My Cultural Life: Stephen Macartney

The Farriers's guitarist talks about crowdfunding their new album and how he longs to be a drummer

If you were writing your wikipedia page how would you describe Farriers?

Farriers are a handful of musicians from County Down who like nothing more than making a great noise together, especially if that noise gets your foot tapping.

Have you always wanted to be a musician?

Yes, since I was nine or ten. My brother taught me some chords on the guitar and I haven't really stopped tinkering since. Writing songs is something I've loved for more years than I can recall now, and the live performances are an exhilarating experience. I definitely consider myself lucky to be able to do this for a living.

Your new album Years Ago in Our Backyard was crowdfunded. What made you take that route?

Money is really tight for everyone now, and it was very difficult to try and get funds for an album through gigging whilst paying a mortgage, or rent, and food etc. We raised a good bit ourselves but nowhere near what we would need for a full record.

Rachel brought up the idea of crowd sourcing, and we thought we'd give it a go. In all honesty we thought it would maybe raise a few hundred pounds, a thousand at best but we put it out there and the response was simply overwhelming.

There was over a thousand pounds donated in something like twenty four hours. It was amazing. The best response I think, was to the personalised songs. For a specific sum, Farriers would write a song individually tailored to the donors specifications.

Can you tell us a bit about the album? 

Years Ago In Our Back Yard will be launched on May 27 in the Black Box. A lot of the songs have ideas that stem from similar experiences. There's a lot about being far away from home and trying to get somewhere. There are songs about friends and the nights we got drunk when we were younger. Some ideas about loss, and disappointment, and some stuff about having fun.

Is this going to be the album that future music historians look back on as your big break? 

That's always impossible to tell, I guess. We're really proud of it, so who knows.In a year's time it'd be pretty great to be recording a second album, still doing some touring perhaps. We have plenty of new songs and new ideas coming together that are sounding great.

How do the Farriers work as a band? Are you a creative commune, an alt-folk democracy or a tuneful tyranny?

A lot of the songs on this record are things I wrote a few years ago. There's also a good bit of collaboration between me and Rachel. That's where the song writing usually comes from, Rachel and I work really well together. It's never easy to write songs but we usually manage to come up with interesting ideas pretty quickly. When it comes to melodies on viola, Kate has a great knack for a beautiful line.

If you were going to be described as 'The new---!' who would you want it to be?

Ha! No one really. I'm not sure any band actually wants to be 'the new' whomever. We will leave that up to the listener!

Successful bands are often accused of 'selling out'. Is there anything you would change, and where would you draw the line?

I don't think we need to intentionally change anything, that happens as a band grows naturally. Look at bands like Elbow, Wilco, The Old Crow Medicine Show and even our very own Snow Patrol, they've had commercial success without deliberately trying to suit a certain market or fit a mould.

We just have to do what we do and hope it works. I would draw the line at endorsing a product, or political party. That's just embarrassing.

If you were going to do a cover song, which song would be be and why?
It would have to be something that would suit what we do. Maybe 'I Got Drunk' by Uncle Tupelo, or 'One Way' by The Levellers, they'd work well. The rest of the guys might disagree with those choices though!

When you are on tour, does anyone have any odd/annoying habits?

We're still only at the early stages of touring really, so no weird habits have cropped up yet. That might mean I'm the one who has annoying habits I suppose.

Favourite musical instrument?

I'm a guitar player, so I genuinely love playing that. However I have a not-so-secret desire to play drums as often as possible. That's a fun instrument all right. I'm terrible at the drums though, to be fair.

Twitter, Facebook or other?

I'm all too frequently on Facebook. It's been even worse since I got the phone app. Tor example, my morning routine is to read the news and post some stuff on Facebook. Then I get out of bed.

Is there anything you would like to say to the fans who pledged money to fund the album?

Obviously a massive thank you. It's only been possible to do this because of their generosity and support. We are humbly indebted to them. That's what future historians should be paying attention to. We all really hope they like the album too. After all, it's theirs and we'll be very relieved if they love it.

Plus, an apology for taking longer than we originally hoped. It's a long process, something we're only aware of now.

Once the album is launched, what are you doing next? Anything planned?

Absolutely! We really hope to take this album around as far and wide as possible. Rachel and I are doing a tour of Ireland with Juliet Turner at the minute, which has been fantastic. We have some festivals coming up this summer and have been talking to a few musicians about doing collaborative tours in the UK, Ireland and further afield. There are plenty of things that we're looking forward to in the coming year or two, but I'll post all that up on Facebook as soon as humanly possible.

Years Ago In Our Backyard launch & special guests, Three Blind Wolves & Gareth Dunlop at The Black Box, Sunday May 27.Tickets can be bought at this website.