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."