Limerick folk/pop outfit Hermitage Green have developed a strong affection for Australia, which is why they are returning down under for the second time in 12 months.
Guitarist Darragh Griffin said the reception they received last year was motivation enough for a quick return.
“When we were there last November, we kind of said, ‘We need to do this regularly; this can’t be a once every three years kind of thing’,” Griffin said.
“What we’ve tended to find as well is you have to do a bit more work to win the crowds over but that can be kind of an enjoyable challenge.”
Darragh shares vocal and guitar duties with the Murphy brothers Dan and Barry, the latter of which had a successful career with Munster rugby before taking up music as a serious pursuit.
The band have been coming to Australia since 2013.
“Our first time going to Australia was a surreal stand-out experience for us. We played a couple of weeks in Perth and had built up a bit of a reputation and people got to know us and enjoyed us and then we did the east coast.
“We were coming back (to Perth) for one gig at the end of it and for that last gig, there was literally this enormous queue of people up the road where they couldn’t get any more people into the pub so we ended up actually going out and playing to the fewer [number of] people who were waiting, because we knew they weren’t going to get in.
“When you see that kind of hype being built up in the space of two weeks, that’s all it was, and I suppose that news had spread from coast to coast literally between the community and it was absolutely amazing. It’s something we weren’t expecting to happen on that sort of scale at all.”
The Limerick band’s Australian preoccupation is not just about audiences. They’re travelling with a didgeridoo as the instrument features in the song The Lion’s Share.
“I can tell you it’s not the easiest thing to travel with,” Griffin joked.
How did an Australian crowd react to seeing an Irish band with the quintessentially Australian instrument?
“It definitely raises the eyebrows. I think you can recognise if someone is doing something from an angle of a gimmicky thing but it’s essentially the foundation the rest of the song is built on top of. You couldn’t have a bunch of Australians coming over to Ireland and jumping around with a fiddle on stage. That wouldn’t be appreciated [just as] it wouldn’t be appreciated in Australia to be disrespectful to the didgeridoo.
“As soon as people recognise that it’s an integral part of The Lion’s Share, I think they appreciate what are trying to do with it; we’re trying to incorporate it into our own sound.”
The band’s last tour got off to a disastrous start when some band members couldn’t get into the country in time, meaning that their Prince Bandroom gig, the first of their tour, had to be cancelled. They won’t repeat the same mistake again.
“We’re going to Melbourne a week and a half early this time to make sure. A monumental mess-up was what it was and a little bit of naivety on our part.
“We were just really devastated that people had been coming from far and wide and then suddenly the gig was cancelled. We were just really, really gutted. We do not cancel gigs, it’s got to be something absolutely monumental to cancel a gig because we know the effort people make to go to gigs because we make it ourselves. It’s devastating when it’s called off. We 100 per cent will not be making that mistake again. Hermitage Green will be there on stage as planned.”
All of Ireland was shocked by the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan in January and nowhere more so than in her native Limerick. Hermitage Green paid tribute to one of Limerick’s most famous daughters at a special gig in King John’s Castle when they played the famous Cranberries’ songs Dreams and Zombie.
“It was phenomenal, I’m getting [the] shivers thinking about it.
“There were 2,000 people screaming these lyrics back at us and we ended Zombie and the crowd just kept singing it and it wasn’t really planned out like that. They kept singing the end of Zombie and we had that 15 seconds where we all just stood at the front of the stage and looked over 2,000 people, over the wall of King John’s Castle and onto the city and the Shannon and it was just really, really emotional. It was an incredible moment. It’s a hard one to top. We’re going a few years and that’s a stand-out moment. I’m emotional talking about it. It was incredible.
“Noel Hogan [Cranberries guitarist] was at the gig, so knowing he was in the audience watching this, on top of everything else, really kind of brought it all home. It was absolutely amazing.”
Hermitage Green kick off their tour in Perth on November 10 before gigs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and Thirroul.