PAUL Noonan is quick to paint a lyrical picture of his previous Spiegeltent experiences and says the ornate venues allow for “a very special sort of evening”.
The Bell X1 frontman will play in the Magic Cristal Spiegeltent for Culture & Chips this Saturday night, with his old mate Gemma Hayes, in his Printer Clips guise, an exceedingly rare opportunity to see the side project in these parts.
He calls it a “labour of love for years”, with shows that are “few and far between”.
Noonan has long been the illustrative whizz-kid songsmith of Bell X1 - at least in its infancy - with his multi-instrumentalist counterpart Dave Geraghty supplying the melody to his friend’s metaphoric musings.
Such richly drawn imagery abounds on the self-titled Printer Clips album Noonan released last year, one that features a different female vocalist on each of its nine tracks, from Lisa Hannigan to Amy Millan to Martha Wainwright to Joan As Policeman, and Hayes herself, on the beautiful The Snowman.
Listen to Mrs Winchester with Wainwright, which was inspired by a trip to the eponymous San Jose estate, now a museum to the widow of the man who invented the rifle and went mad as a result, and hear Noonan’s lyrical musings - as also seen on countless Bell X1 songs - at their best.
“I thought that was a great story and the song might suit Martha - and it did I think,” he says. “I tried a few songs - we tended, when I spent some time with people, to try a few songs and certain songs would settle easier than others.”
He assembled the cast, that also includes Maria Doyle Kennedy, Cathy Davey, Danielle Harrison and Julia Stone, through “annoying people and through friends of friends”, eventually getting to the likes of Wainwright and Joan As Policewoman.
“I took a trip over with my recording setup in my bag and rocked up to their apartments and recorded like that. It was very informal and very organic in that sense,” he explains.
It is organic, and intensly delicate and personal - an “antidote”, he says, to the noodling and layering on several of the Bell X1 albums.
“It is hard for me to be objective about it - but it doesn’t sound like a record recorded in a plush studio, it has a sort of - I hope - DIY charm to it,” he says.
“It is short and I think that is a good thing, because it is pretty narrow as a palette, there is not a lot of ear candy and other noises than sort of very simple voice and pretty sparse accompaniment. I wanted to keep it that way and retain the feel of the two of us in the room and capturing the moment.
“The record was a sort of antidote to the complexity of the Bell X1 records, at least around the time I started, when we really started getting into our toys and our computers and layers. But for me the beauty of two voices and guitars was a real antidote to that.”
For the Spiegeltent show in Limerick, Gemma Hayes will perform all of the songs with him, plus a few of her new songs and some favourites.
“We have always had a sort of intuition and synchronicity between our voices and where we should go, harmony wise,” he says.
“She fits in really well. There is something very compelling about a boy and girl voice - they become something other than the sum of themselves.”
Printer Clips play this Saturday night at 7.30pm. See cultureandchips.com for more details.