Brilliant indie bands have a way of finding their way to my door. I get so many messages and emails from talented bands that sometimes it takes a while for me to sort through the mail and get back to them, but I am always genuinely excited when I do.
Several months ago, Tony O’Donovan, vocalist for Irish pop/rock band The Burma introduced me to his band through an email. The Cobh, County Cork band have a fresh, energetic feeling to their music. This is a band going places.
They are already making waves with several songs.
“Love Fades” was just released and it’s a great little pop tune. It has a hooky chorus and a lively flow.
“The Way It Is” has a shimmery guitar line and a fun bounce to it.
I was able to have a chat recently with Tony to learn more about The Burma. Here is our conversation:
Let’s dive in right from the top … Tell me who everyone is in the band and what they play and bring to the band?
Cool. Peter Piggott plays guitar, he’s been playing all his life, he’s a natural musician and would be really well-respected around Cork. One of our main songwriters.
Mike Bruton is other guitarist. Mike also sings a lot of backing vocals and we’ve been practicing in his dad Pat’s garage for years now. Wouldn’t write as much as the others, but when he does, they’re always bangers!
Kev Keating plays drums. Kev and Peter have been in bands together since they were small. A Metallica nerd!
Sean McLoughlin plays bass. Our most recent member, he joined last year. He’s been a huge addition to the band with his playing ability and brilliant songwriting.
I am lead vocalist and write most of the lyrics.
When did you start singing? Do you play anything too?
I play guitar too but nowhere near the level of the two lads, so it’s best I leave them to it! Mike asked me to join the band after Peter saw me singing at a school Christmas concert in 2010. I started playing guitar and singing when I was 11.
Playing guitar has gotta help with songwriting though.
Ya, it definitely does. When I’m stuck for a melody I’ll always go to the guitar and try to work one out from there. When we write songs either Peter or Sean will send me the music and I’ll write lyrics and melody over that.
When did you begin writing songs?
When I joined up with the lads to form the band. The ambition from the start was always to have our own songs so we got stuck in to it straight away. We still have all the recordings of our first songs. Some of them are hard to listen to now, but some are actually pretty good and got really popular around our hometown a couple of years back.
Obviously we feel we’re writing at a much better standard now though but we weren’t awful at the start by any means!
I’ve been listening to the three from this year – “Head in the Clouds,” “In the Summertime” and “Love Fades” — but I also found a few from 2015 on YouTube – “The Doctor and Witch”?
We released “In The Summertime” as a single during the summer, but funnily enough we moved on from it fairly quickly and have cut it from the set now, which isn’t a bad thing I suppose. “The Doctor and Witch” is from a time last year when we had a few tunes knocking about but they were all really different from each other. We made a conscious decision to cut a lot of songs and try to focus in on a more particular sound, so that was one of the songs that got the chop. We should probably update our YouTube!
Everybody grows … It’s great if you know early the direction you want to go as a band and focus on getting there.
Definitely. That’s what we struggled with a lot early doors but recently we seem to have found our stride. No one’s asking questions about it we’re just getting the songs done while we’re in the form.
When you are songwriting then, is it as a group?
No, never as a group. We’ve never been the type of band to sit around and jam. Typically, one person would write the bones of the song and send a demo of it to me. Then I would write a melody for over the top, when it comes to lyrics it might be an idea that I’ve had knocking around for ages and it just suits the song nicely or I might just write something new for it. When we bring it to practice then everybody has their own influence on it and after a couple of weeks arranging it, it will be good to go!
For example, for our new song “Love Fades.” Sean wrote all the music except for the bridge, he sent a demo to me and I did the lyrics and melody. Then when we needed a bridge, Peter came up with a great one, so nearly everybody has hand in every song.
That system works well for you! “Love Fades” is a fantastic tune … Very sad video though!
Thanks very much! We are happy with that one and we’ve a few more that we’ll be releasing in the New Year as well that are definitely at a new standard. Our friend Dave Marshall and a group from his multimedia course did the video. Dave is excellent, you always know you’re in good hands. Dave is a great drummer himself and he really got into the song and the lyrics when he was writing the script. We’re really happy with how it turned out.
