Folk-punk in the making from Northern Ireland.
Belfast based singer songwriter Darren Hill is quickly making his mark on the local music scene, at only 18 years old Darren is about to launch his second EP ‘Hand of a Wolf’ after receiving favourable reviews for his debut release ‘Western Sunrise’. I met with Darren at his family home, where he is currently building a mini studio to enable him to follow another passion; recording and producing music for other artists. It would be fair to say that Darren dedicates most of his time to music, having recently studied A-Levels in Music and Performing Arts as well as being a regular fixture busking on the streets of Belfast.
Your last EP, 'Western Sunrise', was written and recorded as a solo project. You have recently acquired a backing band 'The Poison Oaks' featuring Aaron Milligan on bass and Aaron Crowther on drums, do the Aaron's feature on 'Hand of a Wolf'?
They don’t feature on ‘Hand of a Wolf’ but their instruments do. I borrowed Aaron’s acoustic bass for the record, and the other Aaron helped me set up and tune the drums, to get them sounding nice. So they have definitely had a bit of an influence.
Have the Aaron's had any influence on the songs? Have the had a hand in the songwriting?
Not really, I write the songs myself and then I’ll record them all by myself before I share them with the other band members. They’ll make them better when we are playing live.
How do you find working with a band? Has it changed the way in which you write your music?
Yes, I think it definitely has. I concentrate on the individual instruments more, the bass and the drums, to try to make their music interesting for them so that we can reproduce that sound live.
Your new EP is called 'Hand of a Wolf', I'm sure I'm not the first person to point out to you that wolves don't have hands! Can you talk us through the name and the theme tying the songs together?
The name, it’s almost as if it refers to a metaphorical wolf. The wolf represents ferocity. I know wolves don’t have hands but werewolves do! There isn’t really an intentional theme to the EP. Nature comes up a lot, especially in the song titles ‘The Storm’, ‘Howling Into The Wind’. There is an unintentional theme there.
Do you find it difficult to write meaningful songs at such a young age?
No, but they’re probably not that deep! I just kind of write for fun, I’ve been writing since I was around 14 the only difference is I put what I write out there now instead of just keeping it to myself.
You have just finished your A-Levels. What are your plans for next year? Will you be doing any touring?
Hopefully, if I get a job, get some money together and maybe get a van! Aaron was saying to me about getting a van the other day, so who knows. I’d like to expand out a little more, play in different places in the Republic of Ireland and new places in Northern Ireland too.
You've played a few shows around Belfast, what has been your most memorable experience since you started playing gigs?
Probably the Chuck Ragan gig where I got to join him on stage, it was so spontaneous. I’ve been listening to him since I was about 13 when I first heard ‘Feast or Famine’. It was a really great experience for me being able to share the stage with someone who has had so much influence on me.
So you've said that Chuck Ragan is one of your biggest influences, who else would make that list?
In terms of my music itself, probably The Front Bottoms, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg. In terms of producing your own stuff, The Tallest Man on Earth has been a big influence as he produces his own music, like ‘Shallow Grave’. There are a lot of punk bands as well, that produce their own stuff and they’re putting it out themselves.
How do find the music scene in Belfast?
It varies a lot, it’s generally good. There are a lot of great bands, like The Emerald Armada, Empty Lungs and Axis Of, it’s just getting people to come out to the shows which is hard unless you’ve been around for a few years.
Do you find that there is a lot of support for young musicians in Belfast?
I wouldn’t say there is a lot of support for young artists. There aren’t many all ages venues, except for Oh Yeah! Music Centre. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the lack of all ages venues. It seems like there is a real gap in the market for one!
Finally, could you tell us the 3 albums which have most inspired you to get into music?
Darren is holding an launch event for ‘Hand of a Wolf’ at McHughs bar, Belfast, August 13th 2015. He will be joined by Goodbye Nola, Treehome and Towers. Tickets can be purchased through GetInvited here.
Darren Hill, one for fans of Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan etc. © Trish Semple