Dublin 5 piece Oski Bravo came together in late 2015 and are Keith Cooke, Fiachra Robinson, John Crowther and Shane Fitzgerald, fronted by long time (and long suffering!) Red and our very own Donnchadh Mac Aogáin. Oski Bravo launch their self-titled debut album on 25 June with a live performance at Whelans, and we sat down with Dunny in early June to talk about the band, the forthcoming album, and of course the Reds.
Reds Independent: Dunny- what a 12 months you’ve had! The Reds promoted, Tolka Park saved, you did the double with Shels AFC and now you’re releasing Oski Bravo’s debut album – you’ve been very busy! How are you feeling?!
Tired and emotional! Ah it’s been incredible, it really has. In all of the above there were times; between Covid restrictions, a slow start to the season and things not always going our way with STP where it looked like things could fail on all three fronts. So to look at where things are now is incredibly rewarding.
RI: The two singles you’ve released this year have been great – We Want the World and Brand New Start – but a bit distinct from each other musically. Can you tell us a little bit about the album? What can we expect? Influences?
Yeah “We Want the World” is probably a bit more representative of the album overall, in that it’s quite up tempo and guitar driven. “Brand New Start” is a bit closer to our earlier stuff maybe, but I felt with the subject matter in that song it needed to be presented the way that we did it. The album itself is a mix of some former singles and new tracks we recorded over a few sessions with Dan Doherty (who did Fontaines DC’s early stuff) and I think it’s a good blend of indie-pop with hopefully some memorable tunes in there! Influence-wise I’ve always loved any guitar music with an emphasis on melody; The Smiths, Lemonheads, Sebadoh, REM…that type of stuff. But if it’s good, it’s good. Actually Irish acts like Cathy Davey and Delorentos have influenced me more and more over the past few years.
RI: How would you describe the music Oski Bravo typically create?
At first we leaned quite heavily on the acoustic elements, with cello and acoustic guitar doing a lot of the heavy-lifting. That meant that our early stuff on average was a bit slower and more ballad-like maybe. But once we got our first EP released and I had to start cranking out new songs again, our emphasis sort of changed. First John’s electric guitar came more to the fore and bit by bit the acoustic elements took a back seat. We have plenty of songs to choose from now and I find our live sets bounce along nicely these days and I’ve found myself smiling a great deal more than I used to onstage!
RI: What is the creative process like in Oski Bravo?
Well, I write all the songs and the lyrics and then pitch my ideas to the band usually. Before Covid I would usually just send over fresh acoustic versions I recorded on my phone and let the others hear it stripped down like that. When we’d get into the rehearsal room then and when the others added their parts you would really see the song taking shape. By the time a song gets recorded it can sound quite different to how they started out. But during Covid I ended up buying a bunch of electric guitars and using the Garageband app to effectively make demos of songs myself; I’d play all the guitar parts, the bass etc and then add the synthetic drums on top. I think I wrote over 15 new songs that way in the time where we couldn’t rehearse. “We Want the World” and “The Anarchist’s Wedding” came from that bunch. But as ever, the cool riffs always come from John! He’s on another level when it comes to electric guitar, the chap is outrageous!
RI: How long did this album take to make from start to finish, writing and recording-wise?
Well that’s a difficult one to answer ‘cause we started it before Covid and then had to do another session as soon as things reopened to finish it! Longer than it should have and hopefully a fraction of the time our next one will take!
RI: What kind of “sound”, production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
It’s probably a dangerous thing to go into any recording session having too many expectations on production, as every experience tends to be unique. Ultimately you go in with a collection of songs that you want to portray in the best possible light. In every session we’ve ever done there have been dark horses that surprise me they turn out so well (“All I Know” and “The Anarchist’s Wedding” would be in that category for me) and then sometimes the one you assume is going to be a home run can fall flat. But we’ve worked with a few producers now and out best experiences have been with Dan Doherty in Darklands; his attitude and way of working seems to suit us and work for the songs we have. If you’re nodding along by the time the last chorus rolls around that’s usually a good sign for me!
RI: It was very difficult being a football fan during the pandemic, but I’d say it was even worse being a musician. Was it difficult maintaining the spirit of the band during that time and did it have an impact on the recording process?
