IMG_6649 (credit Rich Gilligan)

Enchanting poems sung over an arrangement of layered instruments is how Irish band Villagers began. Songwriter Conor O’Brien picked a low-key name at his computer while uploading material to MySpace in 2008. Fast forward to 2013 and the now band have two albums that, thanks to a name with little meaning other than MySpace regulations, remain a key-focus.

Perhaps at the face of it one of the most unlikely techno enthusiasts, O’Brien is an Irish lad who has greatly transcended his music in a short space of time thanks to the introduction of techno software Ableton. First album Becoming A Jackal is undeniably folk. New album Awayland is a mix of folk with parts techno. Although don’t be fooled, Villagers recent offering remains true to its roots with beautiful song writing and sensational arrangement at its core.

Take 2010’s Ship of Promises which takes you on a journey at sea steadily carried by a building drum beat and lyrics telling a story that ensure pressing skip is not an option.  2013’s Earthly Pleasures again boasts fantastic storytelling with the introduction of electronic bursts- ambitious and pure.

“There’s no real meaning behind the name Villagers, I just thought ok, what describes a group of people, something anonymous,” says O’Brien, “I want the songs to be the main focal point rather than the name of the band. I like the way it kind of looks like roman numerals too.”

When discussing the nomination for a Mercury Music Prize, the endearing lackadaisical attitude from O’Brien is ever present: “We were on tour and our manager called and he was really excited. I was a bit dazed about the whole thing.  Our manager had heard that we might get a nomination, it was cool.

“I can sort of see the flaws in the album now; I think we are more of a band now which is great. That’s the difference between the first album and our new one.  As we began to tour more we gelled more as a band and you can see that in the second album. The band helped to arrange the second album as well which was great.”

Always eager to keep their ear on the new music scene, Villagers were really impressed with Stealing Sheep who supported the band throughout their UK tour dates. “Stealing Sheep are great. They are very twangy, early Pink Flyod almost. They are a great band.

“I like new bands but its mostly old music that I listen to simply because there’s more old music than there’s new music. Bleeding Heart Pigeons from Derry are brilliant. One of them is still in school and they are really young. Their music is crazy emotional but very technical.

Since touring with Tracy Chapman, the guys have come a long way. 2013 is set to be a great year as they mould and grow into Villagers: “Mammoth touring is ahead for us in next 18 months- travelling and getting our name out there. Hopefully we will be getting time to write at some point. We feel better now as a band because we have two albums worth of material to choose from. It’s an exciting time and we can’t wait to get stuck in.”

Edited by Nadine Walker