From Dublin to London – Cian Godfrey’s Somebody’s Child is on a journey to break the mould.
Words: Jack Press.
Photos: Nicholas O’Donnell.
Moving away from home is a rite of passage, but few kids make the great escape for a future as an indie rock icon. While he’s still adjusting to living life in the big smoke of London, Cian Godfrey knew he had to ditch Dublin, the city of his youth, for the sake of Somebody’s Child.
“There is definitely a glass ceiling on the Irish music industry,” Cian sighs as he collects his thoughts. “People in the Irish music scene love to tear you down at the beginning until you’re a certain size, so you need to get out.”
Despite filling his indie rock anthems with tales of growing up in modern-day Dublin, he doesn’t feel like his songwriting vehicle drives in the same lanes as his countrymen. “We’ve never been attracted to just sounding Irish. We see ourselves as trying to progress and change things rather than replicate what other people are doing, so we found we belong a little bit outside of Ireland.”
With dreams of making it, whatever that means, Cian knew he had to seek out somewhere that wasn’t “hard for alternative music to survive without having a certain level of social proof” to his name. With his bags packed and his songs written, he headed for East London’s Hackney Road Studios.
“Just coming over to London was important for us because a lot of our music is influenced by British music. We needed to get out; after two years of Covid, while writing in Dublin, we just weren’t getting that same sense of inspiration we were when we started off, and it’s subject to the experience we’ve had over the last few years which wasn’t down to the place but down to the times.”
“There’s a feeling of disenfranchisement between political leaders and people my age”Cian Godfrey
London’s become a ‘very artsy’ source of inspiration for Cian as he works away at Somebody’s Child, while Ireland was “a good place to test the waters a bit and see what people like”. With three EPs – 2020’s ‘20 Something’, 2021’s ‘Hope Amongst Other Things’, and ‘Staying Sane’ – under his belt, making the move to London meant doubling down and dealing with the music industry’s monster under the bed: the debut album.
Starting with the desire to do nothing but step up, the self-titled album was spurred on by breaking the mould Somebody’s Child had been sculpted in. “Doing three-minute songs and releasing them every few weeks is fine at the beginning, but you want to have bigger campaigns you want to have more context around the stuff that you’re putting out.”
Of course, nothing worth doing is ever easy. A global pandemic gave the music industry a meltdown, and the sunshine and rainbows turned to grey skies and thunder. “It’s a blurry point in my life, because a lot of the stuff we actually released during Covid was written before, so it was a really dark patch creatively, even though we were writing more than ever,” Cian reflects. “We tried to take it as if it was a full-time job, like a nine to five, and it was a little bit naïve to think you can just grind out creativity. It’s hard to think that the best songs in the world came from two people sitting down at 9 o’clock and trying to bash something out, it’s not exactly how it works.”
Even though it felt like time was slipping away, like the clock on Somebody’s Child was running out and he knew he only had “a certain amount of time to try and make my dream a reality”. That’s why when he got to London, he sought out Grammy nominated super-producer Mikko Gordon. Having worked with genre giants and pioneers like Arcade Fire, IDLES and Radiohead side-project The Smile, Cian found himself rubbing shoulders with like-minded people.
“It’s funny because we were very much like ‘this is our first album, everything has to be perfect’, and obviously he’s worked with people for so long and he’s so experienced that some of the stuff you could tell he was like ‘once this is out, you’re not going to care whether this is in or this is not’, but thankfully he entertained us for most of what we wanted.”
And what Cian wanted for Somebody Child’s debut was a dash of duality. No, it’s not inspired by the mosh pit anthem by the nine-masked men from Iowa, but the “parallels in the music industry” instead. In fact, the album was nearly named after the concept.
“There was this ‘pop versus us’ thing going in my head because I didn’t want to be part of the pop world, I am just a little bit afraid of the connotations that come with it,” Cian explains. “Whenever I’m writing songs the only rule is that it can’t be too poppy, and it tore me down creatively when I first started but I’ve grown to accept that whatever feels the best is the way that the song needs to come out.”
With his own trials and tribulations as inspiration, the idea behind the duality is in “acknowledging these parallels, accepting that you lie somewhere in the middle.” With that in mind, the self-titled debut became an “honest and real reflection” of “everything that makes us ourselves”. Using Mikko to tie together a narrative and be the needle they needed to stitch up their sounds, Somebody’s Child focused on turning their indie-rock riots into arena-ready anthems. How? By turning to Blade Runner.
The cult sci-fi hit and its original score by Vangelis gave Cian the booster shot Somebody’s Child needed to stand out. “Vangelis, the producer of the original score, had a synth sound that we used to write on peppered throughout the album, it helped us think of it like a movie with different characters coming in here and there.”
“I’m acutely aware as a human of getting older”Cian Godfrey
The album is a journey that takes you through his formative years growing up in Dublin, and his days discovering London. It’s the people he’s met and the stories they tell. As an album, it paints a picture of disenfranchised youth, a generation that doesn’t understand its ancestors. It’s a sign of the times, Cian says. Closing anthem, and reworked fan favourite ‘We Could Start A War’ speaks for itself.
“There’s a feeling of disenfranchisement between political leaders and people my age in their 20s and it’s hard to associate yourself with them – it almost seems like it’s not real,” he admits, as concerned for our future as we all are right now. Of course, his songwriting to him is as much of a spectator’s thought as it is a critical social commentary.
“I don’t really analyse my songs, so it’s just a reflection of how I feel a lot of the time. I can feel one way at the start of the day and something completely different at the end, so it’s gonna be two completely different songs. That’s the beauty of songwriting to me, sometimes you’ll write a song and a year later it somehow starts ot make sense in a different context.”
In it’s simplest form, Somebody’s Child, as a songwriting vehicle and a debut album is designed to “reflect how people’s emotions change from the start of the day all the way to the end,” Cian does hope listeners find a little more to it than the sum of its parts.
“I just hope that people make the meaning of it their own and that it reflects something in their life as much as it does in mine, and it doesn’t have to be the same thing.
“I’m acutely aware as a human of getting older, and reflecting that in my music is a big part of the drive behind the creativity, and secondly, as a male, the inability that we have as men to talk to one another. I hope that it gives people some respite and maybe helps them to find someone else who feels similar to them.” ■
Taken from the February 2023 edition of Dork. Somebody’s Child’s debut album is out 3rd February.
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