Sean Phair is a music fan and video professional; he hides behind the moniker Ambiguous Fiddle.
On first encounter you might find it hard to decipher which era Sam McNicholl is from. Wearing vintage clothes, hair below his shoulders and a well-groomed french handlebar moustache, there are few men who can pull off both a pair of flairs and skinny jeans. Sam however somehow does it with ease.
The 27-year-old musician and music promoter from Leap, divides his time between running the revered music venue Connolly’s of Leap and performing percussion for much loved disco-funk band The Saxy Lady Boys and emerging alt-rock band Talos.
Talos debut album ‘Wild Alee’ was released earlier in the year and was warmly embraced by critics and tastemakers at every level; it’s a stunning meticulous piece of work that builds and hits like rock but has an almost pop sensibility all strung together in a rising web of electronic textures.
It has seen the band play high profile support slots for the likes of Saint Sister, The Coronas. Along with playing sell-out theatre shows, music rooms throughout Ireland and most recently record their second live video with Other Voices.
Sam credits the project as that entirely of Eoin French, the band’s chief architect, frontman and songwriter. French formed the band after his girlfriend became ill, and they were both forced to change their future plans rather suddenly. In need of a new distraction Talos was born; although originally a two-piece, it wasn’t long before the project grew here.
“I was playing in a female punk band called ‘Dream Wife’ and was going to Reykjavik in Iceland to do a festival, I heard Talos were going also and offered to learn the tunes on drums and try bring some live drumming to the already amazing set. I think Eoin fell in love with the live percussive element at the time I think the band was just a really paired back two piece and now it has grown into a six piece monster with quite a large live sound.”
It’s worth noting at this point that four of this six-piece monster Sam is referring to, now includes three of Sam’s closest friends and longterm collaborators; brothers Alex, Sonny and Josh Sampson. If there were awards for West Cork’s most prolific musicians, these guys would be strong contenders. They’re part of a resurging music community in Leap, that is rooted in Connolly’s of Leap. A longstanding and rebellious music venue that Sam and his mother Eileen run from their home.
“Growing up in Connollys was artistically intoxicating to say the least. I mean Dad was doing over 200 shows a year with bands of all genres and sensibilities…or lack thereof…from all over the bloody world. I think perspective has been interesting…as it was so normal for me to be around such eccentric people making art all the time that when it all stopped when I was 17…I truly realised how lucky and special an upbringing I had.
“We (Talos) rehearse in Connolly’s and it’s amazing! I mean we had a custom PA system made by Toby Hatchett last year and it is a piece of art! The room has a great feeling to it, as well as great natural acoustic qualities…all that wood and paper just makes it a dream to hear music in. We are spoiled rotten actually!”
The band are currently doing the festival circuit and flirting the album to new audiences far and wide. Luckily for us West Corkonians we get the chance to see them again, as Talos will be closing off this year’s Clonakilty International Guitar Festival.
“Playing home shows are a little more intense…I guess. There is an extra sense of intimacy in a way, it’s as if we are playing to our family. In West Cork we are such a tight community that it just feels like everyone is behind us, when you play for them you want it to be extra special!
Debarras has held a special place in my heart since I was a child, I have had many many firsts in there, some that cannot be published! The guitar festival has become one of the greatest weekends of the year in West Cork and I am both flattered and honoured to be playing this year.”
If you haven’t heard of the Guitar Festival at this stage…where have you been? The long-standing music festival has been celebrating the guitar in all of its forms for coming up to 13 years now.
This year continues the tradition with a very strong line-up of acts from all over. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the return of acclaimed British singer-songwriter and all-round guitar wizard John Smith along with Aussie folksters the Mae Trio and not-to-forget Dublin folk miscreants Lankum (formerly Lynched).
However, what I believe sets this year apart from other years is the volume of younger local talent that have earned slots at the festival. Talos aside, there are several other artists from West Cork playing this year’s festival including Ganglions, Arthur-itis, Eve Clague, Eoin O’Neill and more. This is fantastic to see as playing the festival is very much a right of passage for local artists. As Talos pave the way, hopefully a few more of these talented artists can break through and follow in their footsteps.
Sam says we can expect “big things to come” and It’s hard not to believe him.