Meet The Band: Uragh

The Irish progressive group Uragh are in this week’s Meet The Band spotlight. Their full-length debut album Maelstrom has just been released. Bassist Sebastian Sparr introduces us to his band.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Uragh.
Sebastian Sparr: Marcelo, our guitarist, had a bunch of demos ready that he was really excited about. He was keen to find like-minded people to jam those songs with. The world was just emerging from the pandemic and lockdowns at the end of 2021, so there was this tangible feeling of picking things up again and getting together and being creative. He posted an ad on Facebook and our drummer Jason responded. They rehearsed together and hit it off immediately. I had just relocated to Ireland with my family from Germany and really wanted to check out the Dublin metal scene and find people to play with. Marcelo answered one of my ads and invited me to jam.

First rehearsal was amazing and we started playing and hanging out regularly. Friendships were forged along the way. We played months without a singer, building the foundation of our sound but we were missing a key ingredient. It was Marcelo again who tracked down Craig on Facebook. We loved his vocal style and his work with his former band Outbreak. Marcelo invited him to play with us. He had lyrics already written and was super prepared. He blew us away, it was fucking impressive. We went for pints after and had a great time, the rest is history and we are so lucky to have this bundle of energy fronting us.

Describe the songwriting process for Maelstrom.
Marcelo writes the music, he records demos and passes them on to us. Once we learn the songs we try them in our rehearsal space, where they spawn into being, and start to breathe. We add our ideas, our bass lines, drum fills and ideas, rearrange them sometimes and practice them hard, because they are not easy. Craig adds his lyrics last. Certain songs like “Monarch” or “Mo Dhia Maith” took ages for us to get them right, because of intricate song structures, time signature changes and whatnot.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
The whole recording process of the album was a team building effort. (laughs) We recorded in Belfast with the amazing Josh Robinson at his JSR studio. Just hanging out together intensely, sharing the creative experience and process, crafting something together that means the world to us, was great. We had an apartment in Belfast and just hung out, guzzled beers and listened to music. It was a great escape from our busy lives back home in Dublin.

What was the biggest challenge in its creation?
As mentioned before, probably getting some of the songs right as they are fucking difficult. Usually Jason and I despair when Marcelo comes along with a new tune. So many parts, breaks, changes … it’s intimidating at first and takes ages to learn. Jason and I had to up our game massively to keep up with that and add something to the songs. I had this moment in the studio watching Jason track drums and I just couldn’t believe how much he has come on, and how crazy his drumming has gotten, compared to when we first met. He was a great drummer from the start but his style has gotten so intricate in such a short span of time it blew me away. It’s great to see each other grow as musicians, taking our craft seriously.

Also getting the sound right, especially the drum sound, was a bit of a challenge and it took many many reviews during the mixing process. We probably drove poor Josh, who also mixed the album, crazy with our remarks.

How would you characterize its style/sound?
We have no clue – we struggle to define our sound. We settled for progressive metal because the music has progressive elements. Further than that no idea really, we let others decide. Some call it alternative metal, groove metal – it’s fucking Uragh!

What lyrical topics do you cover?
Craig, our vocalist writes the lyrics. He has a great way of telling a story with hidden meaning in it. His lyrical images can be metaphors on subjects such as civil unrest, inner or outer upheaval, or civil unrest. Personally, I love his words for the album‘s closing track “Mo Dhia Maith,” in which he quite honestly and frankly describes his own struggles with mental health and manages to inject some positivity and hope into them, which is a rare enough thing for a metal band. I think he is being particularly courageous with this one.

What inspired the album title?
We liked the sound of the word Maelstrom. It is a mysterious sounding bit of vocabulary. We were also drawn towards the flexibility of the word. It can be a storm or a vortex – images which you can apply to many of the topics that we cover on this album. Subconsciously the music, the lyrical themes of this album are inspired by the things around us, in our own echo chambers, the sheer whirlwind of information, news, aggression, pessimism, negativity and toxicity that the modern age and social media have wielded upon us – a maelstrom of impressions and bits that is hard to process and easy to get lost in. One of our songs titles, “The Widening Gyre” has been borrowed from one of the great poets of Ireland WB Yeats called “The second coming.” In the poem it also says “Things fall apart, the center will not hold.” This is us trying to hold our own center while lost in a Maelstrom.

What led you to go the independent route for its release?
I guess the lack of a label. (laughs) We had one or two labels that approached us but we don’t want to be on a label at all costs. The conditions have to be right and the ethos has to match. We are happy going DIY with this one, we live in an era where it’s as easy as it ever was to release music yourself – for better or worse. We have this album that we believe in and we are throwing it out there without waiting for the right label to knock on our door. We might be waiting forever. We are learning so much along the way. We got a great PR company on board to help us get as much attention and press as possible, and with that we feel we are on the right track.

What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We try to be humble. First and foremost we did this for ourselves, and the process of doing it was already worth it. Of course we want the album to do well and many people to like it, but if it means something to just a few out there, we are already super happy with that. We are trying our best to get the album noticed, which in this day and age with such a daily flood of releases is already hard enough. We want to play as many shows as possible, so to all the promoters out there, if you are looking for bands, book us, we want to play everywhere.

