All aboard for new Lisburn band’s EP launch

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LISBURN’S best new unsigned band is set to release their debut EP this weekend, but this isn’t your typical album launch.

Rather than yet another bar or club, it’s all aboard on Saturday August 6, as Whanau launch their first CD on the famous Belfast Barge in Lanyon Quay.

As well as support from three of the country’s most talented up-and-coming singer songwriters - Aaron Shanley, Allie Bradley and John Marshall - there will be a live art display by creative collective Pretty Circus, with Belfast DJ Tomas Hughes hitting the decks to make sure the party ends with the boat a-rocking.

Whanau will be playing tracks from the EP and will also be showcasing some new material in their live performance on the barge.

Much of Whanau’s mellowed-out, rootsy sound has been inspired by vocalist Ashley Smith’s travels around New Zealand.

Produced by Mojo Fury frontman Mike Mormecha at his Millbank Studios, it’s a laidback, sunshine-days-and-campfire-nights record that is set to be the soundtrack to summer 2011 – no matter what the weather does.

‘A Good Strange’ was written about the quirky harbour town of Katikati, nestled in the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s north island. Listening to the warm, lazy rhythms of this track, it’s not difficult to believe Smith wrote it sitting on a beach in the New Zealand sunshine.

The catchy ‘Road Named Wrong’ doesn’t stray too far from the band’s sound but definitely brings a distinct folk pop flavour to the mix. Written by vocalist Polly McGarrigle, it’s a simple, yet infectious song about the twists and turns of a relationship, viewed in hindsight.

The stunning ‘It’ll All Roll Off’ has been known to draw a few tears from the audience at gigs, and is a beautifully crafted exploration of songwriter’s block. The band describes it as “a song about not being able to write a song.”

The EP contains seven tracks altogether and everyone attending the album launch will receive their own free copy.

The five piece from Lisburn - Ashley Smith, Polly McGarrigle, Nathan Miller, Mark Heffer and David Millen - began life as ‘Ash Smith and the Funkin’ Headaches’ when they formed in February of this year.

Friends for a number of years, the five have each pursued their own musical projects and ventures, with varying degrees of success.

Ashley decided late last year that the time was right to put a band together to explore the music that had been forming in his head since returning home from travelling.

A few jam sessions later and Ashley, Nathan, David, Polly and Mark became Ash Smith and the Funkin’ Headaches.

Friendships grew stronger within the band over the next few months of seemingly non-stop gigs, with everyone contributing and the sound growing and evolving.

The decision was taken in late June to change their name to express the joint vision and effort of the group. Whanau lent itself perfectly to the concept.

Since the beginning of March, they have gigged solidly, particularly in Belfast where they have played Original Zeitgeist at The Front Page, several support slots in Auntie Annies and the Gaslight Sessions in The Spaniard, to name a few.

In their home city, they have been invited to play a number of SO:NI gigs and recently headlined a show in Lisburn’s innovative new live music venue, Molly’s Parlour.