Back in November 2018, British punk outfit Shame were wrapping up a raucous gig in Dublin following support from hotly-tipped local bands Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. Watching the blistering performances were four musicians in a band called Odd Morris. When the gig was over and the performers went for pints to celebrate their exhilarating performances, the four-piece instead decided to walk across the city centre in the dead of night.
Buoyed by the electric atmosphere at the gig, they went straight to their rehearsal space, Yellow Door Studios. Yellow Door has become something of a focal point for Dublin’s emergent post-punk scene, with bands including Girl Band, Fontaines and The Murder Capital using it for rehearsals. On that night, Odd Morris spent several hours rehearsing before heading home in the early hours.
“We walked [to Yellow Door], it was about 45 minutes,” says guitarist Kris Hassett. “We walked from Vicar Street to there at, like, 11 o’clock at night. I don’t know why we did that, to be honest. I think we were all just buzzing off the gig. We had no money so we just went back there.”
Photo: Jack Martin
The band, consisting of Daragh Griffin on vocals, Kris Hassett on guitar, Ciarán McCarthy on bass and Sam Martin on drums, initially met as teenagers in the all-boys’ school they attended, but it would be several more years before the foundations were set for Odd Morris. They finished school, went to different colleges and earned degrees in subjects including marketing and music technology, before joining forces to indulge in their passion for music.
Their first single, “What Might Be”, was released last year and is a bracing listen. Guitar squalls permeate the track, as Griffin’s vocals descend into a Kurt Cobain-esque despondence, before thrashing back to life with determined cries of “And I’ll always be”. This song signaled the beginning of Odd Morris’ recorded output but, back in 2018, when the band started working on the song, it also marked the point where they all realised that they had something unique.
“We could always play together,” explains Hassett, “but the first time I remember actually feeling like we were onto something was when we were working on the first song we brought out: “What Might Be”. I arrived late into the studio, and they’d already got the drum and bass intro, and they were jamming that. When I walked in, we were all kind of buzzing off it and excited about where it might go. That was the first time that we felt that we were stumbling onto something good.”
"I wouldn’t say we’re fearful, because everything will right itself at the end, but at the moment it’s just trying to find things that you can occupy yourself with in a productive way."
Before this, the band were already building a profile in the thriving live music scene in Dublin and finessing their sound. While these shows were intense and well received, working on their debut single seemed to cement the band members’ resolve. “We played loads of gigs and things like that, but that was the first time where we were all kind of like, ‘Yeah, there’s something here’,” says Hassett.
What followed were two arresting singles in the form of “Lilac Leaves”, a pointed track that Griffin wrote about leaving his family home and his relationship with his father, and, most recently, “Cold Water”, a skittish and morose love song in two halves. Each new single has led to more music fans becoming enthralled by Odd Morris’ output, and their songs have been playlisted by BBC Radio 6 Music. The band are currently in the process of working on an album, but are enjoying the thrill of putting their singles out into the world.
“When we released our first single it was like we were sending our kid off to school for the first time,” says Hassett. “The first time [we released a single] we were like, ‘Will anyone even like this?’
“It wasn’t until the second single, “Lilac Leaves”, when we started getting BBC Radio 6 Music playing it, and we got all those other fans that you get through somebody else’s praises. You have to look at it from a separate point -- somebody else recommended this and it’s on the radio, and that’s how that person got to it, as opposed to us sending it out or someone we know sending it out.”
Photo: Nicholas O'Donnell
The band’s growing profile was apparent when they played their first London show last November and they spotted that Steve Lamacq was in the crowd, and the fact that the audience was made of up people who the band didn’t know, but who had connected with their music.
“It was the first time we’d ever really gone somewhere like that, where didn’t know someone who could show up,” explains Hassett. “Well, not that we didn’t know anyone, but there are only like ten people who I knew lived in London, but 50 or so people showed up. Steve Lamacq came down...it was the first time we ever got giddy about it. But every gig is always a new high. Every gig we play, we’re always delighted afterwards, then onto the next.”
When asked about the most enjoyable interactions he’s had with fans at Odd Morris gigs, Hassett recalls when the band played a show in London in early March, and a fan asked him for a memento of the occasion. “Someone asked my for my plectrum,” he says, “and I said I needed it for the next gig tomorrow. So, he asked me could he take my setlist that was written up on toilet paper, and I said yeah. It was nice, because even though it was written on toilet paper, he still valued it, so that was a nice touch. Other than that, just people coming up saying they loved the show is always nice.”
The band were scheduled to perform a show in Dublin last month, but it had to be cancelled as public health measures around coronavirus were implemented. Recalling how he felt when he found out that the gig had to be called off, the guitarist says, “When we found out we were on the way to do BBC Sessions in Derry and it was a long journey, so we were just sitting on the bus, a bit deflated. But in hindsight, it was probably the best thing to do.
“I wouldn’t say we’re fearful, because everything will right itself at the end, but at the moment it’s just trying to find things that you can occupy yourself with in a productive way. It’s an uncertain time.”