Coming from Donegal, indie pop duo Little Hours have had to run a gauntlet of stereotypes. “Someone asked the other day if all our songs were about sheep?” jokes frontman Ryan McCloskey. “People generally haven’t been to Donegal and think it’s a place with no wifi and no real roads.”
Ireland’s northernmost country has given us Daniel O’Donnell, Enya and that annoying song about the Jim McGuinness. But Little Hours are a very different proposition, with a sound that blends the earnestness of Coldplay and the shaggy blues-rock of Hozier.
With hype already building, Sony Records is confident that it has uncovered the next big thing in home grown soft-rock.
“Our background has definitely informed our songwriting,” says McCloskey. “We grew up in the fishing village of Killybegs — surrounded by the sea. Everything we do goes back to that.”
How appropriate, then, that their major label debut should be entitled ‘Water’.
To the ongoing surprise of McCloskey and his bandmate John Doherty, this softly spun ballad has become a bone fide smash, racking up impressive airplay at home and one million Spotify hits globally.
“Were never thinking ‘oh this is going to be a big radio hit’. It isn’t catchy. We wanted to stay true to what the band was about rather than release something that would smack the audience over the head.”
The accompanying video has meanwhile taken on a life of its own. It depicts a woman in a refugee camp reflecting on a recent love affair. With nearly half a million views on YouTube, the message of tolerance and humanity has clearly a chord.
“We were talking about idea for the video and nothing was sticking,” says McCloskey. “I’d already had this idea of going to Calais and volunteering [at the refugee camp].
“I was literally on the phone to the director when I saw [Game of Thrones actor] Liam Cunningham on the Late Late Show, talking about the refugee crisis. The point of the video is that it isn’t about the immigration crisis — it’s about the ordinary people caught up in the crisis.”
Little Hours have been toiling on the Irish club circuit for several years. However, their profile has risen since signing with Sony — there is a sense, says McCloskey, of pressing “reset” and starting over.
“The more you can hand the business side to other people — it makes the music so much easier. We can focus 100% on writing.”
The pair are earnest but also ambitious. McCloskey carefully scrutinises Little Hours’ Spotify metrics to identify their strongest markets. Earlier this year they sold out a venue in London. Now their sights are set on the Continent and America too.
“You see the analytics and you want to go out there and broaden your audience. You never take anything for granted. We never imagined, for instance, that we were going to hit a million plays.”
The pair met at school in Killybegs and cut their teeth in local cover bands.
“Mostly you would have to play in local pubs. We covered everyone and everything: Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, Dire Straits, The Stones… It was quite an education.”
A major label deal has allowed the singer to give up his job as a software engineer.Yet funds are still tight which is why Little Hours last year moved back to Donegal from Dublin.
“It goes from being a hobby to a profession. While we were recording our LP we moved back to Donegal. We tour a lot and it’s hard to justify paying rent in Dublin. There is also something great about doing your first album at home.”
The single ‘Water’ is out now. Little Hours will release a debut album later in 2017. The duo play Cyprus Avenue Cork, tonight