(Editor’s note: The band now goes by Hello Casanova, but still plays the music they recorded as Foreign Affairs NI)
Foreign Affairs NI, a pop punk trio from Armagh, Ireland, released a new punk tune, “Pennies,” on March 25.
This is the first of three “Meet the Band” interviews to help introduce these amazing musicians.
Up first is Matthew Irwin, singer and rhythm guitarist and main songwriter.
Matt isn’t shy about speaking his mind in the songs for Foreign Affairs, which are pure ear candy. Every tune is filled with infectious beats and hooks galore.
You add to that bandmates Ethan Williamson on guitar and backing vocals and Martin Miller on drums and you have a crazy good power pop punk trio (yes, they are lacking a full-time bass player at the moment).
Sit back, meet Matt and find out what makes this songwriting genius tick:
So, when did you start in music? What got you there?
I started playing guitar when I was 10! In Grade 7, I did my electric guitar exams and did really well in them.
I always loved music more than anything else and I would teach myself my favorite songs and play them every day until it came to a point where I started writing my own songs.
My earliest songs are pretty embarrassing, but it’s all a learning curve. I started the band in 2013 with Martin, then got Ethan in to play guitar and we have been giving our all at that ever since.
I’ve gotten to where I am because of hard work and dedication. I spend most of my day writing lyrics or coming up with musical ideas. I’m always writing and working on something exciting for the band.
I obviously have people who have given me the tools to do this, like my mum and dad who got me my first few guitars, and my girlfriend, who got me the guitar I use on stage today.
There’s still a long way to go and I’m only gonna work harder.
That covers about 3 questions! Do you play any other instruments?
I sing, play guitar, I can play basic keyboard and piano and recently I’ve been teaching myself how to use samplers and synthesizers. I really love those as I can create really unusual and awesome sounds all from my computer.
Where are you going to school and what are you studying? How much longer to go?
I go to the Southern Regional College in Armagh and study an HND in music. It’s really awesome and I’ve learned so much. I may be going on to Queens University to finish a degree in sonic arts and music, but that’s all depending on how things with band go.
I could be finished this year or have two more years.
Who are your musical influences?
Green Day, Motion City Soundtrack, Fighting With Wire, The Cure, David Bowie, Nirvana and Placebo, to name a few.
The local music scene actually influences me a lot too. There’s so many amazing bands and artists — Gascan Ruckus and Jealous Of The Birds are just a few examples. I forgot Twenty One Pilots too, they’re great.
You can always add more. How about TV and movies? What do you like to watch?
My God, I am the biggest movie buff about. I have hundreds of DVDs and collect them all the time.
My favorite movies are harder to choose than my favorite artists. “Predator” will always have a special place with me. It’s like a movie I grew up with. Then there’s “Inglorious Bastards,” “The Sixth Sense,” the Batman movies, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Deadpool,” “The Departed” … I could go on all day!
I love TV shows too. My favorite is “Dexter.” I’m really enjoying “The Walking Dead” at the minute.
Good stuff. Any other hobbies outside of music?
I love exercising and keeping fit. I do the Shaun T Insanity fitness DVDs, go for runs and swim a lot.
I love going to the cinema, going on trips with my girlfriend and spending time with my little brother. I love going to gigs and going out for a drink, too.
What was the best part about visiting the U.S. for YouBloom, and what was the strangest thing?
The show! It was so awesome to play to lots of people for the first time in a different country that’s so far from home. However, we had a complete blast the whole time.
Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach are my favorite places in L.A. So beautiful and full of life. I miss it all the time … We’ll be back soon though and hopefully play a few more states this time.
The strangest thing about the U.S. has to be that Donald Trump can be considered for president.
For such an amazing place filled with interesting and amazing people, how can a large part of the population rally behind somebody who’s such a racist, a bigot and a God awful person?
Apologies for getting political, haha!
No apologies needed. It is pretty odd. So, speaking of political, tell me a bit about “Pennies.”
“Pennies” is a song all about how the working and lower classes are left behind and mistreated by the upper ruling classes. It’s about the fact that we can be oblivious to this.
It’s about the need for a realization that we can do better than what we’ve got and that we don’t need a system that favors one side. Everybody is equal and everybody deserves a fair chance at life.
“Pennies” is the first song where I’ve been so direct with my lyrics that it’s frightening, but I’m not going to write soppy love songs without meaning. If I can help even a little, I’m going to do that.
But it also has to be very freeing, to be able to say exactly what you mean.
It is yeah! I’m glad I’ve done it and I’m proud to have had the balls to do it.
I’m also proud to have been able to take my leap to do that at such a young age. I would love it if even a quarter of the people my age paid attention to what’s going on in the world.
Songs like “Pennies” may make them take notice. I love the frantic energy it gives off and the crazy tempo changes. It’s just wicked.
Thanks a lot! It’s frantic for a reason. It takes a lot of influence from old punk rock songs that are political. It’s pretty in-your-face which I like a lot. Hopefully other people like it.
I bet they will. Will you be playing a show for “Pennies” release?
I’m not sure at the minute. There’s a B-side to “Pennies” coming — A live version of “High Tide” which will be cool. A live video is coming for that too. I’m not sure that we’ll be doing a specific launch show, but who knows.
I Love “High Tide”! Can’t wait to see the live videos. I bet Ethan is hard at work on them.
I do too! It’s a proper full band electric version, so it’s cool!
Well, we haven’t gotten the tracks back yet as we haven’t the cash to pay for them at the moment, but hopefully in the next few days it’ll be sorted.
“High Tide” could be out in the next week or two anyway.
Lots of harmonies? I love when you do harmonies.
There is, yeah! I always encourage Ethan to give it a go.
To get Foreign Affairs EPs “Heartline” and “Prologue,” go to http://foreignaffairsire.bandcamp.com/