HousePlants is the exciting full-fledged creative vision of two of Ireland’s most respected artists – Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan and innovative atmospheric producer Daithí.
“Having made ‘Take The Wheel’ together for Daithí’s most recent record, I sent him a song last summer by way of a ‘Howaya?’, really, but also for his banger sensibilities!” says Noonan. “We began trading ideas with the loose manifesto that whatever we were doing was not ‘Take The Wheel’, that we go the other way and make music to blow the cobwebs off, something that we could imagine playing at a 2am festival slot.”
One tentative sketch quickly blossomed into an array of living, breathing narratives. In quick time, they had a vision. They had an album. They had a band. HousePlants is the kind of union that accentuates both artists’ strengths in that intimate practice room way, finding beauty in flaws, inviting them in. Noonan’s ornate delivery, the bedrock for so many of Bell X1’s career highlights, takes on a fresh cadence against the bright backdrop of Daithí’s searching, dynamic approach to creating and capturing sounds.
“It doesn’t feel like one of us featuring on the other’s music – it’s greater than the sum of its parts,” notes Daithí. “I’ve always worked as a solo producer so forming a band has been a lovely experience. There’s magic in seeing one of your ideas being worked on from a different point of view, sending music to someone you trust and having it return as a brand new piece of art. The more you work together on an idea, the further it goes until eventually you can’t see the seams. It’s something completely unique.”
As for the ubiquitous ‘L-word’, well, it played a part. “All along, we joked about and recoiled from the notion of making a ‘lockdown record’,” says Noonan. “In truth I suppose it is – one conceived and nursed to flame in this time, mostly online, from our respective caves. We were keen that it not wallow or shoe-gaze too much, instead that it might punch through the fog of anxiety and fear and become a defiant, rattly thing.”
These songs are big and bright affairs, begging to be brought to life by an expanded onstage line-up. There’s a beautiful looseness at play; ego checked at the door in favour of head-on liberty and intriguing blemishes, Noonan’s puckish musings rising high over Daithí’s adventurous arrangements.
Debut single ‘What’s With All The Pine?’ is peppered with playful observations courtesy of Noonan’s wandering mind, forever etching little mental notes during his many virtual appointments across the past year. Noonan considers the track “an attempt to speak to one of the phenomena of the pandemic; the sometimes soul-crushing Zoom calls, the efforts to convey a certain taste or togetherness with our backgrounds – while all around us is going to shit! – having a snoop, an interest in others’ private spaces and a certain judgy-ness around it all.”
For both, the project represents reclamation amidst a significantly difficult era for creative souls across Ireland and beyond. “There’s a community of music makers who mainly see each other at gigs and nights like the Choice Music Prize that has felt somewhat atomised in the void of lockdown,” he says. “One of the nicer things about this time is that artists have been checking in on each other. It feels like lots of people collaborated and made music in the way we did.”
That sense of camaraderie and community is hard-wired into the music of HousePlants. A new tribe for modern times. All welcome.