November 24, 2010

When you think of your everyday up and coming reggae artists, four white Paddies from Cork and Galway and a single Swiss backpacker are not the first people that spring to mind. But given their lineage (three of the group are descended from Irish music royalty) and their professional prosperity Intinn appear to have pulled off a bit of a musical Cool Running’s. All be it in reverse.

“When we say Reggae, we mean the many types of music that we are inspired by,” says Cian Finn, the group’s vocal thrust and founding member. “But most people aren’t familiar with the reggae dub spectrum. They hear reggae and they think we’re a Bob Marley cover band or something.” Celtic Dub, he believes, is a better fit for what Intinn do.

Whatever it is, its been going down a treat with Irish and international audiences. Fresh from being heralded the Best UK & Ireland New-Comer Reggae Band at the One Love Festival in London in July (they came second at the European final in Spain two weeks later) they took to the stage just as the skies opened on the Sunday at Electric Picnic but managed to keep the spirits up with their infectious blend of Conscious Reggae, Dub and Drum & Bass. They’ve supported everyone from Horace Andy and UB40 and in spite of being sired by some of the biggest names in trad (Cian’s father founded De Dannan, while his band mates Iarla Fox (drums) and Catriona Canon’s (harp) almae matres are Kathleen Loughnane & Gerldaine King) have decided to take the road less musically travelled. What led to their rather bizarre musical germination?

“I was never really a mad trad head as a child.” Says Cian. “But my parents listened to a lot of soul music at home.”  He came across a random reggae compilation someone left behind in his house, introducing him to Bob Marley and Don Carlos for the first time and by his late teens he was sneaking into Jungle Fever and Rootical Sound System, two Galway club nights specializing in the genre.

He moved to Cork to start a permaculture course and fell in with the Revelation Sound System crew-“It was a great introduction to a conscious reggae scene.“- and he convinced Fox they should start their own reggae band, recruiting Canon to play keys and bass player Daniel Mac Eoin, whom he had met in an aborted attempt to play the blues.

“I got into Reggae and Drum and Bass for the same reasons I got into heavy metal as a teenager” says Iarla. “There was a real power to it, a physical side of the music. That heavy dub done in a rootsy way in a big dark hall. The power of the bass captured me.”

They didn’t practice their songs as structures for the first couple of years. “We would take the bones of each one into the battlefield of the stage and communicated through music.” Says Iarla. Within two weeks of forming they had landed their own regular night in The Phoenix Bar (called Scaol Amach do Intinn-from which they took their name) and would regularly play there till twelve in the morning before piling into a van and driving down to The Future Forrest for an all night party thrown in a garden centre.

“The whole place reminded me of the Ewok Village,” says Iarla. “It was full of all these people who had trekked all the way out into the country at two in the morning to listen to heavy bass and dub. We really wanted to play for them because they were passionate about this music. They hadn’t just happened upon us.”

Catriona left the band for a gap year in Italy, to be replaced by Sebastian Scheurer, a Swiss backpacker Cian had met while squatting in Barcelona. When she returned she rejoined Intinn, this time on Harp, laying the foundation upon which they could construct another shell to the babushka doll of reggae.

“When Catriona was playing the keys she had to concentrate on making the Synth noises and melodies,” says Iarla. “But once Sebby took over the synth it allowed her to just think in a melodic, decorative way. Where she meanders over a tune and moves it along, allowing the melody section to be really solid.” Combined with the continuing influence of both heavy metal and electronica on Dan and Iarla the songs they wrote became their own rather than anything specifically Jamaican or Dub.

I ask Cian if he believes there is a connection between the music Intinn make and the music their parents made before them. “It’s funny you should ask that as I was at a lecture given by Lynton Quasi Johnson and asked the very same question. Apparently the first slaves in the Caribbean were Irish, from Cork (naturally). All they had from home was their jigs and their reels and when the African slaves arrived all they had was their drums. So apparently the jigs and reels had a big influence on early ska.”

Intinn may get to explore this influence if a proposed program they are linked to goes ahead. Called Tropic Cheol it sounds like any reggae musicians wet dream, a cultural trade where an Irish band is brought to Jamaica to record with local musicians and vice versa.

While the present is pleasant the future holds great things for the multi genred 5 piece with news reaching Hot Press that The Scientist, a protégé of King Tubby, an originator of Dub Music, is remixing their debut album (available at “He’s based in America so that will be good for when we tackle there” says Cian.

And they did it all without John Candy!

Catch them when they play Crawdaddy on Wednesday October 13th


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