They say we live in a global village. Well some of us live in actual villages and that is the case for Conor O’Brien, the man behind the band “Villagers” who also currently resides in my hometown, a little seaside village in Dublin called Malahide. Tonight he’s playing an intimate little town hall in Somerville and I had the pleasure of chatting with him and waxing nostalgic about my homeland.
The rise of Villagers has been meteoric. O’Brien (formerly of another excellent Malahide band, The Immediate) has gone from an EP to a major record deal, to appearances on Jools Holland, NPR and rave album reviews in less than a year. His debut LP “Becoming a Jackal” moves away from the jittery electric guitar rock of The Immediate to a more organic lyrical style. Conor describes his new earthy sound as “not necessarily a completely new direction, I’m leaving it open <…> I think writing songs on just my own meant that I was starting with only my acoustic guitar.”
O’Brien has certainly not become a stereotypical singer songwriter though. He performs solo tonight in a tiny town hall and wraps the intimate crowd with songs that are not only sweet and delicate (The Meaning of The Ritual, The Pact) but also haunting, dark and anthemic (Becoming a Jackal). Conor draws many comparisons to Conor Oberst and this is most evident in the acoustic set as they both possess wonderful voices, capable of delivering swells and snarls perfectly matched with a childlike fragility when necessary. You could hear a pin drop if there wasn’t another noisy gig in the room next door.
I asked him about writing the album. “There’s a definite theme to me, all the songs were written around the same time. The album is about growth, change and death. It’s about taking humans off our pedestal and putting us at the same level as the other animals.” “I write songs as way of talking about things, it’s actually a very childlike way to express yourself. Things just come to me and I try to let it naturally flow.”
O’Brien is currently touring extensively to promote “Becoming a Jackal” but he’s looking forward to writing some more songs and maybe releasing another EP. Tonight he finished on the beautiful track “Home” (best viewed as Conor performs it through Parisian streets). Even as a man on the cusp on big things, he’s nothing but a gent but what more could I expect from a fellow villager.
Be sure to check out more of Thom’s snaps from the gig here.
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