The Riptide Movement were in Belfast to play at The Big Music Project – an event in the City Hall giving young people hands-on experience of the music industry.
The band’s vocalist and guitarist Mal Tuohy was in the green room. He bounded towards me with a smile and a big “so how are ya?”
“We’re on an Irish tour at the minute” he told me. “The whole thing is sold out, apart from Belfast, but that one is well on its way.” The tour goes on until Christmas and then they head to Eurosonic in Holland in January.
“We were in Cork last night and we’re in Navan tonight [Saturday], so that’s not too bad”. It seems like a lot of travelling to me, but I’m not a band on tour with an album that crashed straight to No1 in the Irish Album Chart in April, and which has remained in the top 30 for the past 6 months. The album, ‘Getting Through’ has already had one single and a video that went viral; with the second single and video to be released in late October. ‘Getting Through’ hasn’t even been released yet in Australia or the UK. “That’s something else that happens in January”.
He went on to tell me that they had recently returned from America where they were joined on stage by New York singer song-writing legend Willie Nile. The video for that second single from Getting Through that we were talking about earlier was filmed on a Brooklyn rooftop, with a guest appearance from Willie himself. They will be reunited in December when he comes over to Ireland as part of a European tour.
This was the first of several stories that made me mindful of an ongoing sense of respect that the group holds for the doyens of their craft. Mal talked happily of the bands influences, from The Doors to Pink Floyd; Rory Gallagher to The Rolling Stones. “And don’t forget Creedence Clearwater Revival.” He described the band’s music as a fusion of rock, folk, Americana, country, indie and Irish traditional. Harking from Dublin and with all those influences it does make sense.
He went on to tell me of when they travelled to India to play the Rendezvous Festival in New Delhi. They called into a sitar shop as they were thinking about bringing one back home to Ireland. On the wall was a picture of the owner’s father, standing with members of The Beatles. This blew Mal away. This was THE shop that that George Harrison had bought his sitar. It was pure musical history, and there again was that sense of a young bands admiration for those who had made that history.
At the Rendezvous Festival they played to a seated audience of 5000. At first the crowd were reserved and politely clapped along to the music. “By the fifth song” Mal smiled “they had started to join in. By the 6th number some of them had moved to the front, and by the 8th we were crowd surfing. That has only ever happened once, and it happened in Delhi.”
They’ve had their fair share of opportunities to rub shoulders with their heroes too. They’ve supported Van Morrison, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to name but a few.
The video for their single ‘All Works Out’ is quality, and when I said this to Mal he leant forward; “Yeah, yeah it is, there’s a good story to that…” The video stars Irish actress Amy Huberman, who happens to be married to Brian O’Driscoll. The Leinster team use the Riptide Movement album ‘Keep On Keepin’ On at training sessions, and it was Bod who encouraged Amy to take part in the video. Amy in turn contacted Paul Ronan (Saoirse Ronan’s dad) to get involved as well. It’s all about whom you know in this game and the more this hard working band keep going, the more people they are getting to know.
But as the fortune of the band progresses, adjustment is needed. “We’ve always been more of a DIY crew in the past, we did everything ourselves from publicity to production”, which included producing the album ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’. Things have changed however as they recently signed up with Universal Music and “only got management in July.” This means that so much of the work they would have done themselves is now done by the label. So is this a blessing or a curse? “At first we were protective; we’ve been working on this this for so long”. But as time has gone by they have come to see how much it has freed them up. “Now we get to concentrate on the music – after all, that’s what we are, musicians.”
They had based themselves in London for a while but returned about eight years ago. “The music scene in Dublin is as good as London. This is a golden era of music for Ireland and I’m proud to be part of it”. He meant it. He talked about being in Cork the night before and how they would walk into any bar and the “music coming out of it was amazing.” He named ASIWYFA, Swanee River and SOAK as a few local examples of how the whole island punches above its weight in talent.
The Tour Manager came to take him away at that point. They had to eat before heading off to Navan to continue with the tour. As soon as we parted company I cursed myself for not asking whether they had actually bought a sitar. Damn. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com