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What are you currently up to?

Niamh: We have a few gigs at the moment, some small festivals in different places, gig in Belfast supporting Ulrich Strauss. Other than that we are rehearsing and writing new songs and also preparing for our big gig in the Village and our 2nd London show at Dublin Castle.

Darcy: At the moment I’m writing new material for the next album. There just ideas at this stage. I think it’s very important to remain creative. There is the danger of falling into playing the same music over and over for 12 months leaving you very stale as a musician. So I like to write as much as I can to avoid that.

Could you take us though the songs on your debut album 'Carry The Meek' ?

John: 'Carry The Meek' soaks up a lot of the feelings and experiences we had gone through over the past year, fundamentally the theme is the end of a relationship. 'St Christopher'

I think gives an inkling of the hurt, and how familiarity breeds contempt, ("All hands were on deck when I needed one to hold"). Other songs are post-break up, Words and Sad Songs in particular and are really songs of regret. 'Sad Songs' invokes that nostalgia that songs evoke when you hear them and are thinking about that great regret. Say it now folks, you might never get to say it!!

The album is more a confessional album than a concept album; these are things that were hard to say at the time. 'Words' in particular is an anthem for apology. I think an awful lot of the energy and viciousness in that song comes from its 'venting' ability.

'Through The Grass' was written while we were finishing recording the album, listening back to it now its really fitting as the final song on the album. there's some promises made in the song which I suppose besides from being the tinder to rekindle a friendship are also like therapeutic oaths, sounds a bit sappy but I'm great friends now with the girl who inspired most of this album. Maybe we'll get a sophomore out of it?

When it came to recording the album we made a conscious decision not to hole ourselves into a recording studio so ended up doing it the Led Zeppelin way of renting huge old neo-classical houses, if you watch the video for 'St Christopher', that's Headfort House which is one of the places we recorded in. Being from Kells we know the history of the place, so whenever we heard any mysterious noises we felt the ghosts were giving us the thumbs up!

Darcy: From a very early stage in the life of Ham sandwich it was pretty obvious that our songs were going to be about heart break. I don’t think it was a conscious decision in the beginning but slowly this theme began to surface….heart-break, loss of a loved one, the break up and the reconciliation of a relationship.

All these themes began to dominate and inspire songs such as Never Talk, Sad songs and Words. If you listen carefully to all the tracks on the album you can see that it makes sense as a whole. That would have been a conscious effort. The more cohesive an album is- whether it be the sound or a central theme - the more enduring it is.

The song writing process was very natural in that everyone in the band had a hand in each song. As a group we would go in to the west of Ireland and rent out a farmhouse – far from civilisation - and just combine our ideas. Darcy (me) would bring in a musical hook which by the end of the process would sound nothing like it did in its origin!

Podge, a perfectionist, would add his own original style of guitar playing to this. John would have a great talent for writing heartfelt and honest lyrics. Then together John, Podge and Niamh would come up with what is the most important part of Ham sandwich- the melodies and the harmonies. It’s a healthy process that works which is nice!

You recently won the Best New Hope for 2008 at the Irish Meteor Award. Were you surprised at this and how does it feel to see your debut album make the top 30 in Ireland?

Niamh: I think we were all extremely surprised when we won the meteor, I know I was anyway! I'm pretty sure I wont ever live down the fact that I ran up to the podium way before anyone else and was standing on my own saying "Where did everyone go??". It was an amazing night and the fact that our album came out the very same day we won the Meteor and went into the "Top 30 Charts" was just unreal! We were all pretty chuffed!

What have you got planned to help promote your album?

Niamh: After we released the album we went on a very successful tour around Ireland to promote the album, we also did some radio spots and went on The Tubridy Tonight show on RTE.

John: We've done a few deals in the UK and are slowly picking up playlists before we release the album later this month, it's really like a game of, I won't say poker, more like 'Old Maid'!, you have an idea of all the journalists, venues and people around the country, It's a real buzz then to visit these places and meet someone who feels a connection with what we are.

Who have been influences on you all musically?

Niamh: We all have individual influences, such as for myself it would have to be The Smashing Pumpkins and Kate Bush (in terms of female vocalists)

Darcy: I suppose I would be the one in the band with the most mainstream influences! My main influence today would be the bands that inspire and really grab you by the balls emotionally.

The Swedish band ‘I’m from Barcelona’ are completely nuts. We supported them in Dublin last year. It still remains the best gig I’ve ever been too. Arcade Fire will always be quite special to me. They make me want to write songs that cause the audience to punch their fist in the air and scream back the song to you.

The National are another band like that but I’m they are closer to my heart. As a songwriter I strive to emulate the sheer class and emotional punch they have. I met one of the guitarists at Oxegen last year. I gave him a hug. I didn’t let him go for 4 minutes. I’d say that was a long 4 minutes of his life…!

Ollie: We all have our individual influences and collectively we have a lot of common ground. Personally I’ve always been a fan of Jimmy Chamberlin, Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham.?