It should help you go far … How much of the actual painting did you do?
Haha! go back over the video and pause it whenever the painting is in the shot. That should give you a good laugh!
Haha, I will … What musical influences does everyone bring to the band?
We all have similar taste in the sense that we all like loads of different types of music, if that makes sense.
Sure, but name some examples … current bands? Ones you grew up on?
We’re influenced by the likes of The Smiths, The Killers and The Strokes but we like other artists like The Weeknd and Metallica too. We don’t care what type of music it is just so it’s good! Kev and Mike grew up playing metal. My favourite lyricists are Bob Dylan and Alex Turner. Peter is hugely influenced by John Frusciante and John Mayer.
Everything and anything!
Yes, that is a nice variety! How is the music scene in Cobh?
Cobh is a great town for music but there’s not much happening with original bands. Cobh is a small town too though so we’d have to go to Cork City to play with other bands and get decent gigs.
You have some big ones coming up — support for The Academic on Dec. 9 (and The Strypes on Dec. 7) — how did that come about?
Yea two big ones in two days! We showed interest in supporting The Academic as soon as we heard of the gig. Then there was a competition run. We had to submit a song. I think there was about 20 bands from around Cork altogether in the competition and we won it with a song we actually haven’t released yet, it’s of the songs that will be released in the new year.
Oh, tell me about it … Rocker? Ballad? Have you been playing it already?
Yea we’ve played it a few times now. Peter wrote it. It’s a real sweet song with a great bridge. Like something from the sixties.
Sounds great. Did you play many festivals this summer?
Nothing! I think our first gig outside of Cobh this year was in August! We were getting our act together but we’re itching to play festivals next summer and have been doing some work on that side of things already. We’d love to get out on a good run of shows sorted so we’re working on that. Will you put us up in The States? We’re very clean you won’t even know we’re there!
Haha, I’d love to! And better still, in the next several months, I’m moving to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You bet I’ll be checking the music scene to get feet in their doors! I’m the meantime, have you signed up at all for YouBloom?
Very nice indeed! Don’t be at all surprised if we rock up on your doorstep some summer day, haha. There’s a beach in Cork called Myrtleville Beach, we’ll more than likely rock up there instead. We haven’t. Our friend Jamie Stanton from Cobh played there this year though and had good success! I’m not too read up on it though. What is it exactly?
YouBloom is a group that helps support and build Irish musicians. They hold conference festivals in Dublin and Los Angeles. Many up-and-comers I know have played either or both. I’ll send a link — get yourself applied! It’s a great stepping stone. (www.youbloom.com)
Cool sounds good. We’ll get on that, thank you.
I know The Academic played LA a year or so ago — ask them.
Really? Ya, I will do!
Also The Klares, Foreign Affairs NI (now Hello Casanova) … It could be life changing.
Have you gotten any good advice from other bands?
Na. Hopefully off The Strypes Wednesday night! I can’t imagine any great bands like them would be dishing out advice though. They write great songs and are unbelievable live, that’s all you have to worry about surely.
So what’s the big plan? What goals do you have for yourselves?
For the moment, just keep writing good songs, you can never have enough. We’d love to get ourselves out to a bigger audience too, so hopefully The Strypes gig and The Academic gig will be the start of that.
In the New Year we’ll be releasing five or six new songs online in sort of an EP/Mixtape fashion and we’ll see how it goes from there.
Are you looking to gig out of Ireland, I’d guess?
In the future definitely, but at the moment we want to play more in Ireland and hopefully people will like what they hear. A really good gig in Dublin next maybe, step by step!
Sounds great. Any more shows coming up?
Our next show is Dec. 23 in The Well House, Cobh.
You can find The Burma on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theburmaofficial/?fref=ts, on Twitter at @theburmacobh, on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/theburma and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnfSE6vdaPRytLEJKndHyng.