Inspired by the struggling Beatles
Badhands amongst Cavan Arts Festival headliners
The Beatles were the inspiration behind the latest album by the Badhands.
Of course you could write that same sentence of a million bands to follow in the wake of the God-like Beatles. However, in the Badhands’ case it wasn’t The Beatles’ genre-defining music they found so inspirational. Rather it was the band’s struggling to batter songs into shape as portrayed in ‘Get Back’, the epic documentary by Peter Jackson that so “enthralled” Badhands’ frontman Daniel Fitzpatrick.
With relationships souring and a deadline of in 21 days the documentary shows The Beatles struggling to create what would turn out to be their final album ‘Let it Be’.
“When they first bring in a track, it sounds fairly,” Daniel pauses to carefully weigh his choice of adjective, “shite”.
“So John Lennon brings in Don’t Let Me Down - but it’s pretty rubbish and they can’t seem to get it together.
“Seeing that was really inspiring: oh that’s just like every band I’ve ever been in! But they stick with it, they’re grafters. Something happens and it clicks. I found that was the thing that really made me want to go in and play.”
Daniel explains that Badhands’ previous albums were penned in the conventional manner with him spending “a lot more time” on songs, “throwing things at it that didn’t work”.
“I was trying everything, going down the rabbit hole with certain things,” he recalls.
Driven by the documentary Daniel decamped to the studio of his friend and bandmate Chris Barry with the other fingers that make up the Badhands - Aoife Ruth, David Tapley, and Ken Mooney. They were armed with just a few loose ideas and determination to unearth an album’s worth of material in ten days. The sense of jeopardy intensified as the clock ticked ever louder during a further three days in Wicklow’s high-end Meadow Studio.
Daniel recalls the band’s determined mindset at the time: “We’ve got these three days - we’ll do long days if needs be - but we’re coming out of here with an album!
“So minds are very much focussed at that stage. In those few days we got nearly everything done,” he cheerfully reports.
Listening to the resulting eight tracks (plus a reprise) that make up the album The Wheel there’s no sense that the artistic process has been severely contracted and the whole thing “done in a flash”, as Daniel puts it.
And let’s be clear on this, The Wheel is certainly not an homage to the Beatles.
“It was the process very much we were influenced by, as opposed to the music on that album per se,” says Daniel.
However he concedes there are occasional nods with harmonies on Bad Dreams, Good Things Never Last and most notably on Head in the Clouds which is infused with George Harrison’s guitar style.
From the opening ‘For a Little While’ it’s dripping with melodies and an impeccable style. For this reviewer whimsical ‘I Don’t Mind’ about whether a relationship on the rocks has a future is the high point. The loose guitar lick at the track’s close is class.
The only off note for the Celt is the oddity Something to Sell. Let’s put it this way: if The Beatles wrote it, Ringo would be on vocals.
Daniel is pleased by how the album turned out, especially given the time constraints.
“This one was rehearsed and recorded in a few weeks whereas the previous albums were over a couple of years.
“It’s certainly something I’m really happy with.”
Anyone whose interest is piqued can catch Badhands live at Cavan Arts Festival on the night of Saturday, May 20! They are sharing the Big Top double bill with Evan Walsh’s new band Eddie Cruizer and The Savage Hearts.
The Cavan show is part of a wonderfully peculiar tour schedule which - apart from Derry and Dublin - shies away from he usual city-stops and instead plonks for a bookshop in Kinsale, a Newbridge pub and a lodge in Louisburgh.
“We’re doing a little boutique style tour,” he says.
“These were the kind of gigs we were offered that seemed like the best suited, and nicest shows, so I booked these and we were happy to leave it at that. We’re happy to go the more alternative route.”
While this will be the Badhands’ first gig in Cavan, it’s not Daniel’s.
“I can’t wait - I haven’t played up in Cavan since the old band I was in - The Mighty Stef,” he recalls. “Great gig!”
He’s referring to the legendary Cafe Sessions in Chapter 1, back when it was on Main Street. The Sessions were organised by Joe Keenan and Niall Walsh - dad of Evan who remains Daniel’s pal to this day.
“We toured loads with The Strypes back in the day - so that’s kind of the Cavan connection. I love the guys.”
He admits he was saddened when they split.
“Actually the last gig they did in the Olympia I played a bit of keys with them, and they broke up soon after that,” he recalls.
There’s no fear of the Badhands’ fragmenting, as Daniel notes the constituent parts are “deliberately ambiguous”. If he’s doing a solo show - it’s also billed as a Badhands show.
“There’s always and element of people coming and going in it, but we have the full compliment for the Cavan gig so I look forward to that.”
Daniel also has a fascinating side project - he creates soundtracks for wildlife documentaries. You are likely to have heard some of his work as it has been broadcast on RTÉ, BBC and even PBS across the Atlantic.
Having been requested to do music for the Wild Irish Year, the production company were happy and came back to him again.
“I immediately took to it - this is great, you don’t have to write lyrics, it’s a little bit more regimented - so I found it quite freeing compared to writing your four minute rock ‘n’ roll tune. It’s not easier but it removed some of what I would regard as the difficult stuff from song-writing, especially the lyrics and trying to fit it all together in a structure.”
Since then, the requests haven’t stopped - the BBC series The Wild Gardener, also Tommy Tiernan’s Epic West. His score for Wild Cuba won a few prestigious awards.
“There’s been some really weird ones. Like in the Cuba one there was a load of cannibalistic crabs - thousands and thousands of crabs who had to cross over a road to get to the sea. It’s a really dangerous crossing and they’re all getting crushed by passing cars and trucks. A lot of those getting crushed are then eaten by their fellow crabs, who could be their family or whatever - that was definitely a strange one that springs to mind.
And did you channel your inner cannibalistic crab?
“It varies, sometimes a piece will come to mind, and go, oh this will be interesting there - I used a slide guitar for that - but other times they [the production company] will have a specific type of track in mind.”
His latest contribution was for the excellent Ireland’s Wild Islands. The series included a memorable segment on Achill Island’s Keem Bay.
“There was a big basking shark fishery there decades ago, and they [RTÉ] had some great footage of the fishermen killing the basking sharks. They almost went extinct in the area - and I got to do a nice track for that.”
Daniel is eager to pursue the nature soundtracks, happy to welcome the pay cheques
“I love it, I hope to do more of it. It’s possibly something I could see myself ultimately making a living off long term, whereas playing in the band is very hard ultimately to make a proper living off it.
“I’ll always do the band thing - that’s a part of me.
“Having the soundtrack work is great because it’s better paid, so it puts you in a slightly more stable position, and it doesn’t affect the bands stuff, I find the two quite easy to manage.”
And if he didn’t he’d enjoy struggling through.