Crojayn used the proceeds of their busking in Cork to finance their first EP, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
SEVENTEEN-year-old Jordan Morrison is dispensing a blues education. “Do you know the Skip James song, ‘Crow Jane’?” Born, as he says, “60 years too late”, Morrison is a founding member of Crojayn, a four-piece band from Cork that have made a name for themselves busking of high-energy blues and rock on the streets of the second city.
There are echoes of Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy and bluesmen of old like Skip James and Muddy Waters in their sound, but there’s no defeat or world-weary suffering in Crojayn’s songs.
It’s gutsy music, intuitive and full of earnest abandon. In short, it’s young.
Morrison may hark back to earlier times for his influences, but lead guitarist Cian Mullane listens to metal and it shows; while Jordan brings bluesy vocals, thumping rhythm guitar and old-school harmonica licks to the table, Cian lets rip with inspired instrumentation that belies his 15 years on planet Earth.
A solid rhythm section in the form of bassist David O’Mahony and drummer Shane Collins, who busks with a cajon, a Spanish flamenco drum shaped like a box, completes the quartet.
Promoting their eponymous EP, they are recording a live session for a community radio station. In between songs, Cian paces edgily. As soon as he picks up his guitar he becomes a kind of musical conduit, perfectly at ease in his own skin and utterly focused on his instrument. He’s been playing the guitar since he was nine.
The Strypes have already established a template for young Irish bands playing old music. There’s no denying that youth also adds to Crojayn’s appeal; when they busk, they gather crowds because of their sound, but also because of the novelty of hearing these kids play with such mature technical ability.
Youth brings energy and audiences, but also disadvantages. None of the band can drive, meaning they rely on lifts and buses to get their gear around. Yet hand-in-hand with their musical maturity is an impressive business acumen. Self-managed and self-promoted, they have adopted a ‘no pay, no play’ policy in response to encounters with exploitative bookers.
“They think that because of our age and because we’re having fun we won’t want to get paid,” says Morrison. “There are these ‘promoters’ who think they’re Simon Cowell or something, but they get bands in for free and they treat them like crap and it does nothing for the music scene.”
In response they have set up a venue called Emergence, a monthly event for young bands on French Church St in Cork.“We treat the bands how we want to be treated,” Jordan says. “We pay them, and there’s professional lighting and photographers.”
Collecting the coppers from busking paid for their debut EP, which was recorded in the Ground Floor Studio on Marlboro Street, Cork, with Botswana-born producer Zen Tshabangu.
“We reinvest the money from our busking,” Morrison says. “It can be hard work; last Saturday we played for six hours in the rain.”
They are happy with the results. Six tracks, mostly penned by Morrison, deliver a taster of the band’s sound. If it’s a little raw, so much the better, Morrison says.
“It’s not overproduced — we wanted to capture our live sound.”
Moving away from busking and into venues is a vital step for the band, and gigs like their recent contribution to a Phil Lynnott tribute showcase in the Grand Social in Dublin are a move in the right direction, while Morrison takes driving lessons and the band save for the all-important tour van.
"Don’t Believe a Word" live in Dublin
Some of you may have noticed that we recently passed 1,000 likes! We thank you for staying with us and here’s to the next 1,000!Here’s a video of us playing the Thin Lizzy classic "Don’t Believe a Word" in Dublin last Sunday for Phil Lynott’s birthday, enjoy!Posted by Crojayn on Tuesday, August 25, 2015
In the meantime, it’s term time; Mullane is going into transition year, Morrison into fifth year and O’Mahony into sixth year, while Collins is first past the post with his Leaving Cert and will begin a music course in Coláiste Stiofán Naofa.
For Crojayn, music is not only a joy and a drive, but also a career pursued with dedication. Where would they like to be in five years? Cian stops pacing and looks up. “Glastonbury,” he says decisively.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved