Behind The Gig: Rams’ Pocket Radio

“Part of me thinks that music should be like that all the time…” – Peter McCauley

Fresh from touring with pop rock colossus Snow Patrol, Lisburn multi-instrumentalist Rams’ Pocket Radio, AKA Peter McCauley, is juuuuust about ready to put the finishing touches on his debut album, which comes to us after two years of epic, orchestral pop ditties in the form of three EPs and a handful of singles.

But first, some gigs… and no ordinary gigs, neither.

Bushmills Irish Whiskey, whose partnerships with Bon Iver, Best Coast and, my personal favourite Chromeo, officially made them the Irish distillery with the finest taste in music, are welcoming Bushmills Irish Honey to the family, and have asked Rams, along with Belfast-based Indie pop fivesome Runaway Go and acoustic rock ‘n’ roller VerseChorusVerse, to give them a helping hand.

Tonight (April 4, for those of you reading from the future), they’ll come together for an intimate gig in Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre, before hitting the road and doing it all over again tomorrow night (April 5) in Whelan’s, Dublin.

Rams will also perform a secret Dublin city centre show tomorrow in a handcrafted honey hive, lovingly put together by a team of artisan craftsman using – and here’s the really clever part! – wood from Bushmills Irish Whiskey casks.

Earlier in the week, I tracked Peter down for a chat about the upcoming shows, and to find out a little bit more about the man behind the tunes…

The folk at Bushmills have been pretty secretive about this handcrafted honey hive you’re going to be performing in. Have you seen it?

No! I’m eagerly anticipating what it’s going to be like. I’m thinking it’ll be some sort of horseshoe of whiskey casks all stacked up, like an igloo, but I’m purely speculating, I actually don’t know!

How well do you know the other guys on the bill for the Whelan’s and Oh Yeah Centre shows, Runaway Go and VerseChorusVerse?

I’m good friends with the guys in Runaway Go, especially Dave and Javed. Dave’s the singer and Javed’s the drummer and I would hang out with them a good bit, so we’re all buddies. Then VerseChorusVerse, I’ve known Tony for years. We all bump into each other all the time.

I know you played in bands and orchestras before Rams’ Pocket Radio. Was a creative solo project always part of the bigger plan?

In the orchestra I never really felt at home. I don’t know how I managed to play in that orchestra for so long because I don’t actually think I could ever read music properly and it’s kind of difficult when you’re sitting with music in front of you! In bands, I was always playing drums, and would have written songs for other people to sing, and I wanted to be more involved in the writing process. Eventually I just started to write songs, and then it was like, ‘I’ll sing them, I’ll actually do this thing’.

What’s the writing process like now that you’re on your own?

It’s drums and piano and singing at the forefront, but I’m looking at it as something totally free, freedom to just create something in the studio or on the computer or to record someone else to play. On my record that’s just about to come out, I’ve got different drummers on there, I’ve got different guitar players, different string players, different vocalists, it doesn’t really matter whether I’m playing it or not, that wouldn’t be a big deal to me, as long as the part is right and it says something.

Clearly, being in bands hasn’t put you off the idea of collaborating with other artists…

A collaboration can be amazing, but if you’re in a band where people are pulling in all different directions, it can just be rubbish. I used to be in a band that was half emo and half prog, which is just a terrible idea, nobody’s going to like that, but of course, we liked it. But it is very chilled out for me, I can just sort of do whatever I want. And I do enjoy collaborations, I’ve been doing a few recently, I was doing stuff with David C. Clements, and working on something with Duke (Special), but nothing’s come of it.

You’ve cited aesthetic disciplines like your background in architecture and, obviously, the designs of Dieter Rams as influences many times; how do they inspire the way you make music?

I guess I never thought of architecture as an aesthetic thing, I would always think about the concept of it and this is something that maybe got in the way of me making good architecture. I always thought, ‘Why do you do that?’, ‘Why is the room square?’, ‘Why are the stairs like that?’ I was kind of interested in those conceptual things and I got really used to rationalising things and working through the creative process in a disciplined way so, for me, those things translate really simply.

A lot of music fans will have seen you on tour with Snow Patrol last year. What was the most valuable thing about doing those huge shows?

A few good things came out of it. Firstly, it just broadened the fan base across Europe, so when we played our first show in Amsterdam following those shows, people turned up that said they’d never heard of me before, it was amazing. I know there are a good few people that got in contact with me on Facebook and Twitter and stuff who are excited about the record and want me to come back and play. I suppose playing on a big stage was a new experience, getting to try your show for 10,000 people and fill that stage. There were lots of different ways that people in different cities reacted to us, and it was just mental in general, it was brilliant! But I kind of have this idea now, that it would be really cool to bunch together and keep the show really small on a big stage.

What can we expect from the Bushmills Irish Honey gigs in the Oh Yeah Centre and Whelan’s?

I’ve been practicing with some of my friends, lots of different people who make music in different capacities and the theme of the night really is friends coming together to do something cool, that Bushmills idea of great things happenning when friends come together. I’ve got a couple of guys who are drummers, a friend who plays lead guitar, a couple of girls, one’s playing trumpet, one’s playing cello, and I’m going to be singing with some local artists, too. Allie Bradley is going to be joining me, and the guys from Runaway Go, Dave and Fiona are going to come up and do wee duets with me at different points. It’s going to be a really fun, just chilled out night of making music together, so the people who go will experience something of a jam. Part of me thinks that music should be like that all the time!

Rams’ Pocket Radio, Runaway Go and VerseChorusVerse play Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre tonight (April 4), and Whelan’s Dublin, tomorrow night (April 5). Admittance to these gigs is by invite-only, but Cool FM, NI’s Daily Mirror and Daily Mirror Ireland are all offering opportunities to win tickets.

Rams’ Pocket Radio’s debut album is due for release later in the year. In the mean time, you can download a free EP of demos here.