By Aoife Barry
Dubliner Padraig Cooney has only just released his debut album ‘Romance Romance’, under the moniker Land Lovers, but for a new person in the music scene, he’s attracting quite a bit of positive attention. Perhaps that’s got to do with the infectious melodies and witty lyrics that feature in his upbeat, synth-pop indie songs.
“I kind of came pretty late to bands – I wasn’t in bands when I was young,” explains Padraig, when asked about his first forays into creating music. And even when he did join a band, it took a while before he found his feet. “I got into a band when I finished college, with a couple of friends,” he says, “and we really didn’t know what we were doing at all, but they were the only people I knew who played instruments so we kind of pottered around for a few years.” His former band exists in another – more professional – incarnation, and Padraig left after a while to pursue his own thing.
“I decided that at a certain point I wanted to go do something myself. I tried to start another band, but we were very unsuccessful. We played two gigs, it was just really hard to get a band together – again, I was in a situation where I didn’t know too many musicians,” he explains. After this false start, it was time to try another approach. “So I decided…last year to just buy a home recording set-up and make my own album and see if making my own album would happen into a band…that was the album I made, the Land Lovers album, so I made it to get a band and I have got a band with it.”
Inspired by the likes of Elvis Costello – “[he] was my all time hero” – and songwriters such as Luke Haines and Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, Padraig started on his own solo creations. At first, he says it “probably came across as very bland pop music – Crowded House or something”, but with time he began to hone his craft and develop his own more independent sound.
Taking the decision to record the Land Lovers album at home was one that seems to have set the wheels in motion for Padraig to really blossom as a songwriter. It was a learning process, he says, but one that was ultimately worth it. “To be honest with you, it was a bit of a daunting task – I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he says wryly. He set himself the task of learning how to use Protools, which at first seemed like a huge challenge. “I’m a software engineer by trade but I’m not actually that technical a person, and I would never claim to be kind of into computers,” he laughs. “So I sat down the first time with Protools – it just seems there’s so many options and things you can do with it, I was kind of blinded by it. I bought a book, and I learned really slowly.”
After recording each track, Padraig would put the recordings onto his iPod, and listen to it at work, trying to figure out which bits he should change and which bits sounded good. “You’d sort of fill in the blanks yourself,” he says. “You balance out the fact you’re not in a studio or not playing with other better musicians with the fact you have all the time in the world to get it the way you want to.”
The album was mixed by Peter Sisk. “I bounced ideas off him and you know, see what worked and what didn’t work, he helped with that I suppose, from that point of view,” says Padraig. “Even though I recorded it myself, I was always giving him mixes and he would mess around with them.”
One thing which did change during the making of the album was the lyrics. “When I started making the album, I was trying to consciously simplify everything about it, in terms of I had been writing convoluted songs about ridiculously…you know, historical events and things like that,” laughs the young Dubliner. “So I tried to get a good simple melody to most of the songs and go from there, and the lyrics would find their place. But I suppose as you go along, you find the lyrics.”
When it came to eventually releasing the album, and making that first scary step into the world of album promotion, reviews and getting the name Land Lovers out there, he really didn’t know what to expect. “I didn’t know if it was good when I finished it,” admits Padraig. “I knew I liked the tunes, because they were the ones that stuck in my head, but you can never tell what anyone else is gonna like, and I never really had anyone commenting independently on my music before, you know? It was all just friends saying ‘oh you’re great’ or friends saying ‘that’s reasonably ok’…”
Soon however, it turned into more than just his friends who complimented his work. “I sent it out to be reviewed, and luckily it’s got some nice reviews, which is completely surprising I have to say,” smiles Padraig. “I didn’t have that perspective of an independent person on what I was doing, so I suppose that’s the nicest surprise of the whole thing, so far.”
Now that the debut album’s out, it’s a matter of getting on the road and putting the name and the music out there. Having recruited a full band, Padraig’s looking forward to the official album launch, and playing some more dates after that – including, hopefully, plenty of dates outside of Dublin. Then, the plan is to get back into the studio again.
“We’re gonna record another EP with the full band, five tracks in December, January, so we’re gonna release that next year,” he outlines. “I don’t wanna lose too much of the…I suppose people are calling it a DIY thing, I dunno what the correct term is, but I don’t want to make it all horrible studio generic rubbish that, you know, you hear a lot of I suppose. We’re gonna maybe do it half and half – half bedroom, half studio, that’s the idea.”