Nothing meek about this Ham Sandwich

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

HAM Sandwich are excited. They are gearing up for a busy spell of gigs that will include two shows in Limerick in the coming weeks, but it is the prospect of a gig at Benicassim in Spain that is really stoking the fire of the band’s unbridled enthusiasm.

HAM Sandwich are excited. They are gearing up for a busy spell of gigs that will include two shows in Limerick in the coming weeks, but it is the prospect of a gig at Benicassim in Spain that is really stoking the fire of the band’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Frontwoman Niamh Farrell can’t contain a wide grin at the merest mention of the Spanish festival, one of Europe’s biggest.

“I’ve never been,” she admits, “but my boyfriend was there a few years ago and camped and said it was unbelievably hot. Apparently everywhere around the festival they have cold showers so people can cool off. I have a feeling I am probably going to melt out there!”

By our estimation the Irish indie rock band, with their quirky, eccentric dual vocal front pairing of Farrell and Podge McNamee, will probably melt Spanish hearts with their festival set, bursting with songs from their 2008 debut Carry the Meek and the more subdued, yet harmony filled 2010 follow-up White Fox.

“Hopefully they will like us. We kind of go into these things all guns blazing,” grins Farrell.

“Anything we do we try and have fun as well as playing the songs so hopefully we will create a good festival atmosphere. Festivals are where we have shown ourselves in the best light, they have been the best gigs we have done to date and we get a massive buzz out of playing them, so hopefully that will cross the language barrier as well.”

Ham Sandwich are veterans now of Glastonbury, Popcom, Electric Picnic and last year’s London Feis in Finsbury Park at this stage, and will play at Rocky Mayhem in Kilfinane this month ahead of gigs at Indiependence and the Stradbally extravanganza in September.

“For festivals you normally only get half an hour to 40 minutes, so we keep all of our punchiest tracks to the fore, they go straight in and we make the intros and outros bigger and we have violin and trumpet as well. We do add in stuff to make the sound bigger,” explains Niamh.

Along with the Kanyu Tree, Tarantella Fall and local band Dead Red Light, Ham Sandwich will play at the Hot Press Jägermeister Freezer Sessions in Dolan’s this Thursday (with a late start to allow for the Irish soccer match) and will tailor their set accordingly.

“That is what we tend to do at gigs around the country, we try to have that happy medium. We played Galway last week and did a 16-song set, our full set, so we will probably do something similar in Limerick. We do a good mixture, throw in an odd cover here and there and it should make for a good gig,” explains Niamh, bemoaning the fact that it is “ages” since the band played in Limerick.

Farrell happily reports that the band are beginning to “kick some new ideas around” for an anticipated third album, due sometime early next year.

“We are at the point where we are sending around demos to each other of stuff we are working on and getting together to work on them collectively,” she explains.

“I recorded a little song myself on the guitar recently, the first one I have ever both played and sung. Normally I would record something just guitar or put a vocal idea on somebody else’s demo. I sent it to the guys and they are all really enthusiastic about it, so you get a little boost of confidence about writing again,” she adds.

The band got a huge measure of confidence from the reaction to White Fox, which was spurred on by the success of the single Ants, an intoxicating, country-esque lullaby with ever-so disjointed vocal harmonies and a dark edge.

“After the release of Ants it just spiralled from there. That song and the video were the catalyst for people who wouldn’t necessarily have listened to us before, but began buying our album and coming to shows,” she says firmly.

“It was one of those things - it (White Fox) is very different to our first album, very different,” she continues. “We went into it with the experience of the first album and had all become more in tune with one another and writing, and we all were a lot more heavily involved equally in writing White Fox. It happened in such a quick amount of time, from writing to recording to getting the album out I think it was just over two and a half months, which was madness.

“I’m sure other bands have gone through that where you are nearly ready to kill each other, but you realise, hold on, we have something that we love and all think is really good here and you don’t want to take that lightly and throw it away. We were delighted when it came out and people were really, really into it.”

Ham Sandwich play in Dolan’s Warehouse this Thursday as part of the Jägermeister-Hot Press Freezer Sessions and Rocky Mayhem festival, Kilfinane, on June 29. See RockyMayhem.com for more.