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ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS SENECA

THE SWEETEST THING
ROBERT HOPE
OF SENECA TALKS TO ROCKWIRED

ABOUT THE BAND'S DEBUT CD 'SWEETER THAN BOURBON'
THE STUMBLING BLOCKS ALONG THE WAY
AND HOPES OF BREAKING THROUGH IN THE STATES
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INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
Irish rock band SENECA have released their debut CD 'SWEETER THAN BOURBON' to enthusiastic audiences and an even more enthusiastic press. Many, such as HOT PRESS MAGAZINE and THE LIMERICK INDEPENDENT are eager to put money on the hope that SENECA will be the next band to take off from Emerald Isle much like their elders, THE CRANBERRIES did fifteen years ago. In all honesty, 'SWEETER THAN BOURBON' is a sweet surprise! The album, written by lead vocalist/guitarist ROBERT HOPE, is a catalog of disillusionment and disappointment; the cornerstones of anything that is going to be considered "alternative rock". However, SENECA transcends that label with topnotch musicianship  and songwriting that knows the difference between desperation and sounding desperate. It will be very interesting to see what happens when these guys and their music hit the airwaves stateside. Disenchantment has never sounded so enchanting!

ROCKWIRED spoke with ROBERT HOPE over the phone. Here is how it went.

You've got a great CD.

Thank you very much.

Now that it's behind you, how do you feel about it.
We're very happy with the final result. there was a lot of work that went into it. We did it over a period of two years and ran into a couple of stumbling blocks along the way like broken hard drives and things like that. It was a lot of hard work but we're very happy with the final result.

That's the thing about recording on computers. Hard drives break and you have to start all over again.
We were kind of lucky actually. We really didn't lose much but it just took a while to get everything back up and running again.

The band is based out of Limerick, Ireland. Is it a musical town?
The music scene in Ireland at the moment is fantastic! For such small country,, the number of bands coming out of it who are top-class is amazing. I think Limerick will be at the heart of that. there are some fantastic bands coming out of Limerick at the moment and hopefully, you'll hear more from them as well.

So how did SENECA begin? What got everyone on the same page to be a part of a band like this?
Myself and YVONNE CONATY, the bass player, were in a band together years ago that didn't really work out and our drummer DARAGH O'LOUGHLIN joined right before that band had broken up. So we had decided that we wanted to start something new and fresh and from there we formed SENECA and I met our lead guitarist BRENDAN O'GORMAN at a house party and heard what a good guitarist he was and asked if he would like to join.

Talk about the rest of the band for a little bit. Who are they and what does each of them sort of bring to the table musically, creatively and personality-wise?
YVONNE has  very dissimilar but similar tastes, as I do in terms of music and what are influences would be. The same could be said for BRENDAN. He has more of a hard rock background than I do but he has so many styles of music in his repertoire and I think that as a result of all of these influences coming together, it creates a sound for the band that might be different. DARAGH is an amazing drummer but he is also and extremely creative drummer and that helps the songwriting out. I think his rhythms are very different from the standard 4/4 rhythm and I think it opens us up to the opportunity to try different things with the songs. With BRENDAN, I think its the same thing. If you noticed on the album, there are a lot of extremely technical guitar parts but they fit in so nicely. He's an incredible guitarist and he plays for the songs as opposed to what many great guitarists do which is put themselves above everyone else instead of playing within the song. YVONNE is an incredibly talented bassist  but other than that, she plays about ten different instruments, so she brings many different qualities to the band.

What drew you to music in the beginning?
The very, very beginning?

Yes.
I don't know. I've always loved music, ever since I was a little child. I played piano when I was a kid because of my parents and when I got older, I gave that up, stupidly. Then I picked up the guitar when i was sixteen and right away, I wanted to write songs and do music for real.

What music sort of spoke to you?
There are so many that it's kind of hard to remember. I'd have to say that one of my earliest big influences would have to be PHIL COLLINS, but obviously I've grown out of that. In my teenage years, I was actually a huge SMASHING PUMPKINS fan and was also into artists like JEFF BUCKLEY, RADIOHEAD, and BJORK. I actually got to see one of my big influences a couple of nights ago - TOM WAITS.

In reading the liner notes of the album, I've noticed that you are the chief songwriter for the band.
Up until now I've written all o f the songs but we're doing a lot more collaborative material these days.

Explain it to me, if you can explain it, the whole creative process. How does a song go from something you hear in your head to something that people are going to hear over the speakers?
It's very different for a lot of different people. For example, I've always heard that ELTON JOHN writes the lyrics first and the music comes later. For me it's the other way around. A majority of the time, I will come up with the music before I come up with the lyrics. I am a former college student who studied English  and lyrically, I like having a structure within which I can work for writing actual lyrics. It varies from song to song as to what the actual meaning or context of the song will be. For example a song like CLARITY, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about before I had any music written as opposed to other times where I've had the music completely written and then would have the music inform what the song would be about.

From SWEETER THAN BOURBON, are there any tracks that sort of stand out for you at the moment?
It's a very varied album in terms of musical styles. I'd have to say that my favorites would be SWEETER THAN BOURBON, SENTIMENTAL FREAK and CLARITY would be the songs that stand out for me. . These songs are very different in style but I think that I like them for that reason. Me and everyone else in the band really dislike the idea of having an album that is one style and one style only. I hate listening to albums that have this one style regurgitated over and over again just for the sake of filling a record. I like listening to albums that are varied and have many different styles within because they hold your interest a little more.

You said earlier that songwriting within the band was turning into more of a collaborative effort within the band. Is the band working on a new album at the moment?
At the moment, we're actually in a refurbished out by the sea on the  west coast of Ireland and writing songs for the songs for the summer and rehearsing and creating new material. Hopefully, we'll be going back into the studio next year to record and album again.

Have you guys been Stateside yet?
No not yet, but we're actually dying to get over there, sometime around September.

It would be great to see another band from Ireland make it in the States.
It's strange that Ireland only has three and a half million people yet it's produced a lot of music.

How has the band been received live?
To be honest with you, performing live is probably the most important thing for us. I've seen a lot of bands come out with these very polished albums and you can hear the amount of money that has gone into the production of them but when they play live, they are not very good or just sound like they are going through the motions and it's not very interesting. The most important thing for us is to have a fantastic live show and to put as much effort into every single time, as much as we can.

The CD has some very interesting artwork.
Yeah, it was actually done by a guy from Limerick also. His name is GERRY DAVIS and he's an incredible artist. He's only twenty one or twenty two and he's probably the most creative artist that I've ever come across.

What do you want a person to come away with after they've heard this CD?
Hopefully they will come away how I did after hearing GRACE by JEFF BUCKLEY or ADORE from SMASHING PUMPKINS. You know that feeling you get when you want to go back and listen to an album again and again and again?

Yes.
That is why we wanted to have so many aspects to the album, so people will want to come back to it again and again. I'd like for them to like the music as much as we do essentially.