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Interference is an Irish band that formed in 1984. They are noteworthy for their live shows and for their powerful songwriting. Fergus O'Farrel's song 'Gold' was a feature in the Irish film 'Once' which won an Oscar for best song ( Falling Slowly, by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová ) and it is one of the major songs in the Broadway show of the same name, which cast performed the song during the 2012 Tony Awards where it won 8 awards.
Fergus O’Farrell (vocals, piano & guitar) and James O’Leary (guitars) formed Interference during their time in Clongowes Wood College from 1983 to 1986. While in Clongowes they auditioned various friends and referrals to fill out the remaining positions in the band. Maurice Culligan from Ennis joined on Piano and Keyboards, Kevin Murphy from Cork took up the Bass Guitar and Cello and Cal MacCarthy also from Cork became the band's first drummer. Malcolm MacClancy became Fergus’ song-writing partner and the journey began.
In 1986 on leaving college the band moved to Dublin and took up residence in the old Winstanley shoe factory (presently Mother Redcaps Tavern & Market) alongside two other promising new outfits, The Hothouse Flowers and The Black Velvet Band. During this time based on the promise of a ‘demo’ they were selected to perform on the debut edition of ‘Borderline’ RTÉ’s (Ireland's National TV station) first youth friendly magazine show. On the strength of that performance, Fergus and the lads were commissioned by RTÉ to make an original video to be directed by non other than Gerry Stembridge, one of Irelands leading filmmakers. The resultant video of ‘The Doll’ was selected as one of the finest Irish made pop videos of the decade.[original research?]
By early 1987 the band had actually performed more on television than in live venues, one main reason for this was the lack of a full time competent fiddle player, Kevin’s brother stepping in when the need arose. On a recommendation from The Waterboys’ Steve Wickham, Colm McCaughey joined up…the band was now complete. Now with a completed line-up the band rehearsed, developed and wrote new material with the goal of creating a unique sound to compete with their comtempories on the Irish music scene, during a period of very high quality home grown musical talent.
From 1987 to 1988 they were being touted by the music press as the next breakthrough act with several awe inspiring showcases and support slots including some with their old housemates, The Hothouse Flowers, after one such show in City Hall in Cork (with the flowers) one reviewer wrote.[who?]
‘.the support act was so powerful you almost forgot who you were there for…I witnessed the auspicious performance in Cork when they played with the Hothouse Flowers . Though some might describe them as a little rough around the edges, Interference positively bewitched the audience’ (Cork Tribune, July 1988).
Then due to over work and over stress, Fergus, who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy developed nodules on his vocal cords. He was forced to stop singing in early 1988 for fear of further damaging his voice. It was an indefinite stop, nobody being able to place a time frame on when he might be able to perform live again. To keep themselves busy some of the members of Interference loaned their musical talent to some of the other bands doing the rounds. Maurice joined up with the Black Velvet Band and Vinnie Kilduffs’ Rocking Chairs, Colm became Niall Toners Fiddle man in Hank HalfHead and the Rambling Turkeys. Colm and Kevin became a string duo (Violin &Cello) and sessioned with just about everybody making a record in Dublin as well as appearing as guest musicians for several travelling bands. James went back to college to study architecture (and became one) but Cal decided his path led elsewhere. He left the band in the summer of 1988 to pursue other avenues.
Late in 1988, after months of inactivity for Interference as a working unit, events began to take shape once more drawing the lads together again. Fergus’s voice was practically back to normal, he had been moonlighting with Colm and Kevin as a three piece calling themselves ‘The Back Lane Boys’ and as with the first few outings with Interference they were making waves, this time on the acoustic circuit. After some guest appearances from James and Maurice at Back Lane Boy’s gigs it was decided to reform the full band and a nationwide search began for a new drummer. Several drummers were tried out including Willie Walsh who after only a few gigs decided his path lay elsewhere.
For a one off showcase in Mother Redcaps Tavern, their former home, it seemed only right that they were joined for the evening by old cronies Jerry Fehily and Leo Barnes from the Hothouse Flowers for a memorable gig. A new-found enthusiasm existed, months of rehearsals were endured along with 35 auditions for a new drummer, new material was tried out, eventually in early 1990 when Ray McCann, a Londoner ( and Jazz drummer by trade) came along, everyone knew the hard work had been worth it.
