Richie Power and Darragh McCarthy of Hawke the Band told David Hennessy about the band’s new music, recruiting through Éire Óg GAA club in London and having Imelda May and the late Christy Dignam as fans.
The London- based Irish indie rock band Hawke The Band have just released their first single of 2024.
Proposal is the first of four new tracks and comes ahead of their first headline show at Whelan’s in Dublin this April.
Hawke the Band was formed in 2019 by friends Richie Power and Eoghan MacMahon and it was not long before Aslan frontman Christy Dignam proclaimed them “the next big thing”.
The guitar-led indie rock band had just made the move to London in 2020 when the pandemic scuppered all plans of live performing.
But still, they built their reputation with early tracks such as Molly, Gonna Be Alright and Pinch Me (Am I Dreaming?).
These were followed by tracks such as Molly, Limo and Miracles which would get the attention of Imelda May.
Their profile would rise with them being invited to perform on an Imelda May Sky Arts Show, and subsequently signed to Paragon Records.
There have also been two official additions to the line-up with Darragh McCarthy and Conor Lyons, both from Donegal, joining on drums and bass respectively.
We caught up with Richie, who is from Dublin, and Darragh to chat about the new music.
Richie told us: “This is the first single with the lads on Paragon and we’re excited to release that as everything up until now has been obviously without a label or without management or anything, so we’re looking forward to seeing how that goes.
“It’s called Proposal.
“We’ve a headline show in Upstairs at Whelan’s then in April.
“We put that on sale there last month and it sold out straightaway, so we’re delighted with that one as well.
It’s an apt title, isn’t it? Didn’t one of you pop the question? “Yeah, it was myself but the song isn’t specifically written about that,” Richie says.
“It was actually written before that but then I proposed not last summer, the summer before and then we revisited that song and kind of changed some of the lyrics to be a little bit more suited to the actual proposal that I did.
“So it wasn’t like I proposed and then we said, ‘Let’s write a song about it’.
“It was like that song was just written, I happened to propose and then we said, ‘Let’s change verse lyrics mainly to have it more suited towards that’.
“So yeah, it’s fitting. I’m getting married in August.”
So it’s a big year for you guys and not just from a music point of view…
“Big year, big stag coming, that’s for sure,” Darragh says.
Not that you would be the band for the big day but you’ll all be there..
“Well we’ll see now,” Darragh says jokingly. “There’s still a lot of time between now and then for us to really fall out. You never know.
And there is more music to follow, is it an EP?
Richie says: “We’re not releasing it as an EP but there’s four singles.
“The next one coming in March is called Scraps in the Bowl.”
I remember that one from when I saw you play at Colours in Hoxton..
“You would have (heard it),” Darragh says.
Richie goes on: “It’s a bit of a shame. I don’t know if I said this at Colours but it’s basically a dried out canal around the corner from where I used to go to school and that’s where people would go and have scraps and stuff, but it’s literally been there since before I was born- 30, 40 years.
“We’re bringing this song out now in March and I was like, ‘Ah, I can see all the visuals I can recreate how it used to be at the bowl, get a lot of people involved’.
“And then five months ago, they rip the whole bowl up and they’re after changing it and making it into a playground.
“So the thing has been sitting there doing nothing for 35 years and then they choose to change it as soon as we’re planning to do a music video.
“So the music video won’t be there.”
Darragh adds: “We’ll have to come up with something else. Find another bowl.”
It’s a shame for you but what about all those people who want somewhere to have a scrap?
“They’ll find a spot,” Darragh laughs.
Richie continues: “It’s gentrification, it’s not inclusive to the young hard people of Dublin who want to just punch the head off each other.
“Where do they go?
“Dublin is changing big time.
“It’s less bowls, more apartments.
“Less scrapping bowls, more acai bowls.”
Tell us about the other two songs coming after Proposal and Scraps in the Bowl.
Darragh says: “So then we got two more coming out.
“We’ve got one called Doctor and that’s going to be in May.
