Stevie Scullion had his music appetite whetted at Oasis

“MY FIRST gig was Oasis at the Limelight in Belfast,” says Malojian’s Stevie Scullion. 
Stevie Scullion had his music appetite whetted at Oasis

“It was the day Definitely Maybe went to number one. The charts had been released that evening because it was a Sunday. Oasis came out with champagne — they’d just found out. It was a m ental gig — I was at the barrier at the front and I was only 16. I got sucked into music.”

The irony is that the softly-spoken CoArmagh native couldn’t be further from the wild-living rocker caricature.

He cuts an understated figure while his swoonful retro pop — a sun-dappled mix of The Beatles, The Byrds and Big Star — has a gorgeous vintage lilt. Mad for it he is not.

“Would I be happy to have never listened to a song recorded after 1977? If I didn’t know any different, I don’t think I’d mind,” he says.

“Enough good music had been made by then. Even the contemporary groups I love are drawing on the same influences. When I was a teenager I was in a band that played lots of Teenage Fanclub.”

Malojian’s latest LP, This Is Nowhere, was recorded with esteemed producer Steve Albini in Chicago. Albini may not be a household name but he is one of rock’s most exalted behind-the-curtains figures.

He has collaborated with a dizzying range of artists — from Pixies and PJ Harvey via Manic Street Preachers and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. Nirvana famously sought him out to oversee what would prove to be their final album, In Utero.

“Working with Steve Albini was a huge honour. There was also an element of anxiety,” says Scullion. “He was surprised to learn we wanted to record the album in just four days. He didn’t think we had given ourselves enough time. We talked things through and eventually he came around.

"Albini has a reputation for having a spare and stripped down sound. That is something I wanted. I felt it would provide an interesting contrast to the songwriting.”

Scullion has had a cult fan base north of the border for several years. Yet it’s only lately that he has come to wider attention. It can be difficult for acts from the North to break into the Republic. Often it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

“It seems to have all clicked for me and it has to do with a gig in Cork [at Coughlans in early 2016]. My father in law had taken unwell and I almost didn’t drive down to it. He stabilised overnight so I went.

"From that I was booked at Kilkenny Roots Festival. I arrived and I thought I was the support act. It was a shock to discover I was headlining. It goes to show that it’s all about getting out there and playing to people — and that you can never predict when it will click.”

Growing up just outside Belfast, music was always within reach. Still, there were moments you realised you weren’t living in a “normal” society. Such as when thugs tried to ambush you as you made your way home from the local music store.

“Lurgan is a really weird town,” he says. “It was really segregated by the Troubles. Even today, it is one of the main areas where there is unrest. There was only one music shop — we had to run to it and back if we wanted to check out a guitar. There was nothing on our side of the town — you had to make your own craic. Play football or go into a garage with your mates and start a band."

This Is Nowhere is released on Rollercoaster Records. Malojian play St Patrick’s Gateway Centre Waterford as part of Imagine Arts Festival, October 28.

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