PEOPLE Street, the very fine debut album from The Kanyu Tree, soared as high as number four in the Irish charts on its release recently, the culmination of a lot of hard work by the Galway band.
Formed almost five years ago, there has been various incarnations of the band, which is essentially made up of three brothers - Daniel, Shane and Oisin Cluskey. When we first saw them many moons ago in Baker Place, Shane was a drummer-cum-singer, and while the band’s potential was clearly apparent, it felt a bit under used.
The decision to move Shane from out behind the drums and into the key frontman role, had a dramatic effect on the band, Dan explains.
“Shane used to sing and drum at the same time and it didn’t really work, you kind of need a frontman as a focal point and he became that,” says Dan.
“We did a few gigs with Republic of Loose and we saw what a presence Mick Pyro has on stage and Shane was kind of hidden behind the drums. We tried him on risers and putting him out the very front, but it was kind of hard for him.
“We always knew he had it in him, he is a great performer and is very passionate when it comes to singing - he is a natural. That was about two years ago. Ever since then he has fitted the role perfectly and we have no regrets whatsoever. The only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner,” he adds.
The band turned to sessions drummers to fill the role vacated by Shane, but it turned out the ideal candidate was much closer to home, adding a fourth brother to the band, the youngest Cluskey - Ruairi, 22, earlier this year.
“We couldn’t afford to pay session drummers any more,” laughs Dan heartily.
“Ruairi, this time last year, had never picked up a drumstick. We had our first gigs with him last Christmas, seriously, throwing him in the deep end.. And our next gig after that was a support slot to Example in the Academy! He took to it like a duck to water and, after touring with Bressie recently, there is just a notable difference in how much tighter we have gotten,” he adds.
Hence the Kanyu Tree are a proper family four-piece now, but it is not an idea they were keen on when starting out.
“It was kind of an accident really. We were all in bands in college and they finished and we started writing our own stuff. Then we decided to put those songs to the test and start gigging and we were a bit apprehensive at the start about the whole brother thing, but we have gotten over at this stage,” explains Dan.
“A lot of people still don’t know that we are brothers, it is kind of like the whole Kings of Leon thing, we don’t advertise it that we are brothers - we could have easily called ourselves the Cluskeys, but it doesn’t have the same ring! We couldn’t have picked a more obscure name, that is one reason why we picked a weird name like that, to detract from the whole brother thing,” he laughs.
Dan freely admits that being in a band with his brothers has its ups and downs, but strangely, little in the way of arguments.
“I think the best thing about it is that you can just be brutally honest, especially when it comes to writing. You don’t really worry about hurting someone’s feelings if they come up with a part and it’s shite,” he laughs.
“The three of us write together, there is no one songwriter, it is all about trial and error, if something is good, then it will stay, and if it is bad, then it won’t.
“In that sense you don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings and we are all equally laid back.. It is kind of easier to get on than have a fight, that is much more effort to be honest,” he adds.
The resulting album, produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammed (Tribe Called Quest) and mixed by Chris Potter (The Verve, Keane), is something of a triumph, a dashing mix of upbeat radio-friendly pop, and darker, lyrically rich, melancholic soul, all synths, harmonies and falsettos. Hits like Radio and Shelf Life couldn’t be more different than Something and the string-laden Stay Up that closes the album.
“We don’t want to be pigeon holed as a 90 mile per hour pop group,” says Dan. “Even lyrically a lot of the songs would be slightly off-kilter, with a touch of melancholy.
“A lot of the songs aren’t these happy, poppy songs, they might be musically, but lyrically they are far from it. You never set out to write a pop song, it just happens. The same as you don’t set out to write a ballad or a slow song. It just happens.”
The Kanyu Tree play Bourke’s Bar on Thursday November 11. People Street is out now on Sony.