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Thursday, March 17 • 9:00pm - 10:00pm
Ham Sandwich

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Some rock bands fret too much about the successful fusion of commerce and creativity. Some rock bands think they can second-guess the music fan by blending strategies for world domination with mix-and-match, catch-all music. Ham Sandwich, however, instinctively react to rock music more than spending too much time thinking about it – which is nowhere near as bad as it might sound – and it is this that marks them out as one of the best Irish rock acts of recent years. Ham Sandwich have been around and about in one very interesting shape or another since 2003, but it wasn’t until the autumn of 2005 – with the release of their debut single, ‘Sad Songs’ – that they began to be known outside their home county of Meath. McNamee’s liking for juggling quirk, strangeness and charm, stability reigned supreme. “I’d always had an urge to be in a band,” says Podge, whose early ambitions lay in stand-up comedy, “and although up to that point I’d done nothing to show that I could be in a band, the lads thought there was something about me that made him think I could be. I think they liked the fact that I could be anything at all.” Alongside McNamee were co-vocalist Niamh Farrell (whose experience at the time amounted to little other than singing in a few bands in Glasgow), guitarist Darcy and drummer Ollie Murphy. Chemistry has a curious way of working, and within weeks the band clicked through a mixture of varying musical influences, a singular love of kitsch, and a healthy distaste for anything within an ass’s roar of mediocrity. “It was more the relief of being in a band than anything else,” says Podge of early ambitions. “I knew I wouldn’t have been able to learn for myself, so I had to have someone to get me involved. I mean, I literally didn’t know how to plug in a guitar. And for at least the first year of gigging, I had to borrow amps and a guitar. When we started the first rehearsals, we knew Niamh was going to be the singer, and not much else. You could say I showed up to be trained!” “It was great, though,” recalls Niamh. “We were in it for being in a band, but it got serious quite quickly. We were still in rehearsals when a major record label came to hear us, so we thought, well, we could be on to something here. ” “We were a total mess back then, though,” claims Podge, “and I think that was totally down to me because I was such a rookie. I wanted to go crazy on stage, but I didn’t have the skills to keep the music together at the same time. If I’d been boring I’d have concentrated on the music, but I didn’t want to be too po-faced on stage.” Inevitably, levels of ambition and confidence grew as the band became more proficient. Each subsequent single release (including ‘St Christopher’ and ‘Click…Click…Boom’) received more positive responses than the previous one. In early 2008, their debut album, ‘Carry The Meek’, was released. Within days, the band was a recipient of the Meteor Music Hope for 2008 Award. The remainder of 2008 was spent touring the album, getting to know the songs inside out, and being aware of the difference between entertainment and novelty value. “When I think about how I was at the start…” says Podge. “The band had such patience with me, because at least three out of five gigs would have been more or less shameful because of me. Yes, there would have been an element of entertainment at the same time, but now, personally, I’d rather be good musically and not shambolically entertaining. ” “With ‘Carry The Meek’,” says Podge, “some of the structures of the songs are fine, but there’s repetition there. With the songs for the new album we want to be more crafted, more influential, perhaps. The one thing I’m happy with already is that I don’t think the second album will be anywhere like our first. At the same time, it’ll be more grown up, with a little bit more sophistication. The first album was practically all electric guitar; the new album will be more musically varied – and not for the sake of it, either. It’s just that we’re getting our heads around different instruments. It’s a natural evolvement, and more texture is no harm.” “We’ve definitely grown up since ‘Carry The Meek’,” maintains Niamh. “In terms of all of us getting involved in the song writing process and, I suppose, just maturing as people. Making the song structures more interesting is crucial for both the listener and the band, because it holds the attention for longer.” Ham Sandwich are currently touring their new album 'white fox'.which has recieved much critical acclaim. 1One of the better Irish albums of 2008 was Carry the Meek, from this Kells band with the wonky name. It was good, but White Fox knocks six bells of crap out of it, such is the advance in songwriting, arranging and the general sense of achievement. Structurally, also, the album is leagues ahead. Coming in at 33 and a third minutes, which is a nice retro joke, White Fox’ s brevity is matched by a level of quality that breathes through songs such as The Naturist, title track Models , The Fog, In December, Animals and all the rest. In fact, there isn’t a duff tune here, which makes it that very rare thing: an album you can listen to all the way through without being tempted to press fastforward. See hamsandwichmusic.com' TONY CLAYTON-LEA The Irish Times Opener The Naturist is typical of their classic pop gifts. Farrell and Podge McNamara exchange vocals over a classic indie template. It reminds me of the undervalued pop of Engine Alley almost 20 years ago. Karl Odlum's production is typically clean and fat-free. He allows the band's best constituents to shine -- mainly Farrell's perky vocals and McNamee's chiming guitars. And while the band aren't reinventing the wheel, their smart tunes take some beating. In a just world, at least half the songs here would enjoy considerable airplay. Ham Sandwich will showcase songs from this album in Whelan's on October 9 as part of a benefit night for the family of much admired concert promoter Derek Nally, who died in July. Burn it: The Naturist; Ants John Meagher Irish Independent Their current single 'ants' is accompanied by a great start/stop animated video directed by marc corrigan.

Thursday March 17, 2011 9:00pm - 10:00pm CDT

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