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Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
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"Curb your expectations and just run with it" - Joseph Panama from Overhead, The Albatross on Irish festivals
We chatted to the bassist from the six-piece, who you can catch at festivals all summer.

OVERHEAD, THE ALBATROSS aren’t your standard Irish band.

Describing themselves as “a pretty happy family”, the six-piece enjoy doing things differently: focusing their efforts, honed across five years playing together, towards complex instrumental orchestration – eschewing vocals entirely.

The band spent time in the Czech Republic to get their album together, and it’s set for a long-anticipated release later on this year.

Despite the lack of physical releases, they have remained a constant presence on the Irish live circuit over the years, particularly at festivals like Knockanstockan and Castlepalooza.

We spoke to Joseph Panama, the group’s bass player, to have a chat about his take on the shape of current Irish music, from the diverse scenes in Dublin to what’s on offer in summer festivals.

Tell us about Overhead, The Albatross. 

We make instrumental music, I don’t know how else to pigeon hole it really.

We started to see what would happen if you put the six of us in a room together with no boundaries or desire to fit a certain genre. 5 years later we’re still plugging away at it. The trick now is to convince our families that it’s not just a hobby – we’ll deal with critics later.

who Stef Jaconelli Stef Jaconelli

Have you played in other bands in your time as a musician? 

The only band I was in that’s still going is Red Enemy. They’re without a shadow of a doubt one of my favourite bands (not just in the country or for their genre). If you haven’t heard them, they’re a metal band – which obviously might put some people off, but if you ever get the chance to see them live I promise you they’ll blow you away.

On writing and playing live with Overhead, The Albatross:

Writing is my favourite part.

It works a couple of different ways. One of us can come to the others with a song, or a part of a song and pretty much as soon as it’s in the room it’s dismantled and rebuilt. You don’t really get to be precious about the parts you bring in. Sometimes it’s the tangents to those initial ideas that become ideas in themselves and exploring those can be really fun. More often than not you end up writing for other instruments, again you can’t be too precious about what you play.

Live is a different thing entirely.

A big part of the live experience is freaking out that everything is going to fall apart and break, which it occasionally does. It’s almost impossible to make any venue you walk into sound the way you want it to so you have to curb your expectations a little bit and just run with it. It’s so much fun though, nothing else feels like it.

who2 Stef Jaconelli Stef Jaconelli

Also, what’s your favourite Irish festival? (To either play at or attend – or both.)

I think the best festivals I’ve been to were the first year of Body & Soul, the first year Life went to Belvedere and every time I’ve been to Knockanstockan.

For me Knockan is the most consistently fun and of all the major festivals it’s the only one that still feels like a festival. I get that people need funding from big companies to realise their ideas and the work that goes into all the festivals is beyond comprehension but for me Knockanstockan is one of the few that’s maintained a real sense of community.

What has been your best gig experience?

Recently we were given the opportunity to support Kodaline in the Marquee in Cork. Sonically, we’re very far removed so it was always going to be a weird one but we would never turn that chance down.

It was my first time playing through a proper big PA so I felt a bit like a kid in a toy shop. There were a lot of nerves and a few solid anxious jabs but once we got on stage it felt like the right place to be.

It’s sort of strengthened our resolve to do more, to work harder, so we can play those kinds of places again.

If you like the sound of Overhead, The Albatross, check out their live session in RTE’s Studio 8 below:

Overhead The Albatross / YouTube

Find out more about Overhead, The Albatross here.

Read more music interviews – our last, with David Tapley of Tandem Felix>

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