Ceilí Moss: Anything but average
The Belgian band Ceilí Moss has been changing its band members several times. The only founding member that has remained throughout the last 14 years since the band has been formed is Laurent Leemans.
He is the vocalist, guitarrist, percussionist and lyricist for the Celtic Folk band Ceilí Moss. Their next album is due this May. CultureLoad took that as an opportunity to talk to Laurent about the band, their new record, songwriting.
CL: You’ve been making music for a long time already. How has the band, your music and your views changed over the years?
Laurent: In the early days, you could say we were your average Celtic band, playing the “Drunken bloody rover of the poxy County Down in the freaky jar”… But we all come with a background that was not just folk or Celtic: We all were listening to that rock scene from the 80s and early 90s, so for us, The Pixies, The Smiths or Echo & the Bunnymen were our daily bread as much as The Pogues, Kadril or Alan Stivell. So we added new sounds from other musical traditions and also things like Ska, Blues or Pop that we enjoyed. What we never did was go electric. Stephane uses his Strat on a few songs, and it brings a new and interesting touch, but we want to remain true to that acoustic/punchy duality that is, we believe, one of our specificities.
CL: What does your own music mean to you?
Laurent: Let’s say it is more than a mere hobby, but we do not intend to make it our career. We take it easy, but we do it seriously. First because we want to be the best band we can, also out of respect for the venues that invite us and the audience that paid their entrance.
CL: What kind of music do you like listening to and which musicians have inspired you to do your own music?
Laurent: I like The Pogues, except for the unhealthy lifestyle, some excellent Belgian folkbands like Kadril, Ambrozijn or AedO, some excellent Scandinavian bands, mostly Garmarna and Gjallarhorn, Omnia, a few French bands , the not-sassy kind of singer-songwriters (Luka Bloom, Johnny Cash, Paul Roland) and a good bunch of Celtic musicians. As a lyricist, I get inspired by stuff around me, though my songs are not autobiographic. I admire writers like Morrissey, Neil Hannon, Johnny Cash or Suzanne Vega who manage to be profound but never heavy. I write about the ones I love, and quite often about the ones I would love to kick in the face... ;)
CL: Which songs would you advice someone that has never listened to your songs before? And for that matter, which of your songs mean the most to you personally?
Laurent: „Leis a lurrighan“, a traditional from our album „On the shore“, would be a good start. I think we did a very good job with vocals, it is melodic, we treated this tune with all due respect without feeling constrained by the folk academic correctness and it is representative of our general style. „Ship of Fools“, from the 2003 album „Glad to find you well“ is, for the same reasons, another good choice, the difference being this one’s an original track. I have a particular tenderness for the Irish standard „The Foggy Dew“. I absolutely love the melody and, unlike most patriotic songs, it truly captures the tragic tale of people who refused slavery and humiliation, even at the cost of death. Usually, patriotic songs tell us to go and be slaughtered so that some king/president/bishop/whatever can become more powerful and richer...
Among our own compos, I’ll never grow tired of an old tune called „Back in the House“, one of the few frankly autobiographical songs, as it deals with my overwhelming joy of being reconciled with the woman I loved (and still do to this day) and thought I had lost. I think our best album by far is „Glad to find you well“. In my humble opinion, there’s not a single flaw in it. But the new one, scheduled for May, is made of the same wood!
CL: You’re talking about your new album here. What can people expect?
Laurent: We are working on the fourth album, which we hope to release in May, once Matthieu’s sister finishes the artwork. There will be gigs in the Benelux and Northern France. We like to play one to three concerts a month the whole year long rather than 20 gigs one month and nothing then. Playing live is the number one reason why we are in this mess ;) I for one simply enjoy singing. It gives me physical pleasure and a great sense of well-being. Nothing beats the kick of playing live when all runs smooth, that we are good, that the PA is OK, that the audience is reactive, yes, it’s bliss.
CL: Thank you very much for this interview.
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