The words “local band” have such negative connotations, they envoke the image of a half-empty venue, populated by the band’s friends, parents and girlfriends, while the guys on stage play a set consisting of five covers and one original song that sounds like the covers.
The opposite can be said for Culann, while it’s true there are many familiar faces in attendance, the cheers following each song increase in volume as the set marches on, winning over more and more punters.
Not only is every song an original (in more ways than one), but most are having only their second live performance ever after a ‘comeback’ gig last month.
Somehow, they perform these fresh songs with a tightness that many more established bands would be jealous of.
Speaking to the band before the gig, I ask how they would sell themselves to someone who has yet to listen to them.
Drummer Sean Kelly says “the best selling point is that we’re different, so you hear something you wouldn’t usually hear.”
Lead vocalist and guitarist PJ Kelly agrees and reckons that there is everything from touches of prog to Scottish folk in the mix, along with hints of influences by personal interests
Sure enough, it’s a hard sound to describe; out of the new songs aired ‘I Am The Red’ has a massive chorus with stop-start verses, which then progresses (no pun intended) into what you would imagine Rush would sound like if they were Scots.
Set closer ‘Grafter’ even has elements of post-rock with its monumental chord-orientated passages.
The band has recently spent some time up north in Watercolour studio, a small house attached to a studio located near Ben Nevis.
“It was really good, it’s like a retreat; no distractions, no phone signal or anything, you’re cut off,” PJ comments.
Sean adds that it was ideal for fine-tuning some songs since you can “stay up all night and play if you want.”
The songs being recorded and performed have been a long time in the making; several songs were recorded a year ago.
Guitarist Greg Irish comments: “I think bands write songs too quickly these days, we tend to take our time, make them as good as we possibly can, rather than rush them.”
PJ comments “I think it’s good recording in three different sessions, we’ve had the chance to go away and think about what’s good.
“People go away and record albums in four weeks solid and have no time to reflect on it.”
Keyboardist Ross McCluskie agrees, adding “every song has been worked on by different people, and has been made as good as it can be.”
This intricacy and attention to detail is clearly what makes Culann such tight performers.
While it may be one of the first times we’ve heard much of the new material, for the band these songs are already old-favourites that have been biding their time to be unleashed into their setlists.
The band’s enthusiasm shows – just before going onstage, there is still a buzz from all members as Tut’s slowly fills.
By the time the more well known ‘Beat Your Chest’ is performed, another crowd has been converted to Culann’s unique sound.
With another Watercolour stint ahead in August to finish up three more tracks, an album due out by the end of 2012, and numerous more gigs planned for the foreseeable future, Culann appear to be on an upward trajectory.
As chants of “I’m only here for the Culann!” ring out, their already dedicated, and growing, fanbase will be along for the ride every step of the way.
Words: Scott Wilson
Photos: Shaun Murawski