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The difference a few years can make in the life of a band can be many things, not least surprising and educational. They say a week is a long time in politics, but a few years in music is multiple lifetimes. And so HamsandwicH, the band you thought you knew very well, has turned into Hamsandwich, the band you second guess at your peril. You can tick the boxes here: selling out Dublin's Olympia Theatre in April, last year a support slot at Slane Castle, a direct special request to support Mumford & Sons at Phoenix Park, an invitation to the President of Ireland's Garden Party on the lawn of his rather stately gaff. Not bad going for a band once battling with the dreaded 'quirky' tag, is it?
You can hear the difference in Hamsandwich's new single, Illuminate, which is as light as a feather. You can see the difference when they perform onstage - where there was once a band that seemed to revel in the occasional ramshackle live show now there is self-confidence, assurance and a sense of humour that is less slapstick and more on the subtle side.
It has been over three years since the release of Hamsandwich's garlanded second album, White Fox, and while it remains for many something of a masterclass in quality indie pop (it featured in Irish Times' writer Tony Clayton-Lea's acclaimed book, 101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die) it is now viewed by the band as just their very astute second album.
"It's good that the songs on White Fox are still loved," says Podge McNamee. "For such a short album it's had a remarkably lengthy life, and to be honest, reworking White Fox through many gigs slowed down the writing for the new album; in fact, we almost rewrote White Fox, and that was something we weren't used to. Most bands will tell you that the real way to learn your material is to get out of your comfort zone, and strip the songs down to the bare bones."