The Clockworks bow out of 2020 with a visceral statement of intent in single Enough Is Never Enough. We wanted to find out more about the Irish quartet.
The latest and last in a series for Alan McGee’s Creation 23 label sees The Clockworks the Galway four-piece take aim at the injustices and prejudices rife in our society with an assault of straight-up punk rock.
Complex and character driven in its narrative, the song follows the lives of separate but interconnected individuals in society: from a bigoted Café owner to beleagured kitchen porters, dreaming buskers to down-and-out beggars.
Pulling together the fragments of our fractured society, Enough Is Never Enough creates a vivid collage that depicts its failings in one painstaking picture.
The Clockworks are a band to savour in these dark days. Formed in Galway and drawn together by a mutual appreciation of all music, past and present, The Clockworks are a four-piece comprising James McGregor on vocals / guitar, Sean Connelly on guitar, Damian Greaney on drums and Tom Freeman on bass.
Relocating to London in 2019, the band signed to Alan McGee’s new record label Creation23 almost overnight.
We caught up with James and Sean from the band for a natter.
We thought we were pretty good at Zoom by now, but it does try our patience at times. We got there in the end, albeit by resorting to the phone and a bit of tech messing about.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
James: We’re in London. We are playing lots, recording, rehearsing as much as we can, trying to make the best of lockdown as we can.
P3dro: Introduce us to the band. Tell us how you got together.
Sean: Three of us went to school together, although James was a year or two ahead of me and Damian. Then we moved to Galway and bumped into Tom at college. We’d been looking for a bass player as committed as we were, so we were lucky to bump into him.
P3dro: Was there any kind of plan for the band?
Sean: I think from the very first time we ever played together, when we were 14 / 15, we had our sights on headlining Glastonbury. But that plan definitely became a bit more concise as we went on.
P3dro: You moved to London last year. What was the thinking there?
James: We had been in Galway for a couple of years and we’d played a lot – loads and loads. And we’d started trying to come over [to the UK] a bit for gigs here and there to dip our toes into the UK scene.
So we came over to do knocking on doors of labels and stuff, trying to get them to come down to gigs, before we had to fly back [home]. And then we realised we could be doing this every day. Trying to hand over CDs [and the like] every day if we moved over here.
It felt like a natural thing to do. The opportunity was all here. So, we made the move and it was great.
P3dro: It’s interesting you say that, because in retrospect, the timing wasn’t great was it?
Sean: We’ve done OK. We’ve done as good as you could possibly do, considering. The move was actually January last year , so we had a year and 3 months or so of living in London [before the lockdown].
James: I think we were lucky in a way because we did get our feet here. We had found our feet here in London before disaster struck. I think if we’d moved in January this year  we would have been in real trouble. It would have been much more tough and I do feel sorry for those people who had a harder time.
P3dro: How has the move to London worked out? Was it a good thing for the band?
Sean: It definitely was, yeah. I think we were ready at that stage because we had purposefully been honing our sound and working specifically towards moving to London and I think it shows.
We had a bit of luck because we met Alan McGee so early on after the move. It was less than 2 weeks. Only 3 of the 4 of us had moved, but Damian hadn’t even moved yet, and we had Alan McGee coming to see us play.
P3dro: You really lucked out with Alan McGee. How did that happen?
Sean: It was an Instagram message. The most modern way of getting signed you can imagine. I was on the train to work. For years, we’d always been physically knocking on doors, so to send an Instagram message to someone who is really famous, completely out of reach, wasn’t that weird. We’d been doing it every day.
But it was really nice to get a response and then everything that has come from that since.
P3dro: A question for James specifically. Your lyrics are pretty striking for their references to every day life and issues we all face, for example: Can I Speak to a Manager? It’s a kind of soap opera you seem to write about.
James: Yeah. I’d agree with that. It’s the kitchen sink thing isn’t it. I grew up listening to a lot of bands like The Smiths, The Kinks, The Arctic Monkeys, Libertines. All these bands do that. And even going back to, say Velvet Underground. Lou Reed was the New York version of the same thing.
I feel you can be really honest when you write about what you know. That’s what people always say, isn’t it?
P3dro: We know Alan McGee really likes the band and Annie Mac, for example, has played you on the radio. What kind of wider reception have you had from the public?
Sean: Very positive. There’s a spotlight on Ireland at the moment. So we get a lot of attention from that. It’s a kind of surprise when people hear our music. I don’t think we quite fall into the Fontaines DC, Murder Capital scene, I think we come from another place.
James: Yeah, I think the reaction seems to be good. Although it’s hard to know because the whole world is an echo chamber.
Sean: A recurring thing that has been said is that it’s refreshing kind of sound, which is really nice to hear.
P3dro: A lot of press and PR call you a punk band. Is that a word you identify with?
James: It’s one of those things. It’s hard. I can’t really tell what we are. I do like punk music, we all do, but we also like so many other types of music and will be influenced by them. For example, The Smiths who are not, by any means a punk band, but they are a big influence on us. Equally, The Cure, LCD Soundsystem.
I would see our songs as a collection of different references, rather than we just want to be a punk band or a rock band or an indie band or a new wave band, whatever.
But it’s hard because people feel like they need to categorise. That’s how people navigate the world. But punk is probably as good a word as any.
P3dro: What’s next for the band? Are we gonna see an album from you?
Sean: Someday. Ha!
The singles are going well. We like those at the moment. But we’re all writing lots right now in this enforced downtime. God Knows what next year will bring, but we’ll play it by ear for now.
P3dro: Where are you on the album v single v EP discussion?
James: I think for us an album is a different thing to do. It’s not necessarily just 10 songs. We would definitely place value on an album as a cohesive piece of art. But, we’re not making one right now and we’re happy to put out singles. They’re a good way to navigate the modern way in which people consume music.
We may get to a point in terms of writing, maybe once we’ve put out a certain amount of singles, when the time is right we’d definitely looking to be putting out an album. But we would want it to be something special. Something that sits apart from, say a 10 song EP.
Sean: Yeah, we’re not going to jump to doing an album just because we have 10 songs that we know are good. It’s something we’d like to work on quite a lot.
James: Albums are something I’ve thought about a lot. People talk about the death of the album, but I feel it’s not so financially viable. We’re not going to sell a billion albums like they did in the old days. But I think because of that we have a bit of freedom. We all sort of feel that and hear that in other albums. You can make something special and now more than ever that space has opened up.
Singles are what people are making money on now anyway.
It’s exciting, though. I think albums are exciting. It depends how albums have affected you. A lot of people now just listen to songs, but if you have had an album that you listened to from start to finish, say like ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ by The Streets, or ‘Meat is Murder’ or ‘Ziggy Stardust’. All the songs are great individually, but to hear them all together, as one cohesive piece, it’s something else. A synergy.
P3dro: Are you even able to make any plans for doing gigs next year, or whenever? We’d seen from Facebook you did an open air gig in Norfolk.
James: Yeah, that was good.
Sean: We almost missed it because we had a broken down car, but we made it very late for about a 20 minute set. But it was good to be outside, on a stage in front of real, physical eyes after so long.
But, as for gigs next year, you can only guess. Everyone’s moving their gigs to March and then now they’re moving them to August and September. I don’t know.
We were planned to play with Inhaler this year. Originally in March / April and then it was moved to October. Now, it’s set for March next year, but that’s probably going to change again. So, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
P3dro: Recommend us a band or an album we should be listening to right now.
Sean: I don’t want to rush it and then regret what I say.
James: I was going to say Do Nothing as well.
Sean: So, we’ll stick with Do Nothing.
Final answer: Do Nothing.