“So that’s kind of a bit of unrequited love, somebody feeding you something addictive like a drug, like a doctor giving you some sort of a drug that you’re coming back for all the time but it’s not really doing any good.
“And then we’ve got one called Memories which is coming out in the summer time which will be sort of about dementia.
“Me and Richie and Eoghan went over to Spain last year.
“We were walking through some markets or something and there was a fella talking to some of the vendors about his wife and saying, ‘Oh, my wife can’t come anymore. She’s got dementia. Do you remember…?’
“He was trying to relive these memories with her with the vendors on the street, we kind of used that as inspiration and went and wrote a song, looked at our own experience with people with dementia and wrote a song, that one I’m excited about as well.”
Richie continues: “It’s funny because even just hearing the descriptions of the songs or what they’re about, hearing them out loud next to each other, they’re so different.
“One’s about dementia, one’s about a proposal, another is about people punching the head off each other, and then even if you think about the last single If I Made the World is about an encounter with a homeless man in Dublin.
“I kinda like that though, it’s not like our songs are all love songs or all heartbreak songs or all like memories of when we were kids songs.
“It’s a variety of different experiences that we just try to tell stories about and things that affected us in any sort of way.”
Tell me about that encounter with the homeless man that inspired your last single..
Richie says: “Basically after a night out in Dublin, I was in a chipper and I got chatting to a homeless fella and he was basically just telling me how the world would look if he was the one who was in charge and everything was just really idealistic and hopeful. He was so selfless and wanted to just give to everyone if he had the chance.
“And for some reason, I just found that something that kind of struck me a little bit because I was kind of taken by surprise a little bit.
“I didn’t expect someone like him who you could say the system had failed to say if he was actually the one who ran that system, even in the position he’s in, he would like still want to just give to everybody. I just thought it was a nice contrast compared to the situation he was in.
“We just kind of wrote that from his perspective and then we actually recorded a music video for it in Dublin and we had an actor booked and then the actor had to pull out and very last minute we ended up getting some fella who was an ex- homeless man.
“He was homeless for over 20 years and he now helps out with the Simon Community and he’s very involved with the homeless community.
“It was just a perfect fit.
“His story would be enough to inspire a bleeding album, never mind a music video.”
A lot has gone on since we last spoke, which includes Imelda May becoming a fan.
Darragh says: “It’s great to have someone you respect so much as an artist take an interest in your own writing and your own craft and what we’re kind of creating here and to sort of just be like, ‘I actually believe in this, this is great’, and to have that sort of…”
“Approval,” Richie offers.
“Yeah,” Darragh agrees. “It sounds weird to say it like that but it is (approval), obviously when you’re doing this and you’re an independent band and you’re trying to push yourself and stuff, it’s obviously great and it’s fantastic but there’s obviously doubtful moments, that’s what Miracles is about, ‘Is this working out? Is this what we’re doing with our lives? Are people enjoying this?’
“It’s really cool to have someone like that on your side and plugging you to other people as well being like, ‘You’ve gotta listen to these guys’.
“She really has our back which is great. She’s great for supporting up and coming artists that she believes in.”
Richie continues: “Actually what was kind of ironic about that as well was the song that perked her ears and that got her interested in working with us was Miracles which was the song that Darragh was saying was that doubt.
“It’s all well and good. You can have as much self-confidence as you want and there’s no shortage of that in this band but to have that outside approval from such a respected voice and talent is definitely motivation.”
It was still early days for the band when Hawke the Band won a competition to play as special guests of local heroes Aslan at Dublin’s 5,000 capacity Iveagh Gardens.
One of your very first gigs was with Aslan when Christy Dignam spoke so highly of you. Of course he sadly passed away last year..
Richie says: “Similar to the Imelda thing as well, he was such an Irish legend who had good things to say about the work that we’re doing.
“So that was another situation of encouragement and motivation to keep going and we’re in touch with the rest of the lads in Asland and they’ve constantly had our backs and been there for support and advice.
“We’re just grateful to have people like that have interest in us and just not think we’re shite.”
Darragh and Conor have been added to the band and it sounds like it’s almost been a happy accident while Richie was trying to get some recruits for Éire Óg GAA club in London.
Richie says: “It wasn’t necessarily that it was a different lineup, it was more that it was myself and Eoghan were the two who were working on this and we would play with a band but there was no set line-up.
“Then we met Darragh and then Conor and we all just happened to be Irish expats in London.”
Darragh, how did you come to the band?
“It was actually very random,” he says.
“I knew the lads were looking for a drummer.
“I saw on a musicians’ group chat or something, ‘Anybody know a drummer free these days for a small UK tour?’
“I was looking at it and I had a look at the music and stuff and I said, ‘Jeez, these boys are alright’, so I messaged Eoghan and they said, ‘Alright, come on the tour then’.
“I met the boys and within two minutes we were driving up to Liverpool and we had Luke Kelly blaring and that was just the bonding moment.
“I don’t think I was ever asked to join the band.
“I think I was just morphed into this group without any say in the matter.
“It was coercion.”
Richie comes in: “No, you know what?
“Me and Eoghan were like, ‘Will we say it to Darragh, ‘Do you want to be a part of the band?’
“And Eoghan goes, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, grand. I’ll say it to him’.
“So Eoghan says to me the next day, ‘Yeah, I said it to Darragh. He’s totally on board. He’s in the band’.
“I was like, ‘Oh, lovely’.
“So then we’re in a group chat.
“I didn’t have a clue that as far as Darragh was aware, nobody said anything. Eoghan told me he said something, but Eoghan is very vague with a lot of things he says.”
Darragh takes up the story: “It was very funny. We actually played a gig in Shoreditch.
“I actually made a mistake in one of the songs. It was a really small mistake but I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I did that’.
“I’d say nobody noticed but I was like, ‘That’s the worst playing anyone’s ever done in the history of drums’.
“And at the end of the gig, I was all flustered and Eoghan comes up to me and he’s yammering really quickly at me and he’s talking about something and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry about that’.
“And he’s like, ‘No, no, no’, and he starts talking at me so quickly and whatever way he phrased it, I thought he was actually kicking me out.
“I thought he was saying, ‘Look, we’ve had a nice time. We’ve got on so well and it’s been great. It’s been really, really good and I just want to tell you that’.
“And I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s me done. That’s the last time I’m gonna see these lads’.
“And then next thing I’m added to the group chat.
“I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’
“I picked up the opposite of what Eoghan was saying.”
Richie continues: “And then Conor was a while after that.
“I actually initially started asking him does he play football?
“I was like, ‘Do you want to come up to Eire Og?’
“And then I got him on Instagram and we had about 15 mutual friends and all of them were musicians based in Dublin.
“We were looking for a bassist at the time and I was like, ‘You’re definitely a musician, aren’t ya?’
“And he was like, ‘Yeah’,
“I said, ‘What you do?’
“And he’s like, ‘Play bass’.
Both Richie and Conor did some playing with Éire Óg but the band’s schedule has made it hard to keep up.
Did they try to get you playing GAA, Darragh?
“They did actually. As soon as I met Richie, it was one of the first things he said to me.”
Richie and Darragh chat to the Irish World from Darragh’s place in Kilburn.
Darragh says: “I just happened to move here because I was doing a master’s up in ICMP.
“I just got a call from somebody like, ‘Are you still looking for accommodation, we’ve got a house beside the college’.
“And I ended up kind of settling in this kind of area even though the boys were out east but it’s a nice spot.
“It’s where all the Irish tended to gravitate to through history so it’s nice to carry the torch, I suppose.”
Proposal is out now.
Hawke the Band play the Sebright Arms in London in support of The Zangwills on 22 February and Whelans in Dublin on 5 April.
For more information, search Hawke the Band on social media.