SEVERAL months ago, the Riptide Movement found themselves at the ends of the earth. “We went to Texas to record our album and it was the most isolated place we had ever been,” says frontman Mal Tuohy. “The studio was next to a 20,000 acre pecan farm. There was a train line that went into the horizon. The nearest town consisted of a garage, a shop in the garage, and a bar that had closed.”
The Dubliners were almost entirely cut off from civilisation, apart from their producer Tony Rancich (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jenny Lewis, etc). The only occasion they saw other people was when they walked towards the Mexican border, three miles distant. The nearest big city, El Paso, was 30 miles west.
“The border went through the farm and you’d come across patrols. The studio gave us some bikes and we’d cycle in 50 degree heat right up to the wall they had built. A few of the lads from a patrol would come up and chat. It was incredible. None of us had ever been in a bubble like that before. You could have gone days without clapping eyes on another person. You really get a sense of the vastness of Texas — you could fit Ireland in there many times over.”
The Riptide Movement are Irish rock’s best kept secret. They aren’t remotely famous, despite filling Dublin’s Olympia Theatre and enjoying a break-out radio hit with their single ‘All Works Out’ (which also soundtracked a Discover Ireland commercial).
In person, the four are humble but plainly ambitious. Signed to Universal Records, the world’s largest label, they are determine to break out of Ireland and win an international following. They hope the new LP, written in Ireland and recorded in Texas, will take them at least part of the way.
“We are driven to be successful,” says Tuohy. “We want to play music for as long as we can. But we’ve never gone with the flow. We’ve tried to make music that is true to us. If you have a preconceived idea how you want to sound you risk cutting yourself off from other ideas.”
They weren’t always as focused. Having known each other since school in Lucan, they started the group as a lark, and initially won a following busking in Dublin. Early exposure obviously helped. Yet in the long run the perception that they were are ‘busking band’ arguably tarnished their image. It’s a period of their career they were happy to leave behind with 2014’s Getting Through, a zippy affair that simultaneously channelled The Waterboys, early New Order and The Commitments.
Going to America helped their artistic development, they feel. The thrill of the new and the unsettling vastness of the landscape seeped into the marrow of the songs. The result is a record by turns catchy and unsettling, Riptide Movement’s plaintive strumming upholstered with often dark lyrics.
For fans and newcomers alike, there’s lots to delve into. Whether it breaks them abroad is harder to predict — either way, the quartet can take comfort knowing they’ve given it their best shot.
“A band needs to keep changing,” says Tuohy. “At the same time, you have to true to yourself. As soon as you follow a trend, you’re done. We try not to get sucked into what everyone else is doing. It is important to have confidence.
“The first time we suggested playing the Olympia a lot of people told us we’d never fill it. But , from being out on the road and seeing the audience’s reaction, we knew there was an appetite. So we booked it ourselves and we did fill it. You’ve got to believe in yourself.”
- Ghosts is released October 21. The band plays Olympia Dublin that same night; Cyprus Avenue, Cork, October 29, and tour the country through November.