Fresh off of their victory at this year’s Battle of the Bands, brothers Alex and Jordan Gough of ‘Central Hall’ sat down with the UCC Express to discuss their music. The band is made up of four guys, with Alex on drums, Eamon on guitar, Ross on bass and Jordan singing. Winning the final by just three votes, the band now gets access to €600 worth of recording time at Blackwater Studios.
EXPRESS: Where did the band’s name, ‘Central Hall’, come from?
CENTRAL HALL: The name actually came from a building in Waterford, which has been there for years. We had been trying to come up with a name for a while, and then Eamon, our guitarist, suggested it after he’d been there the night before. There are often music and cultural events held there, and also we once heard this saying – ‘there’s a central hall in every town’. We hope that maybe one day we’ll play in every town… It’s a bit ambitious but that’s where the name came from.
EX: Is your home town in Waterford a very music or culture orientated place?
CH: In the last two years the music scene has blown up. The school we went to had this show that they’d do every year and it was always a big deal. When we started as a band two years ago, there was kind of a ‘scene’ – and a few bands were beginning to come up. Now if you go down there, there’s live music in every pub, almost every night. There are easily ten local bands, all releasing original, high-quality music, all the time. There were a lot of cover bands at the time, in the local pubs and clubs and all over, but around when we started in 2015 there were bands like us, who were writing their own music. They all started coming up through the ranks, bands like Chrome Yellow. But we all kind of started around the same time.
EX: Would you usually perform in your hometown?
CH: That’s where most of our gigs have been really. UCC Christmas Day we played in New Bar, that was our first ‘real’ gig in Cork, although given the day that was in it there weren’t many people at it. After that, we played in Fred Zeppelins alongside ‘Dry Roasted Peanuts’. Other than that, we’ve always played in Waterford, in pubs and smaller festivals, like the Dunmore East food festival. We love playing in Cork because it’s a new audience, which tends to be more student-orientated, but Waterford will always be our home for playing.
EX: Do you think there is more competition in Cork, with other bands such as Happy Alone, Aponym and Crojayn also gaining ground?
CH: The thing is, everyone in Waterford is very aware of who’s playing and what’s happening, there’s a good community. In Cork there is definitely a stronger competition, but it’s a healthy one. At the end of the day, we’re all after the same thing. Everyone is trying to make music and get it out there, to play gigs and get heard. Everyone wants fans, everyone tries to form connections in the industry. In Cork, we’re constantly hearing new bands, and we see what they’re doing, which pushes us to work harder and to get better.
EX: Who would the band’s main influences be?
CH: Between the four of us there’s a huge mix. We (Jordan and Alex) like hip-hop and that sort of stuff, which people say they can always hear in our music. But, in a general sense, we get a lot of comparisons to the ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ – Eamon loves them so that comes through too. With so many different musical interests within the band though, we don’t consciously sit down and think, right, let’s make something that sounds like Kendrick, or something that sounds like the Chilli Peppers. Our music writing process would be very organic, for a lot of our songs we just walk in, sit down and start playing together. Then after a while we decide on the music that sounds best. After that the lyrics are added. So, it’s less of a song writing process, and more of an experiment. For us, the music always comes first. People who have seen us play have said that they could feel the vibe and the atmosphere we have on stage – a lot of that is because we capture it in the music first, then everything else is added afterwards. It allows us to get a feeling of how the music is going to sound, to feel as a track before fleshing it out. It seems to be working at the moment anyway.
EX: How would you describe your music to someone who knows nothing about music?
CH: Very instrumental, maybe ‘white-trash hip-rock’? Even for ourselves, it’s hard to place because of the various influences. There’s definitely a hip-hop theme running through most of our stuff. Recently we were recording new music, our single ‘Social Awareness’, and the sound engineer said he’d never heard anything like it. So you’ll have to wait and decide for yourselves.
EX: How does it feel to have your music on Spotify, knowing that people you’ve never met are hearing your work?
CH: It’s very interesting. It’s a new environment that we have now, with this whole growth of ‘instant music’. Before, a band could be really present on social media, but their music just wouldn’t be heard. Now anyone can listen to anything they want, at any time, for free. It’s an incredible opportunity for listeners and musicians too. Of course, there’s an element of quality control, but if you’re really working hard writing, recording and aiming to get on Spotify, once you see that people are listening to your stuff….. It’s really fulfilling, to know our work is paying off.
EX: Do you think that this new environment will influence and encourage younger musicians?
CH: Yeah, definitely. It’s no longer necessary to get contracted with a record label, which is very difficult and also expensive. For the independent scene especially, it’s a huge help. It is contributing to the decline of physical sales, but people will always be willing to pay for live concerts – as well as the fact that record players are making a huge comeback. Unfortunately, it’s not really a profitable means, unless you’re getting millions of plays. But it’s never been easier to get your music out there. Anyone could record a song in the morning and get it on Spotify – it’s a new age for music.
EX: Where do you guys see yourselves next year? Are you in this for the long run?
CH: Really, we’d just like to have more of a presence, for more people to know about us, to recognise our name. Maybe start playing at the festivals, like ‘Body and Soul’ would be amazing. We probably have a good foot forward for going down that route already, given the smaller festivals we’ve done in the last few months even. It’s really just a matter of getting there, committing to a goal and working towards it. An album would be really cool, maybe towards the end of next year, but for now we’ll just keep working on new music. We’re definitely in it for the long run, but with college it’s become more difficult. We were all in secondary school when it started, but now myself (Alex) and Jordan are here in Cork, and the others are in Dublin and Waterford. We just want to be the best band we can be for the moment.
EX: Just one last question. Your song ‘Felicity’ is your most listened to on Spotify – can you tell me who Felicity is?
CH: See that’s actually funny, as we said before, for us the music is what matters. If you look at the name ‘Felicity’, it means happiness; so when we wrote the song we decided it would be about summer, and happiness. Then we had to figure out how to write a song about an emotion. So, it’s simultaneously a song about a fling with a girl and also a song that describes the fling with happiness that occurs during the summer months. It’s all very metaphorical really but writing about a girl did make it seem like a cop-out.
We’d like to thank Central Hall for talking to us. For more on them, check out their Facebook page, facebook.com/Centralhallband, or check out their songs on Spotify.