When Jack Badcock and Ciarán Ryan teamed up with Hungarian fiddler Jani Lang to form Dallahan (our Artist of the Month for April), the only thing on their minds was making music. Whilst playing in Edinburgh pub sessions, such as the famous Sandy Bell’s, and busking in the city; their only notion of international tours, awards ceremonies and widespread praise in the music press was that these things happen to other bands. However, thanks to their unique approach and fine musicianship, all those things have very much happened to Dallahan and their new album, Matter of Time, shows them developing their music with a rare maturity for a second album and promises treats in store for the live audiences who’ll be enjoying their music throughout the summer.
So, before Dallahan get too busy with the string of live dates lined up between now and August, we managed to catch up with co-founder and guitarist/singer/songwriter Jack Badcock to ask a few questions about the band, their singularly engaging music and playing to international audiences.
That unique approach has many facets, but the Balkan influences of Jani Lang stand out. I asked Jack whether there was an instant empathy between the music he and Ciaran were playing and Jani’s when they first met?
“Initially we only came together through a mutual love of Irish music. That’s what we wanted to play together. Sometimes though, we would hear Jani playing Balkan or Transylvanian tunes and a cool tune is a cool tune no matter where it’s from so we’d be eager to try and fit these tunes in to our music”. So it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to add some international flavours to the music? “Jani’s been an Irish music lover for 20 years and so he was drawn to me and Ciaran when we played as a duo before Dallahan. It’s rare to come by genuine players of these Eastern and Central European music traditions of such a high standard so we were always in awe of this about Jani’s fiddling”.
In Matter of Time the band take a significant step forward in terms of musical development – more complex arrangements, a richer sound and a wider sphere of influences. Were these goals that developed while touring last year, or were they brought to the studio for the new album?
“The first album was made before we’d done much gigging and was an exploration of what kind of thing we might come up with together. By the time we started coming up with the material for the second album, we’d toured a lot together and had a pretty unanimous idea of what the sound of Dallahan was and should be, so when we sat to come up with material we were more confidently sprouting ideas and being creative”!
That collective responsibility, if you like, is just as important to the sound. For tune sets, Ciaran and Jani are the main resources, but when a song needs something extra to fit the band’s sound, you’re there with the melody for the job. The tunes they bring to the album influence the creation of your own melodies, but does it work both ways?
“Yes quite often we’ll be sat in a pub session or round a kitchen table and I might be playing a wee groove that then gets turned into a tune by Jani or Ciaran”. Often another tune is incorporated into the song (in Logan, for example) I was intrigued about how those are chosen? “In the case of the songs and tunes incorporated with each other, yes sometimes the underlying groove of one of the boys tunes might become the basis of a song. There’s a tune on the album in the middle of ‘Blow The Candle Out’ that me and Ciaran wrote backstage in Copenhagen together”.
Matter of Time benefits from a few well-chosen guest appearances. Paddy Callaghan has a long association with the band and Jarlath Henderson can always be relied on to add a new dimension to any recording session, but the inclusion of Ciara McCafferty on vocals has worked very well – how did that come about?
“We knew of her because Paddy Callaghan, who plays button box on a couple of tracks, had been sent the rough mixes for the new album from his friend’s band Connla, in which Ciara is the singer. We’d been talking about having a female backing singer as a guest on the album and when we heard Ciara’s singing on Connla’s CD, we instantly knew the job was hers!”
Away from the recording studio, the band’s live shows have done far more than help develop your music, you’ve been building up a strong live following too.
“The touring’s been great and we’d had some amazing audiences! It’s hard to beat a Glasgow crowd though”. You’ve just finished seven weeks touring in Europe. Have the continental audiences been as receptive as those in the UK? “We had a couple of gigs in Germany that came close but the best effort has to be from when we played at a Frederikshavn Refugee Centre in Denmark for a large crowd of mostly Syrians. They were amazing to play for – Hugely enthusiastic dancers!”
This summer’s UK gigs cover a wide area, and a wide range of venues from village halls to festival stages – are there different approaches to the live show for different venues?
“Yeah we’re fortunate that our repertoire can be quite easily tailored to fit a seated concert or a more lively gig. We also often bring a guest bassist with us for large festival stages”.
Finally, you capped off your recent European dates with a visit to Kathmandu for the Britain/Nepal bicentenary celebrations. That must have been an amazing experience.
“That was definitely one of the most memorable gigs. It was a collaborative project with the amazing Nepalese band Kutumba. We flew straight from Germany to Nepal after our German tour and the first day after we landed we had a rehearsal in the morning and that same evening went to play at the British Embassy for Prince Harry’s reception”. Do any particular moments stand out? “We rode mopeds through the streets of Kathmandu to our rehearsals every morning which was a highlight for me! The rehearsals culminated in a public outdoor show from Kathmandu Circus, Kutumba and us, and it was a lot of fun. We’re planning to continue our collaborative relationship with Kutumba so watch this space!”
Something even more special in the pipeline for Dallahan, then! It’s refreshing to see a band bringing so many fresh ideas to their music after just two albums. Dallahan continue to provide their audience with the kind of varied approach that few bands can boast of after such a relatively short time together. After such a strong second album, this year’s live dates are sure to be memorable. Whether it’s at one of the smaller, local venues or on one of the big festival stages, make sure you catch them live – it’s a thoroughly rewarding experience.
Matter of Time is Out Now
Available via www.dallahanmusic.com and on their tours.
Dallahan Tour Dates
APR 23 – Aberdeenshire, Hatton Castle
MAY 26 – Dumfries and Galloway, Colvend Hall
MAY 27 – Falkirk, Falkirk Town Hall
JUN 23 – Edinburgh, Royal Highland Show
JUN 24 – Edinburgh, Royal Highland Show
JUL 01 – Channel Islands Sark Folk Festival
JUL 08 – Priddy, Priddy Folk Festival
JUL 10 – Stonehaven, Stonehaven Folk Festival
JUL 15 – Orkney, Hoy Hoolie
JUL 16 – Orkney, Hoy Hoolie
JUL 29 – Frankfort, NY Great American Irish Festival
AUG 19 – Milwaukee, WI Milwaukee Irish Fest