For twenty years now, Irish-rock act Ash has been one of the more successful acts to come out of Northern Ireland; they’re still plugging away today, recently embarking on a tour supporting their ambitious A-Z Series of singles (now out on vinyl). With an influx of Irish acts like Two Door Cinema Club, the Frames and Snow Patrol making heavy waves here in the U.S., Hive recently had a chance to grill Ash frontman Tim Wheeler about his thoughts on the next wave of Northern Ireland break-out acts.
1. Duke Special
There’s a reason this song and video have gleaned nearly a half a million views on YouTube. Duke Special, aka Peter Wilson, is a goth pianist who regularly dons eyeliner, dreadlocks and soldier suits and there is something undeniably catchy about his vaudeville circus tunes. It’s the type of music you might get embarrassed to be caught singing to in your car, but the stares won’t necessarily stop you … or your jazz hands. The Belfast-based singer produces dark ragtime numbers that sound like they were written explicitly for Frankenstein romance scenes. “It’s like cabaret with a mix of alternative,” Wheeler says. “He’s a great singer and songwriter and also does good covers.”
Just face it — there’s no easy way to say this band’s name and the abbreviation (ASIWYFA) is even more painful. Still, the trippy rock instrumental three-piece is sort of like early TV on the Radio without the vocals. Making their debut in 2005, these guys have done their fair share of reverberating their twinkly/scratchy rock off of massive festival stages and have hit SXSW at least once. Wheeler will be the first to say “they’re phenomenal live.” They’ve created quite a fuss in Europe and are slowly making their way stateside.
If you’re wondering why the singer is sitting down while his band is thrashing their heads off of their brain stems to thundering noise around him during the live show in this video, it’s because the dude did the whole tour with a shattered ankle. His name is Jonny Black. Of course. Wheeler describes the Belfast quartet as “intense, hard-rocking, with a Queens of the Stone Age type vibe.” No shit. Their debut self-titled album hit the shelves less than three years ago and was followed by a tour supporting fellow explosive rockers Helmet, where it seems likely they may have stolen the show, or at least measured up and then some.
4. The Answer
As evidenced by their hair metal look, these guys have been around for a while. Half of the band hails from Ash’s own hometown, Downpatrick, and Ash and the Answer have shared a drummer at some point. That’s pretty much where their similarities end. The Answer has toured with the likes of AC/DC, Whitesnake and Deep Purple and follow a similar school of sound. Although they’ve been around for more than a decade, they’ve only put out three albums, the most recent, 2011′s Revival, has distinctively Aerosmith overtones.
5. Katharine Philippa
All Wheeler has to say about this passionate pianist is that “she’s very talented.” When you manage to get the entire Ulster Orchestra to back you up, this obviously must be the case. A self-proclaimed “organ scholar,” Philippa can hammer the keys and wail in tune like Fiona Apple but with even more feeling in every inflection. Fresh-faced and hot off the press, she only has five songs to her name … so far.