Irish band THE GHEARS have long been Greenbelt favourites with their Van Morrison-influenced rock. Andy Long spoke to the band at Cheltenham Race Course.
I'm sitting outside one of my favourite places in the world. I'm at the Greenbelt Festival outside The Tiny Tea Tent, supping a fresh brew and talking to The Ghears. I love this job!
Bassist Higgs, guitarist Brick and guitarist/keyboards Plant sit and sup while I get the story of the band from drummer Pas and lead vocalist, Paul 'Archie' Archer. The story of The Ghears begins with the band Disraeli Gears, as Paul explains. "It basically started because my brother Iain (renowned singer/songwriter Iain Archer) had asked me to write songs with him, which I did and we did some gigs. That was Disraeli Gears and that evolved in Belfast. Then Pas came over and he started drumming. We moved from Belfast to The Fens to be closer to London. Then we started putting The Ghears together, we changed the name and became totally different musically and started gigging in London. Now we've started branching out, we've been touring Holland in October and Belgium in March."
The band became The Ghears in 1998 (ish!) and in '99 released an album called 'High Speed Silence'. They have invested a lot of time, money and effort into their new album 'CDR' which was available at Greenbelt, but will also get some official launch gigs soon. The Ghears have become something of a favourite at Greenbelt and Pas tells me that this is their third time in a row at Cheltenham. Like me, there are elements of the old festival site that they miss, especially the big Mainstage, which Pas described as "a bit daunting but it was nice looking up to that oak tree at the back." At the same time there are just as many special elements at Cheltenham. Paul expands, "Personally speaking I really enjoy the second stage. Basically because of the space, the room, there's just something about it, the intimacy I think and the fact that it's kind of wide. If you go and play in London, you play the same venues and it's interesting to a point, but it can get stiff. It's like a production line, it's kind of faceless. So it's really nice to come somewhere that's got a bit of character. Every time we play Stage 2 we've all enjoyed it. We've had our technical difficulties, but that has led to various interesting moments," he laughs.
At the moment The Ghears are still holding down their day jobs, but like most people in their position, their aim is to make the band their career. "Obviously the industry is the industry, so we're trying to keep our feelers out and we've been talking to different companies and we'll just have to see what happens, " Paul says. "We're planning a London launch for this new album. We'll do that on our own terms and get our own venue, one that we like and where we can have an atmosphere and do what we want to do. Then we'll do an Irish launch, definitely in Belfast, possibly in Dublin. We'd love to get up to Glasgow as well. The Scottish scene is certainly a big influence for me."
Fans of Dan Donovan will be familiar with The Ghears because of the time they have spent touring with him, as well as the album 'The Hex The Ghears' which they worked on together. Paul has been close to Dan ever since they were on the same bill at a festival in Ireland eight years ago and now they are even closer - they are next door neighbours!
Dan has also done the design work for the 'CDR' album. The plain card sleeve simply bears a sticker which states 'The Ghears' and gives the track titles. It's a minimalist design. The inner liner, printed on translucent paper, gives more detail.
I asked the band to comment on how much, if at all, faith was a part of the band? "Well, I was brought up with religion all my life, my father used to be a minister," Paul explains. "I've grown up in Northern Ireland, in the evangelical thing, it was very bad for me. So I'm not really religious at all, and I wouldn1t want to be. There's certainly a spirituality in what we do." Pas chips in, "Our place is to play music, we're not preachers. Do we have a message? The songs are the message." "Especially with this album, we have really, really toiled with this," Paul continues. "Every song we've worked and we've worked. Put in all the pre-production, in terms of melody, in terms of lyrics, in terms of sonics, in terms of rhythms, in terms of where everything sits. We really have worked so hard."
"Some songs were recorded four or five times before we were happy and we're still not totally happy," Pas concludes. "Plus Paul is always writing songs, every week he's like, 'Look what I've got here, three new songs!' But that's a good place to be, because it means we keep working."
Well, let's hope they do keep working, I'm certainly looking forward to these launch gigs and maybe a wider tour. They deserve to move up a few ghears!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.