Songs of aith and evotion
‘There’s always been a global-spiritual-ethnic element to our music.’ claim HOTHOUSE FLOWERS. The evidence? Current album Songs From The Rain. Craig McLean raps raggle-taggle globe- trotting with guitarist Fiachna O’Braonain.
The parish of West Angeles. Los Angeles. summer last year. Hothouse Flowers singer Liam ()‘Maonlai. guitarist Fiachna ()‘Braonain and bassist Peter O’Toole have gone to see a black gospel mass. taken there by Michelle Shocked. ‘who‘s a good friend of ours'. They were moved. ‘It was”. Fiachna remembers. ‘one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. emotionally.’
‘An Emotional Time‘. the first single from last month's Songs From The Rain touches upon such spiritual uplift. and as such provides the main theme of the Dublin group‘s third album. ‘Spirituality is . . . of value in our lives.’ says Fiaehna. ‘There's a healing power in the music. Somebody said to me. "Well. if you're not feeling too good about stuff. we'll play from there. play from those feelingsm
‘Raggle-taggle’ might be a throwaway slur now, but the ethics of spontaneous folk- busking bonhomie made the Flowers’ name and pulled in
the public a-plenty.
Hothouse Flowers need all the succour and balm they can muster. .\'ot because the album has been coolly received in the press nor because Liam has taken to the Jim Morrison tin bathtub) look. ‘We just came back from Australia the day before yesterday.‘ Now. four days off in Dublin. Three days hence they‘re off to Germany. then back to Britain. then back to Iiurope again. then America. but before that Canada. The Far liast and Australia beckon. ‘There’s a couple of options of what to do in October . . .' Hothouse Flowers‘s touring and promotional marathon for Songs From The Rain started three months ago and ‘doesn't finish until next year some time‘. Phew. what a torture.
Bttt Hothouse Flowers wouldn't have it any other way. seemingly as
exhilarated by playing their music
anywhere. everywhere. as witnessed at their celebrated. celebratory concerts. ‘Raggle-taggle' might be a throwaway slur now (‘Raggle-taggle — nein dankel' was the Anglo-Irish Fatima Mansions‘s barbed put—down. blazed across their T-shirts). but the ethics of spontaneous folk-busking bonhomie made the Flowers's name and pulled in the public a-plenty' (last time here they were at Barrowland three nights; this time. jttst the two). drawn by their exuberant. come-all-ye freshness. And given the aforesaid demands of the international record market. clearly this (‘cltic soul is of worldwide appeal. however haekneyed it might appear now. Their globe-slogging is more than jtist record-flogging. though.
'Australia in particular is a place where we've been e\posctl to an awful lot of very. very important music and culture.‘ Fiaclina recalls the benefits Ilnv. the band. draw from entertaining the global village. '(‘ertainly the whole world has an awful lot to learn from Aboriginal ways. and from indigenous ways in general.’
L'h-oh. ’(‘autionf‘ screams a sign in cynical neon. ‘.\1()R stars on career- llagging-let's-get-all-ethnic trip?‘ If only llothotise Flowers didn‘t seem so self-effacing and integrity-solid. if only Fiachna wasn't such a diamond gee/er.
'(‘xoing to South Africa is something we wanted to do,‘ he says of their recent PR pit-stop there. ‘We'd heard that our records had come out there.
and they‘d done well and they‘d charted. So we were invited to come and launch this album and we said. “Great!” But we felt it was very important that we should meet a lot of the local musicians and suss out what the story would be touring there. down to things like ticket prices. what was affordable. Despite the fact that I('(‘/Illi('(l//_\‘ apartheid has been removed there. as you can see from recent events it's still very much in existence - and the distribution of wealth is probably as unequal as you can get. The last thing we would like to do would be go there and play to a predominantly white audience. White or black in fact — a wealthy audience. basically!
‘But it was very intense couple of days.‘ as they soaked up the cultural vibes and political sketch. ‘We exchanged music. we exchanged stories and . . . smiled.‘
They took a similarly diligent approach to the making of Songs From The Ruin. lts predecessor. summer 1990‘s Home. had been a slightly fraught affair. with recording stints broken up by repeated llits out of the studio to tour somewhere. Artistic coherence was further stilted by the varying inputs of a handful of producers. ‘Home was a difficult album to make because it was disjointed . . . You lost a bit of focus now and again. But at the end of the day it’s still a lovely album. and it gave us the conviction to do this new record.'
‘Splrttuallty is at value In our lives. There's a healing power in the music.‘
This time round the band plumped for Stewart Levine (famed for his work with Simply Red and Boy George but. more crucially here. also noted for producing Joe (‘ockerz BB King and Womack & Womack) and stuck with him. enthused with his soulful feel and his case in the studio — notably with Hothouse Flowers‘s keenness to record as much of the album as live as possible. ‘Acoustic'. ‘spacey' and ‘warm' are the glowing words Fiachna chooses when recalling the scenes of their studio activities in London. New York and Los Angeles last summer. ‘I think it was the easiest record we‘ve made.‘
From these empathetic. well- considered environments come the album's ‘warmth‘ and “spirituality”. and passion-filled songs that seem to celebrate the. ahem. ‘redemptive quality" of faith and belief. ‘Wejust try to be as true to ourselves as we felt at the time when we write songs. lt's an instinctive thing.’
And a saving grace. ‘At times you feel. Jaysusl. it’s a bit hard going.‘ laughs Fiachna ()‘Braonain as the months and the miles loom. ‘But we're just getting better at keeping an eye on things. We're not there yet. But we’re getting there . . .'
Hot/rouse I'fUH'P/‘S p/(rv Burnm'lmul. Glasgow, on ["11 30 and So! /.
The List 33 April () May I‘M} 39