HamsandwicH is a band that keeps time with current
musical innovations yet true to its Irish roots.
By Colleen Taylor
A couple years ago HamsandwicH, a Dublin-based indie rock band, were “ones to watch” in modern Irish music. Together, these five rising stars merged into a locus of the best of modern Irish music culture: indie, rock, some trad influences, exquisite acoustic vocals, and plain good modern folk. Their album “White Fox” (2010) received great acclaim, but also left fans with something more to expect. Last year in 2015, HamsandwicH released their album “Stories From the Surface,” which arguably transitioned the band from being “ones to watch” to “ones to see.”
Band members Niamh Farrell, Podge McNamee, Brian Darcy, David McEnroe, and Ollie Murphy have been playing together as HamsandwicH since 2003 in the capital. The group really broke onto the scene five years later, the year of their first album release, “Carry the Meek.” Before then, the band had been generating some buzz around Ireland with their EP and single releases, but 2008 was a turning point. Along with their first album release, HamsandwicH won the Meteor’s Hope Award in 2008 and were named by the Sunday Times as “Ones to Watch.” Two years later in 2010, they released their second and most accomplished album, “White Fox,” to great critical claim. The following year, their song “Ants” became a YouTube viral hit. Shortly after that 2014 release, the band played their biggest show to date, filling Ireland’s Olympia Theatre for a concert in April. Over the years, they have earned the attention and approval of Irish music giants like Bono.
There’s a hint in earlier HamsandwicH songs like “The Naturist” of a traditional Irish folk inflection, with some reel-like rhythms and chords. The listener might also detect homage to preceding Irish rock bands the Corrs and the Cranberries. As such, HamsandwicH is true to its Irish roots, but aside from these subtle cadences, the band is first and foremost a product of the contemporary, global music scene. Their sound is irrefutably cool and modern. The band keeps time with current musical innovations, so that it can easily mix in with Top 40 indie and acoustic singles. Peeled back and simplistic, HamsandwicH’s music retains authenticity throughout each of their albums. Their signature, however, is the sweet, ethereal vocalization of lead singer Niamh Farrell. Her soft, almost girlish voice, particularly when highlighted by Podge McNamee’s contrasting baritone, offers the indie music scene something unique.
The most recent album, “Stories from the Surface,” reminded me why I was drawn to HamsandwicH a couple years ago. An infectious energy runs throughout their latest record. “Illuminate,” in particular, is a feel-good indie-folk single that I’ve frequently heard on Dublin radio—which makes sense, it’s an instant good mood generator. “Stories from the Surface” highlights the band’s special and outstanding talent: Niamh Farrell. Her beautiful vocals in the song “In Perfect Rhymes,” for instance, offer the band a new sense of sophistication.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the band’s release of “Stories from the Surface,” has coincided with big gigs and international tours. The band has been back and forth to London, Dublin, New York, and headlined at major international festivals this past summer, such as Longitude. They also released a music video for their song “Illuminate,” available on YouTube, as well as played a special acoustic show in Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral. Finally, HamsandwicH was selected as the debut guest on Cathy Maguire’s new TV show, “The Sunnyside Sessions,” recently featured here in the Echo. The band indulged their acoustic side and jammed in a garden in Queens with Macguire, highlighting New York’s special ability to bring Irish folk musicians together in a funky oasis wedged in an urban hub.
Last but not least, HamsandwicH deserves commendation for their dedication to Irish culture and artistic comrades. They are constantly celebrating and promoting fellow Irish art endeavors—shows, festivals, bands, visual artists—on their Facebook page. It’s clear this band is proud to be going global, but even more proud to be Irish. Check them out at hamsandwichmusic.com