Thursday, February 25, 2010

Limerick's 202s come home for a rare gig

IN our ‘Ten Best Irish Albums of 2009’ we ranked the self-titled debut album by 202s as one of our favourite of the year, noting that duo Mike Glennon and Steve Melling of the band “appeared as if out of thin air” in 2009 adding that as Melling was a Limerick man, we were claiming this band as one of our own.
Melling, speaking to us recently, confirmed in fact that both himself and Glennon are from Limerick, meaning one of the most exciting Irish bands to emerge last year are indeed one we can lay claim to in these parts.

The self titled debut album, released on hip French indie label ‘Le Son Du Maquis’, was described on these pages as “dark and brooding, with a nice dash of Primal Scream in places, boasting the best use of a harmonica we have heard in years”.
The album is a diverse and varied one boasting a plethora of influences, from the coarse rock of Beck to the shimmering electro-pop of Air, and is an impressive debut from 202s (there is no ‘The’, confusingly) that was extremely unlucky not to secure a Choice Music Prize nomination.

Glennon and Melling met in Ard Scoil Ris, playing together in several bands over the last decade, more latterly with band Long Lost Brother, who released a couple of singles, but ultimately didn’t suit the Limerick duo’s tastes.
A trip to Berlin in 2006 saw the duo take to busking to earn their crust, and their sojourn among the city’s Krautrock history influenced their tastes heavily. Kraftwerk and particularly David Bowie’s Berlin-era output impacted heavily on the album, and in April 2007, they began to form the foundation for 202s.

Interestingly, the band eschewed the normal route taken by bands these days, which largely consists of bashing a single together and heading out on tour, with little experience or depth. Instead, Glennon and Melling spent time in the studio with producer Stephen Shannon of Halfset, thrashing out a “body of work” before going on tour.
“A lot of bands tend to just write a single or EP and put it out and we didn't really want to fall into that,” explains Steve, who hails from Caherdavin, while Glennon hails from Westfields.
“We said right from the outset that our main aim was to create a body of work in the form of an album and see where it went from there. We had a lot of old demos and loops and stuff that we wanted to work out so we went into Stephen's studio in Crumlin and just got to work on developing those ideas. The initial tracks were pretty good, so we decided we would progress and concentrate on developing an album.”
He adds: “Every artist aspires to making an album and it was great to be able to get it done and get it out and heard”.

The result is superb, featuring Halfset drummer Cillian McDonnell and chanteuse Carly Sings on one of the few tracks with vocals, the rather excellent Who Cares About Sunshine. The album was finished towards the end of 2008, and 202s began to concern themselves with playing live, recruiting drummer Barry Smullen as third member, who slotted in perfectly.

The interest in 202s by the prestigious French label Le Son Du Maquis, home to A Certain Ratio, rounded things off nicely.
“We had four or five tracks recorded, so we decided to put them up on the Myspace page, and the label got in touch, they found us online,” explains Steve. “As soon as we had the album done they wanted us to send it to them - we sent them little snippets of tracks as we went along and every time we did they came back very positive so by the end of 2008 they were fully on board with it. A lot of good albums are made and they don't really get heard or even put out, so it was brilliant to have it come out on a label and be supported by them.”

The French label’s involvement certainly added a weight to the fledgling 202s, with festival slots, including one heralded appearance at Oxegen last summer, arriving in spades.
They plan to tour in France at some stage this year, but first up is a rare gig in their home town this Friday night, with the excellent Patrick Kelleher on support duties.
“Yeah it has been a while,” says Steve. “We were down twice last year (but) we wanted to go for something a bit different and mix it up this time. I haven't played in Baker's for a long time, so I'm looking forward to it.” He adds: “It is always good to go home and play a show”.

We couldn’t agree more.

202s and Patrick Kelleher play in Baker Place this Friday night.

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