Setting Sail: Ships launch Fund:it Campaign


Posted 12 months ago in Music Features

Central Bank of Ireland Visitor Centre

Sorca McGrath and Simon Cullen started playing together as Ships since 2012 and have been gigging around the country ever since, so you would be forgiven for wondering how they haven’t got around to releasing an album yet. Sorca explains, “We were pretty much writing to fill sets, you know? Writing so people would book us for a half an hour set or a 40 minute set, so we’d have to write 40 minutes of music. I think that’s how we’ve got to the point where we’ve been playing for this long but we don’t have an album.”

Now they have launched a campaign on Fund:it to finance the release of their first album independently on vinyl. They’ve been working on it for over a year in their home studio in Kimmage. “We had a few people interested here and there about the music, and we just decided, we don’t need any help in the traditional way. We have our own studio, we record it all there. So the only thing that we actually needed help doing was to actually press it to vinyl…it didn’t make any sense to get anyone else involved.”

“I’m basically looking at it like a pre-order. The basic reward is just the album vinyl. So it’s a way to just pre-order the record if you want. And it goes on from there, so you can get back catalogues – of our tiny back catalogue; we have like two other records. I’ve put two gigs on there as rewards and they sold out in the first few days.”

The response has been immediate and enthusiastic. “It’s been incredible, absolutely incredible. We’ve actually been blown away and a little bit overwhelmed. First of all I didn’t think it would necessarily be successful, but you have to try. I think I logged in like three days later and it was 50% funded. I didn’t anticipate the heart-warming feeling… I can’t believe the generosity of people.”

Releasing the album on vinyl, rather than digitally, is hugely important to Sorca. “We both enjoy playing vinyl. There’s a certain warmth to vinyl that you miss on a digital. Even when you master a track you master it differently for vinyl. You actually leave more room in the mastering, which means there more nuance in the music. And when you’re mastering for digital you tend to master it right up to the edge, and to my ear, it’s subtle, but it flattens everything ever so slightly.”

“I guess it rounds the experience, it just broadens the experience to be able to actually hold a physical piece of art… So I guess it’s twofold; it’s the sound of the vinyl but also the fact that you’ll have something to hold.”

Ships are working with Dave Darcy, from One Strong Arm, to produce the artwork for the album. “Obviously he’s a very talented guy… and he likes to build things, he likes to make things. We have this vision for the vinyl that’s it going to have some… I don’t want to give too much away and also it’s still in process so I don’t know what it’s going to be when it’s finished. It’s going to have some surprises, it’s not going to be just two flat sheets of cardboard folded over with the record in between. We’re going to use a double gatefold, so we’re going to make use of that. So for me it’ll be like a piece of art.”

The sound of the album will be a little different to what they have been playing in their live sets. The freedom of the recording studio allows for more experimentation. “In terms of instrumentation we both are very much fixed in the analogue world still, so we use guitars and basses. We use a lot of synthesisers, but they’re analogue, we play them, you know. And we both like to play different instruments so we capture all of that live.”

“We’re pretty much always writing to a live deadline, not meaning to, but that’s pretty much what’s happened. So we write stuff, but we always have in mind, there’s only two of us. When we write and we produce the sound is quite rich, there’s a lot of stuff going on, but we have to consider how we’d actually play it live, because we’ve only got two hands each. Obviously when we’re recording we’re freer…We’re both very interested in production and sound ourselves, so we would definitely push the limits of the sound recordings.”

“I think people might know us for our upbeat, funky, electronic sound, and the record is definitely…some people might disagree, but to me it’s not like a disco, late night, party record. It’s a listening record. We like groove, and that’s still there. But it’s definitely more contemplative. It’s not a summer record, it’s more like an autumn record.”

With this in mind, the pair are planning to release the album in October, leaving just enough time to press the record to vinyl after the end of the Fund:it campaign. Between now and then, they will be performing live at the Beatyard Festival in Dún Laoghaire, at Another Love Story Festival in Killyon Manor and at TurkFest on the island of Inish Turk.

“I guess for us those are a kind of preparation for an album launch…If people haven’t funded it yet and they don’t know if they want to, I guess they could come down to the Beatyard, say, in Dún Laoghaire, check out the set, and if it’s something that appeals then maybe they might fund it.”

“I just can’t get over the amount of people who I guess want to hear it. It’s just changed my whole perspective and I’m so excited to finish it. The record’s pretty much done, but there’s like, wrapping up, final mixing, and now I’m just super motivated to do that and get it done and get it out there.”

Another exciting aspect of the Fund:it campaign is their plan to produce a video with a portion of the funds raised. Ships are inviting filmmakers to pitch ideas, to be made between now and the album launch. “We’ve kind of put it out to tender, we don’t have anybody in mind, and we are inviting videographers or animators or directors who think they might be able to work with a small budget.”

“It’s not that it’s closed off to anybody off our island, but there’s so many talented people here on our island that I think it would be great if somebody wanted to come forward and had an idea…We deliberately decided not to have something in mind because both myself and Simon, if we do get involved in something like that, we both think we know the best thing and we both have ideas of our own. But actually, no, we specifically want someone to come with their ideas. We don’t want to be directing or giving instructions or saying it should have this aesthetic.”

“Ideally we would link that up with the release in October. So between now and October, if somebody can make a video and wants the budget, it’s all theirs!”

To support the project, see fundit.ie/project/ships-debut-album-release-1

Words by Naoise Murphy

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