Top Gear: The Altered Hours

Posted October 22, 2021 in Sound

The Altered Hours explore their range of emotions with their sophomore album Convertible. Amongst other things, vocalist Elaine Howley talks to us about the recording process for Convertible which saw the band return back to their own studio to self-produce and self-engineer.


The Altered Hours have let down their hair on their sophomore album Convertible; a rip-roaring record that makes you want to raise your hands in the air and feel the rush of poking your head through a car roof. Working at top gear, the five-piece rock band now have a record deal with Dundalk-based Pizza Pizza Records, which also acts as a promoter and artist collective to the likes of Just Mustard, Larry, Elephant and Trick Mist.

“I think our visions are the same as they were – to keep gigging and recording music but working with a label like Pizza Pizza makes it easier to move forward,” says vocalist Elaine Howley on their union.

The recording process for Convertible saw the band return back to their own studio to self-produce and self-engineer. Being at home rather than away was important after the recording of In Heat Not Sorry which the band created in Berlin. “Being in Cork made a difference for sure. Working on it ourselves and having the time to write and record in our own studio was an enjoyable process. That studio is where we always practice so it felt like the album came out of a place we are comfortable in and we could make it at our own pace. I see Convertible as an opening out, it has a more colour and texture in it than In Heat Not Sorry. The recording process was much different too. We recorded In Heat Not Sorry in a studio over three weeks and made Convertible over a year at our studio. For this album, we wanted to sound closer to our practice room sound and have some more colour and textures. I think In Heat not Sorry had a lot of angst in it. We still have that, but I think there is more of a range of emotion in this album.”

The Altered Hours: Image Credit Izabela Szczutkowska

On Convertible, the focus that comes with spending a year on an album shines through. Their sound bounces between psychrock and shoegaze. Radiant Wound, recently featured on BBC Radio 6, builds on a continuous basis to crash down with a guitar shattering crescendo and emotively angsty riffs. For Howley, she describes it as “rock because I think that encompasses a lot, everything from psychedelic rock to garage to the blues. We are interested in the lineage of rock music and bring elements of classic and more modern iterations of that like shoegaze, punk or post-punk into the mix.”

The writing process is a team effort and the collaboration between the band enables everyone to pitch ideas, nurture a song from its embryonic stages and work on it to produce a fully formed track. “The song making process differs from song to song. For this album Cathal, Kevin (Terry) and I wrote melodies and lyrics. In some cases, like Thistle, we came together to write it. At other times, a song came fully formed written by one person like Cathal or Kevin. I tend to write lyrics as I go and then see where they might fit or when the band is playing together lyrics will come to me, or I use something I’ve written in a notebook as a jump off point and expand it.”

The Altered Hours are going through a change as a band once they hit the road as this will be the last time Kevin Terry joins them on tour. Being in the band since 2012, Kevin’s departure will change the five piece into a quartet. At their root, they will remain a Cork band but their origins come from all around the country. “Cathal is from Limerick, Nora and Patrick are from Mayo, Jack is from Cork and I’m from Tipperary. Kevin who recently moved on from the band but had a big part of writing, playing on and mixing this album is from Cork.

“We met in Cork City through friends and going to gigs. Patrick and Nora have known each other since they were teenagers and played in a band called Lower it Up. It’s the same with me and Cathal, we met when we were about 15 in HMV. We met Jack who is joining us on guitar for this tour through music too. He plays in The Sunshine Factory and Soft Focus.” With music being the glue, The Altered Hours were dab hands at being in bands before coming together: “Most of the members had been in other bands before they joined this group, except for me I think! Patrick was in The Great Balloon Race, Nora played in The Jollars and Cathal was in a band called The Venus Nursery. The Altered Hours is the first band I joined.”

The Altered Hours: Image Credit Terry McAuliffe

Hitting the road after a drought, there is a buzz around getting back on stage and performing live. Being limited to a stage at home to perform has its silver linings as musicians play all across the country to get back into the groove of performing. “Yes, we’re really excited. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d get the chance to get out touring again so I am appreciating that more than ever.”

“It was strange not to have played so regularly for years. The live element of what we do is the heart of the band, so I missed that a lot. In some ways we were lucky with the timing in that we were finishing this album and hadn’t gigs booked that got cancelled. The release of this album has coincided with things opening up again, so while it was tough to not be playing this past year and a half, it meant we could get back going as soon as things opened back up.”

Throughout Convertible, it is incredibly easy to imagine the set that The Altered Hours will perform. They have made an album of pure energy replete with powerful vocals and hard hitting melodies. Pre-Covid, the band shared a stage with Fontaines D.C. on their tour which gave them an unforgettable experience just before the beginning of the pandemic, something to hold onto whilst live music went dormant. “That tour was really memorable, the energy of the crowds and the venues were special and playing places like The Bataclan and Paradiso was a dream come true to be honest.”

“We are heading off now on tour for a month across the UK with Fontaines D.C. and we have our own tour in Ireland and the UK in November. Once our album is out, I imagine we will begin to write again and dream up the next one!” Now with gigs booked and tickets bought, dreaming up the next big thing feels more like a reality.

“I’d love to go to the U.S. to play but really at the moment I’m savouring every gig wherever it is,” enthuses Howley. Waking up from near two years of no gigs has been tough on the entire industry but bands and fans are rearing to go. Navigating from national to international gigs will come with its obstacles, but fans, artists and crews couldn’t be happier to get back into the swing of things.

Words: Sophia McDonald

Featured Image Credit: Hance Photography

Convertible is released on Pizza Pizza Records on October 22. They play The Grand Social on Friday November 26.


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