Started by Richie Egan eight years ago, Jape has a certain appeal to eclectic music-lovers.
Often, their music sounds like a welcome retort to some of the more dreary singer-songwriter noodlings that have clogged Irish airwaves over the last decade.
The success of 2004 single Floating — over a million people have watched the quirky video clip on YouTube — hinted at commercial success. Egan, though, is more concerned with producing as much material as he possibly can, rather than any commercial reward.
New album Ocean Of Frequency, Jape’s fourth, was in the works for some time before being released in September. It’s likely to please those who have been following the band, made up of Glenn Keating on bass, Ross Turner on drums and Matthew Bolger on guitar.
“It just took a while to finish this one because I wrote a whole load of songs and it was just [me] trying to find the correct ten songs that would fit together to make an album, basically,” says Egan, by phone from Dublin.
He has spent the last five years focusing solely on music after giving up other work. He has had to learn about the business side of music-making since making that decision. It’s one he is happy with.
“I’ve been able to make music for a living for the last while. I’ve just been taking festival fees and putting it towards recording. I’ve paid for this one myself so it’s cost quite a lot of money.
“Nowadays, when you’re doing stuff small and independently, it’s all kind of like a business. You’ve just got to keep an eye on the budget I suppose.”
Is that frustrating for a creative person?
“No, not really, to be honest with you. It could be worse, you know. I could just record it myself, I’ve got a really great studio setup. I’m an audio nerd when it comes to things so I wanted to go to France and go with [producer] Dave Odlum and a proper studio to record it to the best of our ability,” he says.
Ocean Of Frequency was recorded at Black Box studios in France. Its producer, Dave Odlum, has worked with Gemma Hayes and Tinariwen.
“For me, success is to write a good song,” says Egan. “If you can manage for people to hear that, that’s great. The definition of success for me is to come up with an idea for a song and execute the idea. That’s pretty much as far as it goes.
“You could say that commercially you can do a lot better if you live outside of Ireland. But there’s a lot of things over history that haven’t captured the public imagination but I don’t think that makes them any less valid.”
He baulks at a suggestion there are certain musicians in Ireland who do not get the recognition they deserve.
“At the end of the day, everybody is going to die. Basically, you can have commercial success but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still going to die.
“The human being’s influence is in a life and for me songwriting is about exploring being alive. Commercial success, in one way, helps because it helps you to live more comfortably but in another way it doesn’t solve any of the problems that you’re looking to solve with songwriting.”
As much as you can get a sense of someone’s ethos from a 15 minute phone conversation, we get this from Egan: he has little time for those who don’t understand why he does what he does.
The Redneck Manifesto and Visionair keep him busy while away from Jape. He likes to surround himself with people who feel similarly about music.
Conor O’Brien, AKA Villagers, is one example. The pair worked together on Lying On A Deck Bed, a Jape song not included on Oceans Of Frequency but released earlier this year. O’Brien plays drums on the track.
He and Egan have known each other for some time.
“He’s the coolest dude in the world and such an amazing musician. I mean, all my friends are musicians and we all play together. It’s kind of a little bit incestuous.”
“Dublin can be a bit small. It’s a parochial place in a lot of ways, but when you see somebody making music you really like and respect, which is so many people for me … there’s so much good stuff coming out of Ireland at the minute,” he says.
“I love to play with other musicians because when you play with other musicians you get a sense of their time, a sense of their melody. You learn a lot by playing with as many people as possible. So playing with Conor was great.”
The time spent working on the song at O’Brien’s house was, says Egan, “a very organic couple of hours”.
Reviews of Oceans Of Frequency are positive. While he admits to reading them he says there is no point giving such things too much credence.
“If somebody is going to say your album is shit it’s going to hurt you,” he says.
“Obviously you read the reviews. I don’t really believe anyone who says they don’t read reviews. Of course you do! The thing I’ve discovered – and this is the fourth Jape album, which is quite a lot – is that if you do your best on something and you really try to finish it the way you want to finish it, then if people do slag it, it’s almost fun when they do. Because you just think, ‘well, you didn’t get it’.
A melody and a strong lyric are important to him. He’s not a fan of fitting his music into a category.
“If you got a good song, you can strip it back to nothing. That’s the sign of a good song … it will obviously need arrangements and orchestration to be done to it but at the end of the day, if you just play it on an acoustic guitar, it’s still going to sound good. That’s the key.
“We’ll do the gigs in Australia as a three-piece and embellish them with synthesisers. But a song is a song. I find it very strange when people think about songs in terms of ‘electronic’ or ‘acoustic’. To me it’s either good or bad and that’s it,” he says.
Egan is moving to Malmo with his Swedish wife Noomi in the New Year. But for now, he is looking forward to his gigs in Australia, which he says came ‘out of the blue’.
“For us, it’s just amazing to go there and do a few gigs …”
Jape, supported by David Kitt, play Mick O’Malleys Irish Pub, Brisbane, on November 23, The Lair @ Metro Theatre, Sydney, on November 24, Elephant & Wheelbarrow St Kilda, Melbourne, on November 25 and Rosie O’Grady’s, Northbridge, Perth, on November 27.