nottingham outfit A-Tota-So, that sees the touring favour being returned on their next home swing of dates later in the year. Heading to the UK has been a favourite pastime for We Come in Pieces, especially after the band’s hiatus and return. “We're going over to play some shows with A-Tota-So in Nottingham, Bristol and Derby, and those lovely feckers will be joining us in October for a run of shows around Ireland, in advance of playing the Siege. We're back in the swing of things with touring now, so this is our second time over in twelve months. We had that six-year gap between lengthy tours, so we're really playing to completely new crowds again, which is fun. Touring around the UK in general is similar enough to playing shows at home. The most fun places tend to be away from the bigger cities, where scenes have to develop from within in order to survive and thrive. You don't find us playing Dublin or London too often, for one reason or another.”
We Come in Pieces head to the UK this weekend for a mini-tour of gigs in association with Buttonpusher:
Thursday August 22nd: The Chameleon, Nottingham
Friday August 23rd: The Mothers’ Ruin, Bristol
Saturday August 24th: Dubrek Studios, Derby