What has the response been to the songs you’ve released so far?
Above and beyond what we expected. The official videos are doing very well on YouTube and our streaming numbers are great too. We have been getting a fair amount of reviews and press as well, which involved hard work, but we are very pleased with that and grateful.

How was the video shoot for “The Widening Gyre,” and how did you develop the concept?
We do all of our videos ourselves completely. We film with a GoPro and an iPhone 15 Pro, that’s it. Our first video for “Monarch,” which we shot on a remote beach in the South East of Ireland, was well received and people liked it a lot. With “Gyre” we were under pressure, because we could not secure a suitable venue in time so we had to improvise a lot. We also had like zero budget (like for all our videos) so we shot some of Craig‘s scenes at Marcelo‘s house and the rest in our rehearsal space. We hung massive sheets and curtains on the wall and Marcelo had this idea of projecting these old vintage home movies onto us while we performed.

I am not really sure about a profound concept, we just thought it looked cool and gave off a nice nineties Deftones vibe. But I guess we were trying to capture the essence of us as a unit of four lads playing in our rehearsal space. However, with the images projected onto us, we wanted to give our performance shots a nostalgic tinge. The song’s subject matter deals with loss and grief to an extent, a set of emotions and experiences that some of our band members have gone through, and we felt it was a good way to visualize this as some form of longing for something distant and vanished. We go into these projects with a very loose concept but a lot of the images happen spontaneously and coincidentally while shooting and have their origin in a deeper subconscious. We’ll leave it up to the viewer to imagine what they could mean and hope they can relate to it in some way and integrate their own meaning into it.

What has been your most memorable Uragh live show?
I‘d say our last gig at Fibber Magees in Dublin, playing the first heat of the Metal 2 The Masses competition somehow. It was our first show this year and I felt we really performed on another level compared to the shows in the previous year. We were tighter, more confident and just enjoyed ourselves. It felt so good for me personally and I feel for the other lads too. Crowd reaction was immense as well.

What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We have a few exciting shows lined up already. We will be supporting the amazing Urne on May 3rd at the Academy 2 in Dublin, along with our brethren LaVein, which will be a blast and our biggest gig to date. On May 31 we will be celebrating the release of Maelstrom along with Nomadus from Belfast and Dublin’s own Barrfite, we will be playing the album in full in Fibber Magees, Dublin, party with us if you are around.

How’s the metal scene in Dublin these days?
The scene is alive and kicking. There is such a wealth of bands and talent, it’s quite impressive. I am from Germany originally, and the scene in Ireland has made me feel right at home from the get go. Everyone is willing to help each other out, bands support one another and older more experienced bands generally take younger bands under their wing. At least that’s our experience. We’ve had so much help along the way from other bands, bloggers, podcasters, there is a very nice and friendly vibe generally. Metal often gets overlooked here by the Irish mainstream media unfortunately, even though there is such a vast cultural treasure to be appreciated or at least to be acknowledged, it’s a pity really. Because of that, I feel sometimes bands and artists have to fight twice as hard to garner attention, which maybe is the reason why bands here have this amazing work ethic.

A problem for rock n roll worldwide I guess is also gentrification… and that’s also felt here in Dublin. There is a lack of venues for small bands to play in. No problem to find an artisan bakery or a hot yoga studio, but if you wanna play some rock n roll it could be difficult. There are a few pubs and venues that are a stronghold for the scene but the threat of investors or hotels coming for these places and devouring them is always present.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I like hiking and cycling, outdoorsy type stuff. I try to read loads and I am quite into film as well. But I have two small children and basically no life so that shit is on hold. (laughs) Marcelo who is a father as well, would say the same. If his cute little toddler lets him, he is into stargazing, movies, sports and videography lately, since he edited all our videos recently.
Craig loves hanging out with his wife and his doggos, watching rugby and football and some gaming. Jason loves documentaries, gaming (especially horror games like Silent Hill and Doom) and football.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
So far in 2024 nothing has really blown me away. I loved the latest Chisel record, nice in your face British Oi with loads of attitude. Currently I am spinning Coffin Storm – Arcana Rising, a side-project by Darkthrone‘s Fenriz. I loved the new Zombi record Direct Inject and I am listening to a lot of hip hop as well, especially Griselda stuff, I loved the last Boldy James. I have revisited Faith No More‘s catalog intensely lately as well. ØXN’s debut album CYRM is phenomenal as well. A dark folk act from Dublin With Radie Peat of Lankum, amazing stuff.

I got Marcelo to revisit Faith No More so we‘ve been nerding out a lot about them. He is also spinning Machine Head and Archspire a lot recently. He went to a Cattle Decapitation gig with Jason, so they were on heavy rotation as well. Apart from that Urne and Death as well. Jason is currently into Whitechapel, Revocation, Rivers Of Nihil, Dying Wish, Urne, Svalbard, Intronaut and Ulcerate, who have this seriously unbelievable drummer. Craig is currently vibin‘ to Hashmaker, a band we played with in Cork recently, their performance blew us away, check them out. Fit For An Autopsy, Gojia, Lock Horns and Deafheaven.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Our debut album Maelstrom of course. It’s out on a streaming platform near you, give it a listen.

(interview published April 20, 2024)

Watch Uragh – “The Widening Gyre”


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