A Donegal rock band has won an award in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition.
In Their Thousands came second in the rock category of the award for the title track of their debut album, Acrasia, which is no mean feat considering there were almost 19,000 entries from 140 countries all over the world.
“The word ‘acrasia’ comes from Greek philosophy and essentially describes the state of knowing the right course of action but not following it, due to weakness of will,” explains songwriter Ruairí Friel.
“I wrote the lyrics on the back of a napkin at Edinburgh airport one day and put it into a book I was reading. It summed up a lot of things I was feeling about the world at the time; how we all seem to be at the mercy of bad ideas and false information and how much easier it is to destroy than build.
“One day in rehearsals we hit on a good dancey groove and chord progression and I dug the napkin back out of the book. It’s a song that you can dance to and, despite being about overcoming evil acts and personal suffering, it’s hopeful.”
Lead singer and guitarist Ruairí is joined in the band by his cousins, brothers Aidan (vocals/drums) and Declan McClafferty (vocals/guitar/pedal steel), and their friend, bass player Marty Smyth.
They hail from three different peninsulas on the north west coast of Donegal and Ruairí , Aidan, and Declan have been playing together for years, ever since they first picked up instruments.
“We were playing in different pub bands,” explains Ruairí. “But we got disillusioned with the whole gigging circuit and we all gave it up about ten years ago and started to focus on our own material with Marty, who plays base.”
In Their Thousands was formed six years ago and the band has had several EP and chart releases but their debut album lands today, launching at The Grand Social tonight.
“It’s a double album really – it brings together a lot of material we’ve been working on for the last few years. It’s a 13 track album and most albums now only have eight tracks. We just decided to go for it,” says Ruairi, who reveals they managed to fund the album by reinvesting their earnings.
“We managed this time not to have to personally invest in it, not to have to seek funding from anyone else, so we’re standing alone, just scraping by!” he laughs.
All four have day jobs to fund their passion.
“We’ve all worked on building sites over the years and still do odd jobs like that but really we do the other jobs as a means to buy ourselves the freedom to push the band forward,” he says. “We all have different hats we have to put on to try to afford ourselves the time to get together and work on the music and not have to go and start a wedding band or something like that!”
Their sound is ever evolving but Ruairi cites their early influences as Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. More recently they’ve taken inspiration from “great writer lyricists” like Dylan and Neil Young. So, winning such a prestigious award for their songwriting, judged by names including Tom Waits, John Mayall, and Bastille, has been a particular thrill.
“It’s always nice to get some kind of recognition for your work and especially when it’s in a way not involved with anybody that you know. You know in Ireland everybody and your aunty might say it’s good but you can’t really take it as a genuine compliment but if you do anything she loves you!” laughs Ruairí.
“I knew that Tom Waits was involved [in judging] and he would be quite inspirational in the world of songwriting and over the years I’ve had great respect for him. He doesn’t put his name to everything. He’s really avoided anything that used his work for advertising and I think he really has integrity in that way.”
‘Acrasia’ is the title track from In Their Thousands’ album, out now. They launch Acrasia at THe Grand Social, Dublin tonight (Friday May 17) at 8pm. Tickets €15 https://www.thegrandsocial.ie/events/in-their-thousands . They also play the Menagerie Bar, Belfast on Friday 24th.
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