By Siobhan Casey
It’s been a whirlwind three years for Dublin band O.R.B since they first exploded onto the scene with their hit song ‘Stars in My Eyes’. The former Original Rudeboys took Ireland by storm with their platinum selling debut album, and now with a Meteor Choice Song of the Year award under their belts they’re back with album number two ‘All We Are’. With a slot supporting Kanye and Pharrell next week and a just released single ‘Can’t Let Go’, band members Sean “Neddy” Arkins and Sean “Walshy” Walsh sat down with us to discuss their success, their sound and their songs.
You’ve had a huge amount of success for a band who’ve only been together for three years, did it all take you by surprise?
Neddy – Yeah it took us hugely by surprise. It wasn’t something we expected, I mean the first song we stuck up we didn’t even say we were a band it was just a random jamming session so to be winning awards and getting platinum sales and stuff its just, you still scratch your head about it. It’s weird.
Walshy – It’s very surreal.
W – Yeah one-hundred percent. When we started doing interviews we’d be going ah jesus we have to talk. I think we’re a lot more confident in what we do and what we produce now.
N – I think in the last three years like you said everything just kind of happened for us and you learn a lot when you’re thrown in at the deep end. The fifth festival we ever did was Oxegen, then doing the world tour with the Script and all you learn very quickly, you have to learn very quickly, but it helps usually.
W – Sink or swim as they say.
Has your sound changed a lot over the last three years?
N – Yeah definitely on the new album anyways. I mean it’s still the same core sound but with the new album I’d say it’s sort of more polished and clean, radio seem to like it, they didn’t really like the first album a lot so that’s saying something. Do you agree with that Walshy?
W – Yeah I’d agree with that.
How would you describe your sound?
N – Like a whisper in the wind.
W – I don’t know, what would you say Ned?
N – Good question.
W – You’d think we would have had something for this wouldn’t you.
N – I suppose I’ll just answer for the second album, it’s more of a sort of, what’s the word, not commercial I hate using that word, but it’s commercial. It’s definitely more of a commercial sound.
W – Relatable?
N – No it’s commercial, but not to the sense where it’s like bubblegum pop, but there is that element of commercial about the second album. I hate that word.
You’ve mentioned before that you all have very varied tastes in music from Kanye West to the Dubliners. Who would be in your most recently played playlist on your ipod?
N – Phil Collins, Against All Odds. Did you ever listen to the lyrics in that song, have a listen to them.
W – We were just talking about how we’ve been listening to a lot of power ballads lately, Reo Speedwagon and the likes. I’ve gone back into a hip hop phase though, I’m listening to some 90s hip hop like Souls of Mischief, the Far Side and Wu Tang Clan.
N – And then me the rapper in the band I’m into love songs, yeah anything that’s not hip hop. Phil Collins, legend.
When it comes to songwriting is it a very collaborative group effort or does one person generally tend to take the lead?
N – Sometimes there is songs where I’ll come in with the lead and the lads will follow through and vice versa, but the majority of this album anyways has been really collaborative.
W – Yeah it’s been like I’ll come in with a melody or lyric idea and we’ll just run with it, and vice versa, we’re all very open to each other’s opinions.
Was the songwriting process any different for ‘All We Are’ now that you have that much more experience?
N – Experience definitely makes a difference, you’re writing songs from a radio will play this point of view whereas the first album was more just put it out and see what happens. Even the fact that the first album was written and recorded in my house whereas there’s a song on this album called ‘Gone Are the Days’ which we actually wrote in Australia so yeah it’s been really different, but good. It hasn’t been as much pressure, there has been pressure but not as much as the first album, that was like 10 days to do 10 tracks in.
Was there added pressure involved in creating a follow up album now that you have a certain reputation to live up to?
W – I think there was more pressure on the first album.
N – Yeah cause we hadn’t got a clue what we were doing, it was sort of you know this is the album that’s gonna get us out there.
W – So we better do something good.
N – I think we always kept fans knowing that we were never gonna put out the second album and have it sound exactly like the first one, even just because of different songs and melodies and whatever. We were gonna put out something that people were either gonna say ‘you’ve changed and I don’t like it’ or ‘you’ve changed and it’s great’. I definitely think we put that out and fortunately it’s been more likes than dislikes but you can’t win them all.
Are you planning on taking this album further afield on tour?
N – Yeah we just got an email today saying that there’s potential festival slots in the UK so we might take them up, Walshy do you wanna go away?
W – Yeah I’d like to go away.
N – We’re gonna take them up so.
Is there any particular country you’d love to tour?
W – America. The dream is to tour around there, it could be the shittest venues with no one listening but just to do the states of America, that’s the dream.
N – You just want the free trip again, don’t you.
W – Yeah, so if anyones reading who can give me a free trip to America call me.
N – I’d probably do Dubai, three weeks in the sun play one gig in the whole three weeks.
W – Yeah that’d be a good one.
Your new tour is your first ever all ages tour, what was the reason behind your decision?
N – So far every tour or gig we’ve done most shows have been over the age of 18 because promoters won’t let kids in because obviously they can’t buy excessive amounts of alcohol and make them lots of money, but we won’t get into that about promoters.
W – No we won’t.
N – But yeah everytime we put out a show update the kids would just get on and say oh we can’t go to this show, disappointed. So it just got to the point where we had to do something for them, so this is it the first all ages tour in three years, we took our time.
Do you have any preshow rituals?
N – Usually if its an upbeat gig, doing the Olympia or whatever we’ll have some heavy hip hop songs before we go on. That’ll get you going.
W – We have no real rituals though.
