Forever referring to themselves as “a phoenix from the ashes” Orwells ’84 in its original incarnation was the brainchild of singer and songwriter Damien McKenna. Based on the free spirit and loosened shackles of the Plastic Ono band, McKenna set out to seek musicians for the cause. Quickly recruiting guitarist and long-time friend Sean Byrne the pair were followed into the line-up by celloist Ella Englishby. Based on these elements the band cultivated a manifesto and a sound to match. The line-up was completed by the incomings of musicians and producers Peter Mc Coy and Pauric McCrum. The band recorded their debut EP Truth is the First Victim with Pauric and Peter later that year in 2019. This was the band’s second venture with the duo; having worked together previously on their debut single Cailín which picked up support from the likes of RTE 2FM, Nialler9, Today FM and many more. Since releasing Cailín, Orwells ’84’s folk-indie style remained present yet matured, with a more refined world-view. The band quickly felt they were in a position in which they believed to be consistently developing on an upward trajectory.
The EP had been thought and considered a marker, a call to arms if you will. To the people in the venues, the ones on the streets and those who can help them achieve what they believe they can. Since their birth they have crafted and artistically explored theirs and society’s thoughts and emotions and poured these experiences into the music. They do not write songs, they feel songs are falsified. They write truthfully about life’s experiences. With the final addition of a renowned trad fiddle player, the band ventured even further in the experimentation that would culminate with the writing and recording of their debut album. Like most bands, the pandemic affected Orwells ’84 in terms of momentum and growing interest. However, it did not deter the creativity that surrounded the sought after style, both musically and lyrically, that the band prepared to announce to the world. Like many others from Dundalk and on the Irish music scene, Orwells ’84 are even more eager to deliver their unique musical voice to the world with something new and exciting to say. They’ve performed with people like David Keenan, Nix Moon, Myles McCormack from Belfast group Lonesome George and Finnian, among others. And while the band are often labelled with some form of the words ‘indie’ and ‘folk’, their style meets at the junction of many different genres. There’s something about Orwells ’84 that is indescribably different — and with their newest project, they’ve discovered what most musicians spend lifetimes working for — the place where feel-good music meets vital social commentary.
In February 2023, the band released their brand new single ‘It’s What They Want’ which premiered on RTE 2FM with Dan Hegraty as well as landing coverage on HotPress, Our Sound Music, Edgar Allan Poets, The Goo, InMusic, Indie Disco, Corks Red FM, iRadio, WLR FM, KCLR 96FM and many more, marking the start of what is set to be an exciting year for the band with the run up to their debut album coming this spring.
With a list like this I find it hard to narrow down everything that influences both myself and us. A few
honourable mentioneds to David Keenan, Bowie, Lankum, Bob Dylan and loads of others. But I feel
like this is still a great collection, a wonderful playlist indeed!
Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol
“Definitely Maybe” was one of the first times I remember skulking through my dads music collection
and being hooked. The tracks and in particular this one had a belief and a swagger about them that I believed in. I instantly knew then that I wanted to try this music lark. It was the light bulb moment of “if these lads on a council estate can do it then so can I”. I just love everything about this track and this album!
R.E.M – Losing my Religion
We often get told that our sound is similar to R.E.M and especially this track. Definitely not intentional or by design at all but throughout the recording compositionally we have stumbled into this mesmeric soundscape. We have the bouzouki and strings along with a mandolin and it just works. Being likened to R.E.M is an absolute pleasure because they’re amazing. To be in the same sentence as them is quality. This track itself is just so musically pleasing and it is indeed quite close to some of the sounds we’ve recorded and for that we are very happy!
Elbow – Lippy Kids
Guy Garvey and Elbow write emotive songs that as a song writer I cannot but help take note of. Everything about this track I adore. Musically we focus a lot on the arrangement of instruments. Like what Elbow do we try to make every instrument have a space and to mean something. We don’t want a tambourine on the track just “because”. This ideology has heavily influenced the album musically. Lyrically Guy to me is top 20 all time and absolutely one of my favourite lyricists. So descriptive and yet concise, akin to Nick Cave, Grian from Fontaines and loads of others. I love when a line or a phrase hooks you, I have tried to write some of my own for this record.
The Beatles – Strawberry Fields
The Beatles are for me the best band every. Strawberry Fields is a track I honestly have memories as
a baby listening to. This period where the band took risks, started to become more experimental in the studio and their ideas changed music in my opnion. Revolver, Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and then Pepper certainly influence how we look at the recording process. I remember a lot of conversations with the Pillowhead lads around mics for the drums, the amount, position and how they themselves where audibly trying to get close to this period of music as possible.
The Ronettes – Be My Baby
This track is typical Motown vibes. On the record we used all available voices abilities to create harmonies and melodies that would be of a similar vein. I have always admired how Motown itself has that dedicated sound but still managed to produce different songs about different themes all the time. In the band this is something we always try to adhere to. With the record there is something in it for everyone and there are slight variations of
what we think is “our sound” in this moment and time. Everything about this track is just wonderful, the big band feel, the harmonies and the string arrangements and for that reason it makes the list!
George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
In my opinion this is the best album post Bealtes split. With “My Sweet Lord” Harrison manages to encapsulate a Krshna like mantra in the chorus while also keeping the song writing simplistic. This is all wrapped in a big sound created by Phil Spector. We’ve a few tracks on the record that would follow suit but most notably “Symposium” and “As the Crow Flies”. Cracking track and a cracking album. I’d advise any lover of music to give it a spin.
Planxty – Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór
This song is just so beautifully crafted and when I was writing a lot of the material for the album I had this on quite a bit. I wrote lot during the initial lockdown and this song always gave me a felling of comfort. Most of the band would be fans of trad and Irish Music so I know they’d love this song inclusion. I could definitely point to “Border and the Mistress” as a track off the album that would have at the same feel and thought put into it. Hopefully it makes people feel as good as Planxty have for me.
Fontaines DC – I Love You
Class Irish band, class groove to this and with a message that cuts through everything to ring out. From the first time I heard the Fontaines they blew me away. But I really really got into what Grian was saying on this track. As I said before, to me the complete song is wonderful music meeting a crafted lyrical message. To me that’s what this track is. I love it, for me it changed my mindset on songs and lyrics that made the record in particular “Taken Liberties” which I rewrote to have that more “to the point” message.
Little Green Cars – The John Wayne
This song was one that was brought up by Peter and Pauric quite a bit during the writing and demoing phase of the album. It’s just beautifully crafted and with the tempo change being a wonderful addition. I know if you were to ask Peter, he would absolutely give this track as a reference for “Are we Brothers”. That and the Ronettes which we’ve included above!
The Stone Roses – I am the Resurrection
The sound and vibe and everything under the umbrella of this song has been influencing me and Sean since we became mates and then band mates. In particularly the guitar sounds and styles of John Squire. On this album and this track especially its crazy to see Squire knowingly play what has to be played and also what’s not to be played. Again this was an ideology that we took into the recording process as a whole. In terms of the guitar sounds Squire and also Johnny Marr are huge influences on the way our guitars sound, play and also mesh together across the whole album.