Obviously the band's name will be a talking point for some. How did the name come about?

John: We don't really talk about it too much but Cash's 'Boy Named Sue' is a good hint...It is funny though that with bands like 'the Pigeon Detectives', 'Joe Lean and the Jing Jang' even 'Pearl Jam', that people focus on our name, I guess we may have overstepped the mark with it, it's like we have ink on our foreheads and everyone is pointing it out to us!

What have been the live highlights so far for you and who ideally would you like to tour with & why?

Niamh: It would have to be the last gig we did in Whelans for our album launch. It just went so much better than we ever could have imagined! It was an amazing night!

John: The best thing about doing all the promotional shows is that we get really tight and when you get like that there's so much room for just enjoying the show; my highlight has probably been some of the great faces Darcy has pulled off mid song. I'd like to tour with Joanne Newsome. I'd carry that harp barefoot for her.

Darcy: Live highlights? Well for me it would have to be any of our headline gigs in Dublin. When we put on headline gigs in Dublin we prepare for it 7 years in advance! Lots of organisation goes in to putting on the best show possible for our fans. When you go to a gig and pay €15 what do want to see? A dude almost crying over his acoustic guitar - or a nutcase riding an inflatable sheep while playing a telecaster with his elbow? I know what show I’d like to see.

Personally I would love to tour with The National! I love their music and I think that their fans would appreciate what we are trying to do. The National have that ‘what’s going on in our relationship?’ and ‘what have I done to make you so angry?’ in their songs. It’s all one sided. In Ham sandwich we have two sides of the story and I think that would be quite appealing to a National crowd.

How do you view the Internet and downloads etc. Does it help bands like you get established?

John: It's a real strange time to be doing business in the music industry at the moment, everything that was there before, record companies, promoters etc. is still there but it's very obvious that there's a revolution happening, when you meet up with bands who travel here from the US you can really see how the internet has changed things they may not have sold more than a hundred physical copies of their album in Ireland but through downloads and soc-nets they know there's a market for them. For ourselves I think being aware of independent methods of promoting yourself has been hugely important. It's safe to say that if we had signed to a record label three years ago we'd be independent again.

Darcy: The internet is the greatest invention by man! Forget the wheel! Well maybe not…! A band like Ham sandwich could not survive without the likes of MySpace, Bebo and I-tunes! Forget for a moment its importance internationally…. It really is the only way to get networking from the very get-go. It’s where you meet other bands in your locality.

Fans from different parts of the country can listen to your music. This is the only way you can entice them to come and see you when you hit their town! There is a danger of course of over using the internet. Spamming people with adds to check out your music isn’t cool! You have to put the hard work in on the road. I firmly believe that if you work hard enough people will listen.

Downloads? I think they are necessary evil! Lets face it everyone does it (apart from me…) It opens up people to your music. I believe that the future of music is in the live arena. I mean think about it. You can download an album in 10 seconds but can you download an experience?....well I’m sure you will be able to in the future but not yet!

Any good rock 'n' roll tales to tell?

John: After winning the Meteor Award we were given passes to get into a nightclub where the after-show was on, we arrived, award in tow and we were refused entry because we were given the wrong colour passes, not ones to let this shine on our parade we went to Whelans where the staff treated us to complimentary champagne and Guinness!

Ollie: Swapping stories with Pete and Steve from the buzzcocks and David Coverdale telling Niamh he wouldn’t mind her between two slices of bread were pretty rock and roll times. Podge Arm Wrestling the entire crowd at a gig for a bet to try and keep the bar open longer. I once threw my drumstick at Podge during a gig and it knocked his front tooth out of place.

A Guy once crowd surfed his way through the crowd and made his way up onstage to give Niamh a kiss then stage dived. We did a gig in the hard rock cafe were Podge's amp caught fire?? and still worked and Darcy’s amp broke too but like a champ he gave up his guitar and danced to our last few songs. Once we got absolutely wasted after a gig in cork and woke up in a post office. But as they say...what goes on tour stays on tour.

Where would you like to be in a year's time?

John: We're going to record the next album in Newgrange.

Darcy: Hopefully we would have established a small but growing fan base in the UK. It would be quite nice if we would be appearing on a national TV programme like Jonathan Ross. I like him.

Maybe there would be a comic strip in the Beano dedicated to the trials and tribulations of Ham Sandwich! I could definitely see myself as a celebrity host on Have I got news for you. My jokes are amazing. I would love to see us play all the festivals in the UK. Maybe then I could loose my job as a pimpdaddy.

Message for your fans...

John: Get your BBQ equipment now, good deals out there and it's gonna be a great summer!!

Darcy: Repect Nature. It is your friend.

Oliie: Drink Buckfast it’s good for you!!!!

Podge: You can teach a dog to fuck but you can't fuck a teacher’s dog

Niamh: When travelling, never forget some safety pins or hair curlers.

Interview © 2008 Jason Ritchie.
All rights reserved.


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