Dublin-based electronic musician Sinéad Bermingham, aka Animal Party, sits down with HeadStuff’s music editor Andrea Cleary to discuss her writing process, the Toronto and Dublin music scenes, and making weird music with harps. Animal Party plays Rabble Rouzer Music Fundraiser for Refugees at The Underground on Thursday night, a pay-what-you-can event to support those living in direct provision in Ireland.
Bermingham has been writing and performing music in both Dublin and Toronto for the past few years. 2017 saw the release of her first LP since returning home – Dreamweaver – an eclectic blend of electronic folk soundscapes with a high emphasis on production. Differences in the Dublin and Toronto music scenes were immediately apparent; ‘Recording in Ireland, I was the only person in my immediate circle making the style of electronic music I wanted to do. Toronto, however, was full of similarly inspired musicians on the local scene [which felt…] inherently collaborative. Jamming with these various musicians in a new setting had a massive impact my creative process and pushed me to learn more about myself and develop my style.’
The change of scenery seems to have done the world of good for Bermingham’s overall musicianship. She ‘became more comfortable with an identity of a multi-instrumentalist through taking part in large jams with multiple roles to fill’, leading to ‘a much more a more immediate connection to the sounds [she] wanted to make, and [becoming] more fluent in a variety of musical languages which allowed [her] to communicate better’. The label of a multi-instrumentalist is not to be understated when it comes to Bermingham who, while collaborating on the Toronto scene, ‘rented a small, gaudy harp from a music store’ to experiment with while at jams. The instrument has become one of the most defining sonic elements of Dreamweaver, and ‘now it’s where a lot of [Animal Party] songs and sounds start’.
Every aspect of an Animal Party project, whether an LP, live show or music video, is constructed and executed by Bermingham. ‘I’m very possessive of the sounds I create, and the total control is more than just an important aspect or some kind of fetishism; it’s that I can only feel like I’ve done my best and expressed what I want to the fullest when I have engineered it from start to finish.’ Her DIY approach to music making was at the beginning, like in many cases, out of necessity. ‘…at the beginning, not having the money and resources is the main reason I started off doing every aspect of the work myself. But now I don’t know any other way and can’t imagine another approach.’
How does her independence, and time spent away, make her feel about returning to the Dublin scene? Hopeful. ‘There seems to be a lot emerging acts that are challenging convention and appear post genre in some sense of the term. Sometimes the spectrum of musicians that Ireland produces is a little narrow, so newer acts that are attempting to transcend these restrictions that have been there for seemingly so long, is very refreshing.’ Indie musicians are well aware of what feels like restrictive access to playing gigs, and getting their music heard. ‘The vast majority of artists, in all media, make no money from releasing or performing their work, so now that there is a precedent set where a musician or a band is going to certainly lose money, it automatically discourages performance. Now that we’re over the heap of the economic recession in Dublin, I would love to see more venues and promoters investing in the exposure of local talent.’
Bermingham’s diverse sound is certainly unlike anything else being performed on the Dublin scene right now, with varying influences in genre, styles, instrumentation, and production. With Dreamweaver she aimed ‘to make dance music that is more engaging and beautiful than one would normally consider it to be.’ The addition of the harp to both the album and her live sets has been the biggest influence on her ever maturing style. ‘All my favourite music is based around the harp, and the hopes and aspirations I have for my music going forward, particularly in the live setting, will be centred on it. I have never felt more comfortable or inspired when playing another instrument.’
Catch Animal Party at The Underground on Thursday January 25th