Dolores O'Riordan

Cranberries honour lost singer with final album

Dolores O’Riordan’s death in January 2018 was mourned around the world.

Dolores O’Riordan’s death in January 2018 was mourned around the world.

There was a national and international outpouring of grief when lead singer of the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, died suddenly in January 2018 aged 46. The loss was felt not only in her native Limerick where the streets were full of mourners for one of Limerick’s most famous daughters but also all around the world for hits like Zombie and Linger.

More than a year since O’Riordan’s death from drowning due to alcohol intoxication, the Cranberries are releasing an album of songs O’Riordan had worked on before her sudden death. With the blessing of O’Riordan’s family, the band finished the album.

It was a help in their grief to have something to work on for her but it was also a constant reminder of the tragedy when it hit them that the singer would not be coming in to work on her parts for the recording.

“We kind of said going in, if we felt that this wasn’t going to work then we would just scrap the idea and just forget about it,” The Cranberries guitarist Noel Hogan told The Irish Echo from Ireland.

“The first couple of days, your emotions were all over the place because you were focusing on doing what you do and getting it right and at the same time there is a constant reminder that Dolores isn’t here anymore. You just have to put the head down and get on with it really and be professional, or as professional as you can be, about it.

“Then when you’re at the point that we are now, a year and a bit later you’re looking back and it’s kind of hard to imagine the grieving process without actually having done that. I definitely feel that it [the album] helped the three of us in some bizarre way to have something to focus on.”

Hogan remembers how excited O’Riordan had been about the recorded material.

The Cranberries at the height of their popularity in 2003. (From left) Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, Dolores O’Riordan and Fergal Lawler.

The Cranberries at the height of their popularity in 2003. (From left) Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, Dolores O’Riordan and Fergal Lawler.

“The last six months, from June to December, she and I were in constant contact. We were on opposite sides of Atlantic but she had this new burst of energy, I couldn’t give her enough music to write to.

“She wanted to work; she had a lot to say, given everything that had happened to her in the previous three years. It was trying to keep up with her, really,” Hogan said.

“She had shared that enthusiasm with her family a lot about how much she was looking forward to getting back into work, I think her family were aware of that. It was definitely something that she wanted to do and she had worked hard on these songs.

“To not finish it would do her an injustice.”

O’Riordan’s lyrics take on added poignancy on the album. Lines like ‘Ain’t it strange when everything you wanted was nothing that you wanted in the end?’ strike an emotional chord for her band mates and fans.

“Because of everything that happened, there’s almost a double meaning to them now.

“There’s a lot of discussion in this album and the topic is about things ending and coming to an end. Up until that summer, Dolores had been through a lot and it was well publicised and she was very open about it.

“She felt that she had turned a corner for better things and knew that that was behind her. The subject matter of a lot of these songs is, ‘that’s behind me now, this is the next chapter’. Then obviously what happened in January 2018 changed everything.

“When I went back to listen to them in February 2018, your mind can not help but wander off into another place and kind of realise what she’s saying here and how poignant it is now.

“This was written as another Cranberries album, that’s all it was ever meant to be in the origins of it. I know that forever more people will read more into these lyrics than she ever meant, but she would like that kind of thing anyway.”

Is this the end for the band?

“We never sat down and had a conversation about it but I think the general consensus was that we would do this album because we had started it, Dolores and I had started writing it, and it was so far into that process that it would be wrong to not finish it. We haven’t ever discussed doing any more than that.

“It’s just Dolores was such a unique voice and such a massive personality that really trying to replace her would be almost an impossible job.

“I think we would find it weird as well. It’s a double-edged thing. If we kept going, we would love to but you’re always going to be compared to this version of the Cranberries and that can have a very mixed response.

“We didn’t want to destroy the legacy at the end, do some kind of patchwork album and just try and make a few pound out of it. The agreement was that if any of us thought this is really not one of our best just to put it away on the shelf and forget about it.”

Asked for his favourite memories of the singer, Hogan goes back to the early days of the Cranberries in the 1990s.

“It’s funny because you start to remember these things after somebody passes away. You know someone is there at the end of a phone or a visit away all the time so you kind of take things for granted. I think we all do that with friends and family and suddenly someone is not there anymore and all this stuff comes flowing back to you.

“A lot of the stuff I started to remember was from the very early days … when no one knew who we were.

“We were in many ways this little gang and we were going around writing these songs and playing to two or three people at night. The thing about Dolores was she always just laughed things off, she was great for joking and messing and things like that. I guess in this business you have a public face and you have the person behind that only closer people would know.

“She hated the way that particularly in the music industry people take themselves very seriously. They come in and they’re like, ‘you gotta do this’ or ‘you gotta do that’. She just couldn’t get her head around that, she used to just laugh at that stuff and make us laugh about it as well.

“They’re nice memories … because it was that journey that we were all on at that time in particular.”

Limerick band Hermitage Green eager for Australian return

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

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.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

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.