Yeah it was a fairly dispiriting time for everyone. Playing in rooms, be that gigs, rehearsals or recordings – that’s what being in a band is all about. So when that’s indefinitely taken away you do lose a sense of purpose. Lucky for us though, we had started the album and we were sure we wanted to see that process through. And as I said before, it gave me time to do a lot of writing. We did get knocked back a bit though when in only our second rehearsal after we came back, our bassist Ken told us he was leaving the band! His tinnitus had become too severe, and he had to stop playing altogether. So that put me on my arse for a bit! But we were blessed to get Shane Fitzgerald in after a little search and we’ve never been better now! He’s been a real shot in the arm for us all.
RI: Oski Bravo were one of the stars of the Save Tolka Park night in the Button Factory. What was it like to play that night in front of a packed room of Reds?
Ah man that was a night I’ll never forget! It was very emotional for me to see where we had managed to take the STP campaign to and the incredible support that rowed in behind us. That night would have been special for me on that level alone! But to couple that with our first live performance since before lockdown…it really was magic. A room brimming with togetherness and positivity and I’m very proud to have played my own small part in the whole thing. I’ll never get tired of belting out a bit of Monaco to a room full of Reds!
RI: You’re launching the album in Whelan’s on 25th June, a night we’re all looking forward to. I know you played Bloom last week, any other gigs on the horizon?
That’s right yeah, Saturday the 25th, the night after Mauro Picotto rocks the bar! Bloom was a bit of fun yeah, it was nice getting to play for a full hour up on stage again. We’re in Galway the Friday after Whelan’s (at Livestock), then the following Saturday we’re opening for Mundy and The Stunning in Kilkenny which should be cool. And we wrap the summer up on Friday, August 26th in Clane, Co. Kildare at The Playing Fields. That’s a great festival actually; we played its opening year, and it was one of the best run events we’ve ever been at. So a great way to close things out.
RI: What’s next for Oski Bravo?
Well we’ll be firing out this album at the end of the month and then we’re going to enjoy these gigs that are in front of us as much as we can. Doing overnighters at festivals is definitely one of my favourite parts of being in a band. Bopping about places you’d never normally be, mixing with strangers and listening to all manner of mad stuff. A bit like an away day in the First Division I suppose! After that we’ll regroup in the winter and get our teeth into this batch of new songs and decide which ones will be next to get recorded. We like to prepare in the winter, record around Easter and then have new music to release and gig for the summer. So we’ll hopefully get back on track with that again.
RI: Can I ask you; how detrimental is Spotify or other streaming services to up and coming bands?
That’s a tricky enough situation. The streaming platforms, and YouTube as well, have decentralised music away from the record labels and have put the onus on the bands to create, ahem, “content” and essentially become your own promoter and record label. That has its advantages and pitfalls of course. Some say that it makes everything very democratic and if the music is good enough people will eventually find it and you will reap the rewards. But then again, the great thing that indie record labels had to offer was that the people behind those labels were prepared to take punts on acts that otherwise never would have gotten any oxygen. Now when you’re talking to festivals and venues they will ask you questions, not about the music; but about any videos or clips you’ve had that might have “gone viral” or how many followers you have on a certain social media platform. So unfortunately, I think we’ve gone too far the other way now. Putting your music “out there” has never been easier. But getting heard amongst the din is probably harder than ever.
RI: Finally, the Reds! Are you happy with how the season has gone and what are your expectations or predictions for the second half of the season?
The fucking Reds ey?! Never dull! Ah look the first half of the season started slowly enough but it definitely feels like some things have begun clicking for us now and sitting 6th at the midseason break was fantastic. Sean Boyd has hit his stride now and the same can be said for Moylan, which has seen us scoring a few more goals that were definitely needed. Clarkey coming in was obviously an important turning point for us and we’ve looked much more solid since then. My ambitions before the season started were: 1) Save Tolka Park – 2) Stay up and 3) win a couple of Dublin derbies. Anything above that would be gravy. We’ve already beaten Pats, saved Tolka and gone a long way towards staying up by opening the gap we have over the bottom two. From here on in I’d like us to maintain that gap, turn Bohs over at least once and get some revenge for those two dreadful losses against Harps! Oh, and a European away for the Shels WNL team por favor!