Stirring sounds of life’s journey with Cork band Altered Hours

Altered Hours release their debut album today. Picture: Izabela Szczutkowska

With a new album recorded in Berlin, Altered Hours have marked themselves out as one of the
hottest bands to emerge from Cork, writes Eoghan O’Sullivan

IT’S not quite a manifesto but hearing Elaine Howley describe the journey she and her band Altered Hours have been on in the last six or so years is invigorating.

“Pain is a strong word but feeling that journey is something I really like. I don’t think we like things to float by, we want to feel in them, changed by them, part of the process timewise, I like a good story and I think we like to make this band a story,” she says.

She is sitting alongside co-vocalist Cathal Mac Gabhann and guitarist Kevin Terry in their studio off MacCurtain St in Cork. Completed by bassist Patrick Cullen and drummer Nora Lewan, Altered Hours today release their debut album In Heat Not Sorry. Recorded in Berlin, it’s comprised of 37 minutes and 10 songs of stirring psych-rock.

The group had a couple of singles and EPs under their belt already but found it a little daunting to actually make a full LP.

“I have a lot of reverence for albums because they have helped me in my life so much so that’s why I find it scary to add to the pile of albums in the world,” says Mac Gabhann.

“I just have a lot of reverence for the format and the long-play idea and didn’t want to imagine that I could just do it whenever I wanted.

“I never expected that it would be easy in the first place or that you’d be rich or successful or anything, I always visualised the journey of a band to be challenging to a degree, both internally and externally, with the world, with the music industry.”

Altered Hours were born in a recession, and like a gang up against it all, they weathered the cuts and setbacks. Moving from counties Limerick and Tipperary, they based themselves in Cork and worked hard.

“There’s no real plan, we’re not trying to get somewhere,” says Terry.

They played interesting, smaller venues around the country, honing their live show into a mesmerising, breathless experience.

The formative, challenging environment of their early days is starting to change, they say, though not necessarily all for the better, pointing to the economic upturn coinciding with the closures in Cork of venues like the Camden Palace arts space.

“That’s what I love and hate about Ireland. It pushes you. You get squeezed from every angle. I think we’re entering into a further time of being squeezed and while that’s not necessarily comfortable, there is a positive to its,” says Howley.

One of the highlights of In Heat Not Sorry is its longest song, ‘Grey On Blue’, built around the simple line, “In my room I can’t decide whether I’ve been hypnotised, is the colour grey on blue or grey on grey?” before it fades to a repetitive, dreamlike guitar riff.

Meanwhile, on ‘Citadel’ they reveal what they’re all about: “The start of everything, I’m waiting for the begin,” declares a disillusioned Mac Gabhann.

“We’re just trying to find our own voice and I think actually that this record was just the first step to us finding our own voice,” says Mac Gabhann.

Howley reiterates that this is a journey. “Life is just a good story really, and the band is a good story. I hope we can continue to make it interesting, keep pushing, keep writing, get to play, get to experience,” he says. If this is only the beginning of the story, then imagine where Altered Hours are going to take us in the years ahead.

Altered Hours release In Heat Not Sorry on Penske/Art for Blind Records today. They launch the album with a BYOB gig in the Kino in Cork tonight. Tickets €14, doors 8pm


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