A Chat with Seamus O’Muineachain (01.10.2022) | The Other Side Reviews

The world around us is something that can invoke deep emotions, made more powerful by the personal connections we have with our surroundings. With his sixth album Isthmus, Seamus O’Muineachain takes us on an instrumental exploration of his hometown and the remote peninsula it is located on. Across the tracks, he draws on the almost magical topography of his surroundings to take us across the land and fill us with the emotions he associates with each element of nature. Joined by by Akito Goto on cello, he merges piano-driven tones with electronic delicacy for captivating tracks. We had the opportunity to chat with him about this album, driving forces, instrumentation, musical comparisons and much more!

OSR: As a teenager, you were an amateur boxer who won four national titles and represented Ireland internationally, but chose to pursue music instead. Was there a defining moment that caused this shift?

O’Muineachain: Entering adulthood and finally making my own decisions about my life definitely brought me to the arts. 

OSR: Tony Conway (Mood 6) impacted the style of music you make. Can you tell us more about how you met and his advice?

O’Muineachain: Tony was a teacher on a Performing Arts course I was taking, and he advised me to focus less on singing and more on my instrumental work, which I think was good advice.  

OSR: Isthmus is your sixth album and delves into a sonic exploration of your hometown. What prompted you to explore this landscape through your music now?

O’Muineachain: Moving back to my hometown in Belmullet after living in the Czech Republic for a year was a big inspiration. I’ve travelled quite a bit, but I always end up back home. Every time I come back, I see it with new eyes. 

OSR: You play all the instruments on the album besides the cello provided by Akito Goto. How did you and Goto connect for this project?

O’Muineachain: Akito is a fantastic cellist, and I reached out to him to collaborate with me on this project. I think his contributions are a highlight, and it has inspired me to work with more musicians in the future. 

OSR: While the tracks of the album are all instrumental, there are also field recordings woven into the songs. Why did you choose to include these recordings?

O’Muineachain: Field recordings bring a representational element into otherwise non-representational instrumental music. I was also inspired by the album “Dream River” by Henry Earnest, which features a lot of water sounds. I’ve been using field recordings in my work since 2011, so I don’t think I’m directly copying from someone’s style, yet the way Henry Earnest mixed those natural elements with electronics was really inspiring to me.  

OSR: Through the piano, guitars and synths, you paint a picture of a rugged landscape that holds an almost otherworldly beauty. How easy did you find it to craft these sonic landscapes?

O’Muineachain: Thank you. I found it very easy. For me, music shouldn’t represent work; perhaps that shows in my self-admittedly easy-going music. 

Photo Credit: Nahee Sim

OSR: As the music is all about your hometown, is there a track that connects with an area that holds a special place in your heart?

O’Muineachain: The track ‘Meet Me at the Pier’ symbolises a meeting point my friends and I had at a pier in our small town. People come and go, but places tend to stay around for much longer. So, in a way, these places propagate the memories of the people who are part of its history.

OSR: While the tracks explore Belmullet, are there any deeper stories woven into the instrumentation?

O’Muineachain: Most of the tracks follow a similar rhythmic pattern. I used this repetition of bass notes to explore feelings of being ‘stuck’ or ‘lost’ in life. Sometimes, we become prisoners of our natural world, no matter how beautiful it may be. For the track titles, I used nautical references and one placement of characters in the second track, “Lost Fishermen”. These titles help reinforce the story of the music, which is loosely based on a group of lost anglers who get shipwrecked on a remote peninsula of Ireland. They explore the land and meet the locals, and, in the end, a sea fog comes to cover everything, symbolising a new chapter brought on by the power of nature. 

OSR: As you are familiar with the landscape, did you find it easy to transform the visuals and emotions of the area into engaging music?

O’Muineachain: I think landscapes are constantly in flux. Not just from our personal point of view, and not just from a cultural point of view, but also from ecological and political perspectives.

OSR: How do you feel this album compares to your previous releases?

O’Muineachain: For better or worse, I try to avoid a retrospective analysis of my work. 

OSR: Following the album’s release, what else do you have in store for the coming months?

O’Muineachain: I wish I knew!

Thanks to Seamus O’Muineachain for chatting with us! You can find more about him on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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