The Dandy Horses: Folkies riding off in a different direction
Ahead of their EP launch, the band tell Matthew McCreary how they're going the distance to make a name for themselves
You learn something new every day; for this journalist it's the discovery that far from being an equine fashionista, a Dandy Horse is actually a 19th-century bicycle.
Quite what relevance vintage modes of transport have to one of Northern Ireland's fastest-rising folk bands is a connection which even the band's fiddle and guitar player Noeleen Cosgrove admits is pretty tenuous.
"We had a list of potential names and negotiated, bribed and cried until we agreed, as very few other bands, businesses or products were using the name," she says. "It was also very ambiguous and didn't pigeonhole us into any particular genre of music, so it allowed us to develop our sound without any preconceptions. And if you Google search 'The Dandy Horses', you will get us!"
Getting your name noticed is, of course, what it's all about for any band with ambition, especially in the competitive music industry.
"It is very challenging to have your music playlisted, especially as local artists are up against the big names such as Robbie Williams, Mumford & Sons and so on," says Noeleen. "There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes contacting different people and asking for their support. Our new EP has already had quite a bit of airplay, so everyone is doing their bit to support local music."
Despite ambitions for greater airplay and music sales, there is the feeling that the five-piece – from Belfast and Londonderry – are in the game as much for the love of music and camaraderie that being in a band engenders.
"We all really enjoy each other's style of writing and creativity," says Noeleen. "There are no egos in the band and everyone very much respects each other's opinions. I think one of our strengths is that we all contribute equally to the pool of songs and there is a definite 'Dandy' sound. The banter and the fun within the band really is something special and there is a strong sense of ownership for every member."
Founded five years ago by mandolin and bouzouki player Sean Quinn, the band initially performed their own version of traditional Irish songs and tunes until 2012 when a change of direction was decided upon.
"Joanne, Sean and myself all wrote songs and decided to see what would happen if we brought our songs to the band and turned them into Dandy Horses songs," explains Noeleen. "What we created was better than we could have hoped for. Marty, the drummer, and Rodney, the double bass player, joined us last October."
The group will be playing a handful of gigs this month off the back of their new five-track EP, Hat On The Sun, which will be launched at Belfast's Black Box next Saturday.
With the likes of Mumford, The Lumineers et al pulling in crowds, it's a good time to be a folk band, although the Dandy Horses are keen to develop their own sound.
"I think our range of instruments confuses people somewhat, as we have fiddle, Irish whistles, low whistle, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, harp, guitar, drums and double bass. The easiest explanation is that we use folk instruments to create contemporary music."
With two new videos in the pipeline and a possible trip to Germany this summer, plus work on a new album in the autumn, finding the balance with their home lives can be tricky.
"We have to balance family commitments, work commitments, and then our drive and desire to push the band forward.
"But being in the band really is a labour of love – and we're just so lucky that we all get along!"
The Dandy Horses play The Black Box, Belfast on Saturday, March 22 and Sandino's Londonderry, on Friday, March 28. Hat On The Sun can be downloaded from iTunes, Bandcamp and other internet outlets from Monday. For details, visit thedandyhorses.com.