The Remedy Club, the Americana/ roots duo made up of husband and wife team KJ McEvoy and Aileen Mythen, told David Hennessy about their new album and why it’s time the secret of their music got out.
Jackie Hayden from Hot Press has described Americana and roots duo The Remedy Club as, ‘Ireland’s best kept musical secret. Outrageously good in every department’.
The Irish World caught up with Wexford husband and wife duo KJ McEvoy and Aileen Mythen just ahead of the release of their third album, Back to You this week.
Aileen told The Irish World: “We never intended to be a secret.
“But we took that as a compliment.
“We certainly felt like a bit of a secret for a long time but we’re hoping that that’s not going to last for much longer.”
KJ adds: “We want the secret to get out now.”
Aileen continues: “That review was such a lovely review from Jackie about our last album.
“That’s always nice, when people connect with the music and feel that you should be bigger than you are and achieving a bit more.
“It’s lovely to get those words of encouragement because sometimes it feels a little bit lonely out here on the other side and we hope that we won’t be a secret for very long.”
Hailing from Gorey in Wexford, the duo released their first two albums, Lovers, Legends and Lost Causes and True Hand True Heart independently and received notable critical acclaim in the UK, Ireland, Europe and the US.
The duo will launch their new album with a gig at Dublin’s Workman’s Club on Sunday following its released on Friday.
Aileen says of getting the album out: “I suppose it’s a bit of a relief as well as excitement because we’ve been working on it for quite a while.
“A lot of the songs were written throughout lockdown actually so it is a great relief to finally get them out into the world.
“And it’s quite a different sound for us, I would say.
“There’s a lot of brass and strings on this album and headed towards the New Orleans/ Memphis sound unlike the Nashville album from the last time but still very much Americana.”
KJ adds: “To a certain extent it’s an Americana album still so there’s a few ballads, there’s rock ‘n’ roll tracks but it’s a little more Memphis influenced than straight up country rock kind of stuff which is what the last two albums were pretty much about.”
Fans have already got to hear tracks from the album Back to You and Roll with it.
With Back to You’s theme of missing somebody and Roll with It’s big band feel, it is easy to imagine them being written in lockdown.
Were you thinking of when people could be together again to play a track like Roll with It? “That would have been a big underlying thing throughout for sure,” KJ says.
“That particular period was just insanely difficult for everybody but I guess if you were in the performing arts, there was a sense that you would never get back onstage again or these things might never happen again.
“Possibly some of the songs on the album reflect that like, ‘You gotta roll with the punches’.
“Back to You is partially about our daughter…”
Aileen continues: “It’s getting back to yourself actually and what you do and trying to find that connection with yourself but also with others, so it’s a mix of themes going on with that song.
“It’s also dedicated to our daughter who’s seven.
“It’s really about parenthood and the challenges within parenthood.
“It’s the most incredible experience that either of us have ever had but it’s also the most challenging so it’s about that and about finding yourself in all of that as well.
“Sometimes we can lose ourselves as a parent and we kind of forget what we’re about and what we’re also here to do.
“That’s our most important role but there’s also other roles we have to play.
“I would say a lot of the songs are definitely influenced by being in lockdown and looking forward to getting back out and playing and connecting with an audience again.”
KJ adds: “Amen to that.”
On that note, what is it like to be a husband and wife on the road?
“It’s just like a breeze,” Aileen says but, of course, she’s being somewhat sarcastic.
“As you can imagine, that has many challenges.
“We would be lying if we said it didn’t.
“But ultimately it’s such an intimate thing writing songs with somebody else and performing with somebody else, it really is.
“It just goes directly to the soul when you’re performing and singing together.
“It is very intimate and it’s lovely to be able to do that with a partner, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think it’s a really lovely thing to experience with a partner.
“And of course the challenges lie in the fact that you are spending so much time together and it’s very difficult to switch off.
“I’m not sure that we have achieved that yet.
“In some jobs, at 6pm you get to switch off and go into your personal life. That doesn’t really happen with us. It’s all interconnected and the two lives seep together so it’s very hard to get that cut off point.”
KJ continues: “Also with a daughter, it has its challenges in terms of when do you get to be creative?
“It was always something I kind of feared would interrupt that but it actually hasn’t.
“Somehow we’ve just managed to persevere.
“It’s just worked out really well.”
Aileen adds: “Like anybody, you just make it work.
“No matter what your area is in life, you just make it work.”
How did you meet? “It was through music,” Aileen says.
“Just through a mutual friend we met up but almost immediately we started playing and singing together and there was initially that fearful moment where we thought, ‘Oh dear…’
“We knew that there was something special there, we knew there was a connection both musically and personally and when we began to sing and perform together just in our house, it did feel like there was huge potential in it, so with that brought a slight little bit of fear and also excitement.”
Jackie Hayden has described their music as ‘a marriage of folk and country with a hint of the blues with delicious harmonies and nimble guitar playing’.
The husband-and-wife duo have a unique sound, spanning from roots to R&B, with soul influenced vocals, whilst keeping rhythmical Americana at the heart of it all.
How would they describe their sound and are they happy with the Americana label that is usually used on them?
KJ says: “Americana is a big enough umbrella term for so many different types of music.
“It used to be called alt country, then there was Americana.
“If you go back to the 70s- Bob Dylan, Neil Young- they’re Americana. That term didn’t exist at the time but they are Americana because it’s an overarching term to describe something that’s basically influenced by American music: Blues, country, jazz to a certain extent and folk but it’s all coming under that American sounding umbrella.”
Aileen says: “We love that genre title because we love so many different types of music and that’s always been our challenge and our struggle, to tie down exactly what we do because we love blues, we love soul, we love country, we love folk, we love rock, there’s a lot there that we like and naturally seeps into our music.