N – Yeah not really we just chill out. We’d have stuff to talk about and go over about the show but most of the time we’re just chilling having a beer.
W – I don’t put on my left sock before me right sock or any of that nonsense.
So you’re supporting Pharrell and Kanye West next week, July 2nd. Does that seem a bit surreal or have you wrapped your heads around it yet?
W – I went to see Kanye West when he came to Dublin for his Glow in the Dark tour. I can’t remember what year it was but it was probably around fourth year of school. I was a big Kanye West fan, still am. I’m a major Kanye West fan actually and when we got the news about supporting him it was a bit of a fangirl moment.
Do you think you’ll be able to keep your cool or are you going to be a bit starstruck?
W – Nah I’m not the kind of guy who can keep his cool, I’m just a big geek.
N – You’ll stop breathing and shit.
W – Yeah, I think he’s a very serious artist, a lot of people have bad things to say about him but they don’t look past what happens in the media.
N – And when he gets over his little Kanye crush it’s also a great opportunity to play Marlay Park.
W – That as well, we’ve never played Marlay Park.
N – When you were getting in there talking about how people say bad things about him you were getting a bit emotional.
W – I know I was yeah. I don’t like people saying bad things about other people. People call you bad things too Ned and I just don’t like it.
N – Thanks Walshy, cheers.
Have you ever gotten starstruck meeting anybody?
W – Not really no, I think because we’ve met a lot of famous people now so we know how to play it cool.
N – When you meet them, when you’re in that sort of circle, it’s not like you’re going to a gig to see them and you meet them. It’s like you’re backstage, you’re the support act so you’re supposed to have this sort of way about you. You’re not walking around all happy about meeting them, you sort of put on this front, ‘oh hi yeah nice to meet you’. Secretly in your head you’re screaming but you just play it off like ‘yeah lovely to meet you, big fan’. But yeah you do want to be screaming and asking them what kind of cologne they wear.
A lot of your new album was recorded in London, do you think you’d ever relocate to the UK?
W – I think if it was essential we’d do it, we’d miss our mammies though.
N – There is a lot of bands that take that route.
W – I don’t think we need to though.
N – Say like the lads from Kodaline and the Script they don’t necessarily live in London, I know the Script lads have houses over there but I think you can get away with living here, it’s close enough.
W – We can fly in and out easy enough.
Walshy you mentioned that you didn’t like ‘Get Out’ to begin with. How do you decide what songs make the album when you don’t all feel the same way about a certain track?
N – It’s just usually majority vote, Walshy would say ah no I don’t really like it and I’d say well I like it and Rob says he likes it and then it’s going on the album, it usually works and we avoid arguing that way.
What are your own favourite songs off of ‘All We Are’?
N – See I’m tied up.
W – Say what one you want to say.
N – At the moment I’ve been listening to ‘What If’ quite a lot, I like that one, Walshy’s not a huge fan though, and ‘Stereotypes’.
W – ‘Stereotypes’ yeah that’s a good one.
N – We don’t listen to our own music but if it comes on the iPod all is fine and if ‘What If’ comes on I’ll listen to it. Same with ‘Stereotypes’ and there’s a track called ‘Stay Strong’, I like that one as well.
What would you be doing if you weren’t musicians?
N – Good question.
W – Probably nothing, I was working with me Da in an office answering phones which is super exciting.
N – Sounds great..
W – Nah, that’s what I was doing before this so I’d probably still be involved in that, really not liking it.
N – I couldn’t be still involved in what I was doing because that would be college and that would mean I’d be in college for like 6 years.
W – Like Van Wilder.
N – Yeah like Van Wilder, although if I could do that I probably would. But who knows what we’d be doing.
‘All We Are’ was HMVs biggest selling new release of the year so far, how does that feel for three normal guys from Dublin?
N – Awesome, one word, awesome. Walshy was saying in one of the other interviews it’s pretty great when you have naysayers, people who say you’re a gimmick or this and that, to be able to back yourself up with the facts. People are actually buying it, it’s the biggest selling record, all I see are the positives.
Has your success made a difference in your personal lives, do people treat you differently?
N – No, not the people you know.
W – Yeah the area we come from it’s very easy to be brought back down to earth if you’re walking down the street with a big head on you.
N – What’s that great story, we’d just got back from three months touring with the Script lads in Australia..
W – No it was after the UK tour, we’d just played the O2 in London.
N – So we’d just played to 22,000 people in London and our heads are massive. Walshy comes off the tour and his ma gives him a sweeping brush and tells him to sweep the front garden.
W – Literally I’d only put me bag in the door and she was getting ready to sweep the yard and she goes ‘here Sean you do that’. Yeah thanks, nice to see you too ma.
N – I think that sums it up nicely.
I know in the past there’s been some criticism about your Dublin accents in your songs, does that still happen or has it reached a point where people just accept it?
N – It’s not as prevalent now, but even back then it was only people in Dublin who had a problem with the Dublin accent, when we went outside the country people loved it, they’d be shouting at shows to do it more. Dublin was the only place where people had a problem with it.
W – People weren’t ready for it, I think that was a good thing.
N – Probably because it sounds like they’re hearing themselves [laughs]. But yeah there’s always the same certain people who are like no they shouldn’t do that with a Dublin accent.
W – But sure it gets people talking and that.
N – Yeah it’s subjective, some people are gonna like it and others aren’t. We move on, we still live.
W – Exactly. That was beautiful Ned.
N – Thanks lads.
O.R.B’s new album ‘All We Are’ is available from iTunes and HMV outlets around the country or you can catch them in Marlay Park with Kanye West and Pharrell on July 2nd.
For more information and tour dates find them online at –