by Maryjo Siergiej
LIVELY IRISH TRADITION continues as the 2011 Greater Danbury Irish Festival kicks off in the Ives Concert Park at Western Connecticut State University’s Westside campus. The Screaming Orphans, an all-girl Irish rock band, will be performing on Sunday afternoon –
Read an in-depth interview with The Orphans inside.
by Maryjo Siergiej
LIVELY IRISH TRADITION continues as the 2011 Greater Danbury Irish Festival kicks off in the Ives Concert Park at Western Connecticut State University’s Westside campus.
The festival runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday September 23, 2011, 12:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday September 24, 2011, and 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday September 25, 2011. Musical and entertaining acts that flourish with Irish pride will be playing nonstop on the pavilion stage in the concert park all three days. Leading the pack with a running leap is the native Irish rock band The Screaming Orphans, who will perform their set on Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Screaming Orphans is a family affair made up of musical sisters Joan Diver(lead singer and drummer), Angela Diver(bass, violin, and vocals), Gráinne Diver(guitar and vocals), and Marie Thérèse Diver(keyboard, accordion, and vocals).
Born and raised in Bundoran, Co Donegal, Ireland, the sisters have played together as a band since they were teenagers, and their band has an impressive résumé. They were personally asked by great Irish musician and singer/songwriter, Sinéad O’Connor, to be backup singers and the opening act on one of O’Connor’s tours across Europe and appeared on various TV shows, such as David Letterman.
Since their arrival on the music scene, The Screaming Orphans have recorded with Peter Gabriel, Babba Maal, and Joni Mitchell. They also have recorded eight albums with their producer Mike Hedges, who was produced albums for bands like US and Travis.
The Orphans’ unique name is a piece of art in and of itself. Created by a friend of Joan’s, it represents how they had to leave their mother and father, who had links to their band, once they decided to branch out (hence, becoming orphans). The name also signifies how screaming is essential when a person is around good friends and family and the fact that their secondary school was once an orphanage.
Their name is not the only colorful part of the band. With music that draws from influences like REM, Simon & Garfunkle, and traditional Irish music, the Orphans’ music is a taste of Irish tradition for everyone to lose himself or herself in.
The Mercurial got the lowdown on The Screaming Orphans from guitarist Gráinne Diver in an e-mail interview:
Maryjo: When it comes to songwriting, what is your inspiration?
Gráinne: Anything and everything.
Maryjo: Can you describe the process you go through when you write?
Gráinne: We write all the time. If somebody comes up with an idea we all work on the development of it. It’s really hard to describe. It’s like asking someone how they speak. Some of it we know immediately is a B-side, but in every new song we see something good, so it’s a matter of editing down.
Our hardest challenge has always been and always will be the fact that we are a girl band. People think it’s cool, but nobody thinks you’ll be any good.
Maryjo: Out of your eight recorded albums, which presented the biggest challenge to you, musically or otherwise?
Gráinne: I would say it was “East 12th Street”. We recorded it with students at the Institute Of Audio Research (IAR) in New York City, and although it was great fun, it could be trying at times as the students were naturally a lot slower than the professionals we had worked with previously. We also had time constraints which were really problematic to the creative process as sessions had to end when we were laying some good tracks. There’s nothing worse than being on a good run and everything screeching to a halt because of a class bell.
Maryjo: Over your many years as a band, what other challenges have you all had to overcome?
Gráinne: Our hardest challenge has always been and always will be the fact that we are a girl band. People think it’s cool, but nobody thinks you’ll be any good.
Maryjo: How did your band’s music develop to the style you have reached now?
Gráinne: Years of playing everything that we felt like. If you stay true to what you are your own style will develop. We write with no limitations and as we are answerable to no one but ourselves, so we can.
Maryjo: Are there any unique sounds, musical styles, instruments used in your songs?
Gráinne: Well, squeaky keyboards were our thing for a while and although we’ve eased off a bit on them we still love the ‘ole bad synth sound. We also put banjo on some of our latest recording, but there’s nothing really unique about that. I would say that the most unique thing is some of our vocals. If you could hear some of the backing vocals at a much louder volume all you would think was… it’s the chipmunks… and that’s without any effects at all.
Maryjo: What are some of your favorite memories so far from touring or recording?
Gráinne: Bob Evans… I never get a chance to go to Bob Evans, only when we’re touring and more importantly, the generosity and kindness of the American people to us.
Maryjo: Do you have any preconcert rituals?
Gráinne: Nope, apart from the fact that we always try and write a set list, but we never seem to ever get onstage with a working one.
Maryjo: What are you looking forward to the most when you perform at the Greater Danbury Irish Festival?
Gráinne: The audience. I have to say the audience makes the event. Also, the organizers at the Greater Danbury Irish Festival are really nice people, so that is a really big plus.
I would say that the most unique thing is some of our vocals. If you could hear some of the backing vocals at a much louder volume all you would think was… it’s the chipmunks… and that’s without any effects at all.
Maryjo: Have you ever been to Danbury before?
Gráinne: Yes, we played the festival last year and our mother and father have great friends that live in Danbury (Michael and Margaret Melanophy). Michael is from our hometown Bundoran and Margaret is from Co Cork.
Maryjo: What can the audience expect and look forward to when you on perform at the festival?
Gráinne: They can expect some good music. Our main aim is to entertain and make people happy so we always like to put in a bit of everything so the kids to the grandparents can relate on some level. We play some Irish music/song which was the music we were brought up playing. We play some original pop/rock music of our own and we throw in the odd cover for luck.
Maryjo: What are your musical plans for the upcoming year?
Gráinne: Superstardom… but realistically we are looking forward to getting our music out to a wider audience and playing even more live shows that we are doing this year.
Maryjo: What are your dreams for the future and where do you want to go from here?
Gráinne: Upwards and onwards. We hope to be entertaining audiences for many years to come and hope some day to win a Grammy.
Maryjo: Last, but certainly not least, what is the best advice you have received out of the various people you have worked with in the music industry?
Gráinne: Most of the people we have met in the industry have talked nothing but crap, but the only piece of advice that I ever thought was worth something was what Mike Hedges (English record producer) said to us about songwriting, and it was KISS… Keep It Simple Stupid!