“I think that’s why we love the term Americana so much.”
KJ says: “It’s not punk and it’s not metal- both of which I like by the way. I listen to metal and I listen to some punk as well, a big Motorhead fan, Aileen’s not.”
Will we hear more of a Motorhead influence on the next album in that case? “Don’t encourage him,” Aileen says.
The duo’s second album True Hand True Heart was recorded within the Room and Board studios in Nashville, all in conjunction with 5-time Grammy award winning producer Ray Kennedy, who has previously produced works for Steve Earle, Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams.
Aileen says: “That was an incredible experience.
“We would have travelled to wherever Ray Kennedy resided, it just happened to be Nashville so that’s where we recorded our last album and it was incredible to work with Ray, it was extremely intense in the best possible sense of the word.
“I think we were there for less than ten days so we recorded the album in that length of time and it was pretty much live. We recorded some instruments afterwards but a lot of it was in the room live.
“Ray has worked with some of our all-time favourite songwriters like Lucinda Williams, and Steve Earle most notably and actually they’re mentioned in one of our songs there are some lyrics from their songs in one of the verses because we both bonded and connected over their music over the years, it’s been a huge part of our personal lives as well as professional.”
KJ adds: “Ray is a genius. He’s a great guy.
“He’s very intense but he’s a great guy.”
How did you enjoy Nashville?
Aileen says: “It was incredible.
“I honestly personally would say it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. It really was just to get to go into the studio every single day from morning until night. That was it, we didn’t see much of Nashville.
KJ adds: “We didn’t see Nashville at all.
“We got a chance one Sunday afternoon to take a two hour really fast rush around Nashville down town and there was just so many great musicians playing in bars.
“I really wanted to hang around longer, we couldn’t. We literally had no time, it was so intense with recording that we just didn’t have time.”
Aileen comes back in: “And we wouldn’t have had it any other way. For some people that might have been disappointing.”
Back to You was co- produced by Gavin Glass and the upcoming launch gig will feature Aongus Ralston on bass (The Waterboys), Binzer Brennan on drums (The Frames) and Michael Buckley and Ronan Dooney on brass (Van Morrison).
“We’re very lucky,” Aileen says.
“We also had a strings section on this album which was a new experience for us and bringing us in a new direction but a real challenge and a joy.
KJ adds: “And we worked with Gavin Glass.
“Gavin, in his own right, is a great musician and songwriter and bit of an all-round legend.”
Aileen adds: “He really is. He just gets it, he gets what we were trying to achieve.”
Looking forward to the big launch gig?
Aileen says: “Oh yes.”
KJ adds: “Big time.”
Aileen continues: “Kieran and I tour a lot as an acoustic duo and we love that because that’s a different type of a sound but we also love coming together as a band and collaborating with other musicians.
“It’s such a treat for us.”
KJ goes: “Yeah, we miss playing with bands. It’s just a different thing, there’s an energy to it but it’s not always financially viable to bring a band out on the road. They demand to be paid, how dare they?”
Aileen says: “We’re coming back to London, we are so excited about that because we love London and we’ve wanted to play the Sound Lounge for a very long time so Paul Sexton has invited us to play a gig there on 12 September.
“We’ve always loved touring in the UK, that was really important to us because I think in the UK, they really get Americana/roots music.
“We really noticed that from day one when we played the Americana Festival in London, there’s such a wonderful community and tribe of people there that we made great friendships with.”
KJ adds: “We always seem to get full houses in Scarborough and Filey and Beverley.
“We’re big in Scarborough,” he laughs.
They have launched their first album as The Remedy Club in 2017 but the duo had been playing together as B & The Honeyboy since 2006.
Where did the name The Remedy Club come from?
“I came up with it,” Aileen says.
“I knew that we wanted a different name because the genre of the songs were changing slightly so we knew that we wanted to just have a revamp and a change of name and that name just came to me.
“I think it was only after the fact that I realised that it really encapsulates what we’re really about.”
“What a good name it actually was,” KJ agrees.
Aileen continues: “It encapsulates what we’re about because music has always been a remedy for us and a place of solace and it’s always been our go to place when things get tough.
“It’s a release for us and we really hope that it connects with audience members and has the same effect on audience members.
“And the club bit kind of refers to- and again this is probably just subconsciously because I wasn’t aware of this at the time- it’s always been a very collaborative thing for us even though we’re a two piece essentially, we love working with other musicians and we love writing with other people.”
KJ says: “So it’s a general club vibe and obviously it can expand. The minute she said it to me I thought, ‘That’s a great name’.
Aileen adds: “Another point about the club bit- It’s not just about the musicians, it’s also about connecting with an audience for us.
“As we found out during Covid, it’s all very well to write these songs and to practice in your kitchen but really the magic doesn’t happen until you’re performing these songs live with an audience.
“They bring their energy along, you bring yours and then there’s potential for a lot of magic between the two.”
KJ says: “They’re part of the club too. It’s a huge club. It’s an ever- expanding club.
“That could be the title for our next album, Join the Club.”
KJ has a well known sibling as he is the brother of Eleanor McEvoy who he has also played and toured with.
“Eleanor’s amazing,” he says.
“She is a prolific songwriter.
“I recorded on her album What’s Following Me? a long time ago now.
“Then we toured the states and we did an European tour and an Irish tour. It was great, we had a great time.”
Aileen adds: “She’s a multi-instrumentalist so she’s an incredibly talented songwriter and musician and you can only imagine family get togethers what they’re like.”
KJ continues: “They’re great. My other sister Marianne is a musician as well. We have good parties. We’re due a party at this stage.”
Back to You is out on 26 May.
The Remedy Club launch the album at the Workman’s Club, Dublin on Sunday 28 May.
The Remedy Club play The Sound Lounge in London on 12 September.
For more information, click here.