The Band decamped to Schull in west Cork (Fergus’s hometown) for a month to develop a new set with Ray, away from all the distractions of the big cities and returned to Dublin with something they had never previously tried….they were going to hit the road.
Their schedule took them all over the country for most of the next year, from Kerry and Cork to Limerick, Clare and Galway to Northern Ireland and even across to The UK for a show-stopping performance in London’s’ Mean Fiddler Club at the request of Dave Fanning who was putting on several Showcase gigs of unsigned Irish Bands for the music industry. On returning to their old stomping grounds in Dublin they played a brace of gigs in Dublin’s Trinity College where their new sound and electrifying performance received not one but two standing ovations on each night. They followed this up with slots at both the Trinity and UCD Freshers Balls winning the accolade in the reviews of both as ‘Best band of the night’.
On foot of these performances they were asked to play the 1990 Trinity Ball, a very coveted engagement. The review from this show read "…thus they have an image amongst the music intelligentsia as being something of a supergroup. An image compounded by the fact their music is a mix of virtually everything the boys listen to. Interference play with such energy and confidence and musical obsessiveness that they throw most of their comtempories to shame.." (Entertainment TCD, College review 1990).
Next up was the New York Music seminar and the Festirock festival in Dijon, France. The next couple of years were spent trying for the elusive record deal, eventually realising if you want something done….Interference embarked on a project of financing and installing their own recording studio. Much of the expense for this was dealt with from intense gigging around the country, the balance was begged borrowed and donated, bringing along with them on several trips two wide eyed teenagers, Glen Hansard and Mic Christopher who would open for them as the ‘Blotto Brothers’. These two went on to create The Frames and Mary Janes respectively.
In 1992 Ray left, it would seem that Interference’s’ achilles heel is drummers, and were joined by Billy Gegarthy formerly of the Swinging Swine on Drums and Ronan Gleeson on second guitar.
In 1993 having converted Fergus’ house into a 16 track recording studio with bedrooms and a kitchen the band embarked on their recording career. Creating their own record label ‘Shack’ they recorded and released ‘Looking For Someone’ as part of a 4 track EP. Billy had decided he wanted to do live work not studio so again Interference found themselves drummerless. Binzer, the Frames drummer stepped in to record the single and John Huxton toured with the band promoting it. The song reached number 15 in the charts and received great critical acclaim being cited as one of the records of the year by Larry Gogan in his yearly roundup that Christmas. Fergus, who was now a wheelchair user due to the slowly progressing MD was becoming less convinced that a record deal was ever going to come his way. Once again it was decided to do it themselves and the task of making the debut album began.
From a starting point of some 100 songs a short list of 30 and a final selection of twelve songs were chosen for the record. The next twelve months or so was spent working on this music, drawing in an extraordinary collection of international musicians to compliment their own skills including Dónal Lunny, Fred Parcell, Liam O’Maonlai and Jerry Fehily, Katell Keineg and Maria McKee along with some local ‘senior’ musicians like Maurice Roycroft (Maurice Seezer), Honor Heffernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, James Blennerhassett, Glen Hansard, Conor Brady, Robbie Casserly, Dave McCune and Paul Moore to name but a few.
The result, a beautifully crafted work justly placing Interference in the ‘wow’ section of your local HMV. At this point Whelans, the live music venue were dipping their toes into the record label world and decided that they could do worse than make the Interference Album their first release (after all, the work was all done, right down to the artwork). The album ‘Interference’ was released to fantastic reviews and sizeable airplay in 1995.
The band continued to gig, albeit with yet another line up change, Ronan had moved on and was replaced by Cian Roche and released another single ‘Vinegar Girl’ a collaboration with Frames frontman Glen Hansard, again the single did well, the reviews were good, the coverage on TV and radio more than fair, but alas still no interest from an international record company. They all came and had a look but for whatever reason they all left empty handed.
In 1994 Joey Pleass joined the band having previously been with both Hank Halfhead and The Dixons he was no stranger, it was however just to keep the gigs going while Interference searched for the permanent drummer they still needed. When Joey couldn’t sit in the band could always call on Jerry Fehily longtime collaborator and honorary Interference person.
