The Kathleens (1996 Demo)

From Galway, The Kathleens were Raymond Butler (vocals and rhythm guitar), Fergal McDonogh (lead guitars and backing vocals), Barry Wallace (bass) and Derek Naughton (drums). These tracks turned up on an intriguing cassette from the Pat O’Mahony collection. The first two tracks on the tape were from a very different act musically called Ill Dependents. Following some inquiries, Stevie G tipped us off that the link was producer Pat Neary. Both these bands recorded Fanning sessions but we believe the tape contains demos.

Hugh Tynan for cluas.com chose the unreleased debut album by The Kathleens as one of his top 5 Irish albums of all time:

Still spoken of in hushed tones in their hometown of Galway, The Kathleens were probably the greatest lost Irish band ever. With regular demos on Dave Fanning’s definitive radio show and a track record of blistering gigs, the band recorded a flawless studio masterpiece in All The Other Plans, its track-list cherry-picked from an enviable catalogue of gems dating back years. To make comparisons would be to trivialise, but it’s safe to say that the band came from the perfectionist school of ambitious pop songwriting, comfortable in the company of Costello, the Go-Betweens or the Pixies, but as purely focused and creatively accomplished as The Beatles. Anyone who ever heard My Weakness raise the roof in Monroe’s Tavern is still mourning the fact that The Kathleens broke up before their genius could be fully unveiled in this album. Life is unfair.

kathleens

Artwork for the unreleased debut album by Kellie Strøm.

We got in touch with Raymond and exchanged a few emails one of which included the following band history written in 2007 which he kindly gave us permission to share.

The Kathleens formed in late 1989, under the name of, wait for it, Harvey Foot and the Privilege. That was mine. We played one gig, our first, under that name in a festival organised by Niall Rivers. We very swiftly became The Walkers (for about one Bish disco gig, I think) and then settled on The Kathleens. The line up was Fergal McDonogh on lead guitar and backing vocals, Eoin O’Donnell on bass, Derek Naughton on drums, and myself on vocals and rhythm-ish guitar. (The name came from the sleeve of Tom Waits’ album, Frank’s Wild Years. It was the way his wife, Kathleen Brennan’s name looked in the particular font that appealed to me)

We recorded our first demo with Pat Neary at West One in late 90 and submitted it to the Rock Show, where it was played a couple of times, to our immense delight. There followed some rag week gigs, and a Monroe’s residency at some point, all of which we enjoyed. This pattern – a demo, a smattering of gigs, writing songs, practising – continued up until about until 94, I think, when Eoin left the band. As you can probably already see, we were fairly directionless, and hardly ‘driven’ by any widely accepted definition of the word, so his departure was enough to finish us, more or less. We did poke around for another bass player for a while, but nothing came of it and we eventually called it a day. I have no memory at all of exactly when or where, so we can assume it was undramatic. (For the record, Eoin had always said he wasn’t in for the long haul, so you’d think we’d have somehow prepared for this eventuality. As if!)

To quote the Simpsons, “then, for a long time, nothing happened”

Not to me, anyway, so somewhere in early 95, I think, when Fergal McDonogh told us he had a bass player for us, we had a practise or two with Barry Wallace, and immediately reformed. For most of that year, this new lineup performed mainly in Roisin Dubh, recorded a demo maybe, had a now-hilarious argument about potential royalties, and split up. (Nary a song was widely known, never mind sold, at this stage). Even more hilariously, two days later the word came through that Pat Neary, he of West One, had formed a label and wanted to sign us. We immediately reformed.

We continued to gig sporadically, and began to record our album sometime in Spring 96. Somewhere along the way, in what was perhaps the peak of our fame, Pat managed to get us a Rock Show session, which entailed a grand day out to Donnybrook, enjoyed by all. The album was more or less done by the end of the summer, I think, by which time relations in the band had, sadly, deteriorated considerably. For most of the existence of the second lineup, Fergal, Derek and Barry had also been in an increasingly in-demand (and excellent) ska covers band, Full Trousers. By the end of summer 96, I felt that this was impeding the The Kathleens’ chances of even minor success, and decided I had no choice but to leave.

I should emphasise at this point how major a figure Pat Neary was. He was always incredibly supportive of us, and of me as a songwriter, and I sincerely doubt I’d have carried on as long without his relentless, largely thankless championing. I imagine you’ll come across many such tributes if you’re talking to Galway bands from around then.

There is no Kathleens material out there, I’m afraid. While the album was pretty much completed, there were obvious difficulties for the label in putting it out posthumously, and I didn’t have the gumption to find another band fast enough (see Eoin leaving, above) even if that had been an acceptable solution all around. So it’s on a shelf somewhere, which could very well be for the best.

Barry, Derek and Fergal continued on in Full Trousers for quite a while after that, I think, and in various other bands, with all of them pretty much making a living from playing. Pat Neary didn’t give up on me, and about two years later presided over the Waking Dream EP, supplying me with musicians and a demon engineer/producer by the name of Paul Brennan. This, too, remains unreleased, and the only DJ that played it on the radio died in a car crash days after airing it. Ill-fated it may have been, but it’s by far and away the best thing I’ve ever been involved in recording, mostly due to extremely attentive performances of the musicians involved, and the tireless, unpaid work of Paul Brennan, who whipped some good vocals out of me.

A couple of years later, I moved to London, took up playing again under the name of John Dog (I like dogs) and still do an open mic every now and then.

I’m sure there’s all kinds of inaccuracies and misremembering going on in the above, but there it is.”

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