A few weeks ago I connected with Gary Lynas, bassist and co-founder of the Irish folk/rock/alt/indie band Emerald Armada, via Instagram. A gentleman with a decent beard, I offered to feature him on our Instagram page, and after some conversation, we struck a deal: I would send him some beard grooming products in exchange for a couple of CD’s. A couple of weeks later, the mail man showed up with the package, and I got an opportunity to give them a listen over the weekend. Between the two discs, there are nine tracks, and to be honest they are all I have been listening to all week.
With a style that blends folk with modern alternative, it’s easy to make the comparrison to Mumford & Sons. But this band has a style all its own that distinguishes it from other modern acts. You don’t hear the multi-part harmonies that Emerald Armada nails so perfectly in Mumford tunes. Mumford is also English, where Emerald Armada is clearly Irish. The influence of their homeland is evident in everything from the distinct accents in their vocals to the bodhrán style in the precussion (“I Don’t Mind” is a great example of this).
Fans of American southern music will find something to love in these songs as well. The twangy guitars and vocal harmonies are remniscent of blues and bluegrass styles respectively (check out “Be Loved”). These styles, and Emerald Armada’s, are influenced by traditional celtic music, so it makes sense that there would be some commonality. You’ll even hear a bit of slide guitar in some songs, bringing a bit of country sensibility to the sound (more old school country, though, and not the preening, pristine white cowboy hat pop music of today).
Emerald Armada is a band that is firmly positioned to break into today’s indie-heavy alt rock scene. There are clear traditional influences, but their style best fits with modern indie/folk. Listening to “Country” one half expects to hear the Decemberists’s Colin Meloy start in over the opening, minor-key accoustic strumming, as the song would be right at home on Castaways and Cutouts.
The band is more than 20 years old, formed initially by lead singer Neil Allen and his friend Gary Lynas, both of whom are still the leaders of the band. Benjamin Hamilton plays rhythm guitar, Dermot Moynagh is their official bodhrán player (get that – bodhrán, not drums), and Tony McHugh is the lead guitar who provides the afore-mentioned twangy riffs.
If you’d like to see them live, you’re going to have to live in the UK or buy yourself a plane ticket, as they’re still a regional touring act. The rest of their year is booked with UK performances, with one show in Belgium in September.
You can check them out by listening to a few tracks available on their website, or support them by picking up on iTunes (you can get the self-titled EP, which includes my personal favorite “I Don’t Mind” for only £3.16 – so pretty reasonably priced). They’re on Soundcloud as well. So you’ve got options.
If you’re into the modern, indie, alt sound, these guys definitely make it their own with heavy traditional Irish folk influence. They’re perfect for the current alt landscape, so don’t be surprised if you’re hearing about them more and more.