The following couple of years were bittersweet for the band, a couple of nuptials, a new permanent drummer was found in the shoes of one Justin Healy, ex Forget Me Nots and Golden Horde sticksman, some amazing residencies, Whelans in particular, a few country roadtrips, Paul Tiernan also joined the live line-up to take some of the pressure of Fergus playing guitar and singing harmonies and backing vocals. Great fun was also had in the studio working with other bands, and learning more about production and engineering from the likes of Kieran Kennedy, Maurice Roycroft and Gavin Friday and Dan Dan Fitzgerald, but in the end Interference called it a day. Late summer of 1996 Interference played their last live gig in Dublin’s Redbox, some new material was aired and as usual well received.
Since then the lads have continued to be part of the music scene, playing as session musicians, guesting with others, and getting involved with other projects. Fergus moved his studio down to Schull and continued writing and recording for himself, working with the likes of Maria Doyle and Kieran Kennedy, Paul Tiernan and Maurice Roycroft. Kevin has toured the world with Gavin Friday and formed a new band ‘Igloo’ with Cian.. Colm became a Television News-cameraman but continues to play fiddle, doing a 5-year residency with the Blades frontman Paul Clery in the Cajun Kings in Whelans until they decided they wanted their Sunday’s back.. James went back to architecture and builds stuff and Justin continues to be a session drummer while still working away with various pop and rock combos, Lir being one regular gig. Paul returned to solo work and is dividing his time between Ireland, Wales and France.
That is until early summer in 2002……Gavin and Marc, the long suffering backroom ‘staff’ had a desire to put the band back together again. Each member was approached and asked what they thought of a reunion gig. The overwhelming response was yes. A plan was then hatched and the result was a return to live performance in Schull on 14 September. A full house, an Indian summer’s night (the gig was transferred to outdoors due to ticket demand) and a buzz amongst the gathered crowd not seen by the Interference gang for many years. They brought the house down. The line up was a true Interference collective, Paul, Colm, Kevin, James, Cian, Justin and Fergus were joined for the night by Dan Dan Fitzgerald (previously the band's producer) on percussion and Cal MacCarthy returned on drums. This appears to have kick started a renewed interest in the band with several radio shows picking up on the band, in particular Philip King and Tom Dunne. Having just played as special guests to The Frames during their set on Mic Christopher’s anniversary concert in late November, there were further rumours of more gigs to come.
December 2002 brings a new lease of life for the Band with an invitation from Phillip King to join a line up of new talent he intended showcasing in early 2003 in a thirteen-part television series entitled ‘Other Voices: Songs from a room’. Frames frontman Glen Hansard hosted a week of concerts in Dingle all of which were recorded for television. Interference joined up with the assembled musicians including The Frames, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Nina Hynes, Damien Rice and Mundy and performed a memorable acoustic set. Everyone involved agreed that it was one of the week’s highlights. Fergus joined Maria Doyle Kennedy for a couple of songs during her performance and Paul Tiernan even managed to squeeze in a solo set for himself.
Over the Christmas period Band Producer DanDan Fitzgerald and Fergus decided the time was right to re-release the cult ‘INTERFERENCE ALBUM’. New up to date artwork was arranged and a fresh faced CD of the near impossible to get album was produced. A radio edit of the song Public Address has also been released for radio only, a blatant anti war song with strong reference to the first Gulf War, it seemed a suitably ironic message for the current climate as we approach another conflict in the Middle East.
Fergus gave an in-depth interview to National Newspaper ‘The Examiner’ his first for a number of years in January 2003 and they responded by printing a full page spread on the Band, Fergus and plans for the future.
Work began on new songs for possible single release and Fergus and the boys continue to pop up for the odd guest appearance, most recently as guests of old friends The Frames during their gigs in Whelans in Dublin. An appearance on Pat Kenny’s radio show during Valentines week drew an enormous response and has led to even more interest in the band with Pat inviting the band to perform on The Late Late Show, Ireland's premier television show. The Phillip King inspired ‘Other Voices’ series is to be launched in late February and will be aired in early march for a thirteen-week run.