Hermitage Green, a folk outfit with a pop tinge play Róisín Dubh this Saturday. The quintet formed two years ago as the lads played music over a few pints in the back room of The Curragower Bar in Limerick city. Those informal jam sessions caught the ear of lead singer Barry Murphy’s brother, who runs the bar.
“There was a soccer match across the road in Thomond Park, Sunderland were playing or something like that,” recalls Barry, who also plays bass. “There were people there who had a bar out in Adare village, and they asked us to come out and play.”
From then on, Hermitage Green found themselves in demand in their home town – at one point they were playing six nights a week in different venues.
“That whole folk scene blew open when Mumford & Sons and the likes of those bands came around,” says Barry. “That, in hand with the recession, meant bars seemed to be competing with each other a lot more; pubs in Limerick that never had live music decided they needed it to get people in. There was a demand for that kind of music, not big sound systems. Just acoustic, folky kind of stuff.”
The other members of Hermitage Green include Barry’s multi-instrumentalist brother Dan, Darragh Griffin on guitar, Darragh Graham on banjo and djembe and Dermot Sheedy on bodhrán.
Since September, Hermitage Green has become a fulltime endeavour for its members. They have also made the transition to playing their own songs, releasing their debut EP, The Gathering last year.
“Once we had a full set of originals, it was difficult to do the bar stuff,” says Barry. “If you’re doing covers, the credibility of your originals takes a bit of a beating. We’ve been doing that for about six months now.”
That said, they’ll throw in a cover if they feel like it (like Florence & The Machine’s Cosmic Love is a favourite) – or if the occasion demands it.
“Sometimes, you do a college gig where you want to throw in a few more covers,” says Barry. “We did a Rag Week in Cork and a ball in Galway; we did a few there because they’d want you to play longer. But I don’t think people want to pay money and hear you do covers.”
Having two brothers in the one band can sometimes make for a fractious relationship – just look at the Gallaghers! Has either of the Murphys ever come close to throwing guitars at each other?
“We haven’t had too many fallings out,” says Barry. “I’m a good five years older than him, but I look about five years younger. And he acts about five years older than me, so we kind of meet each other in the middle!
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Barry observes of Dan.
“And he’s a boxer! No, we get on great. The five of us are good mates.”
Dan’s talent was apparent to Barry when the older Murphy was a teenager. He gave his younger brother a brief tutorial, and that was that.
“He was better than me after two weeks!” Barry laughs. “I was 16, he was 11. I was showing him chords, and he just became obsessed with it. Now, he can play pretty much every instrument under the sun. If you come to our show you’ll see he’ll have harmonica, didgeridoo, guitar, slide guitar, banjo and piano as well.”
Although Hermitage Green are keen to follow up their four-track EP The Gathering with a full album, their priority for now is building up a following through their live shows.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.