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O Emperor’s final farewell

Wednesday, 14th November, 2018 4:55pm

Farewell albums are a tough business. Final releases can too often come across as perfunctory, carried out without much love or feeling, or as queasily oversentimental.

O Emperor’s new and final album ‘Jason’ gleefully eschews all the potential pitfalls. It's a cut-up collage of genre-melding psychedelia, R&B, funk and rock, further illustrating the Waterford band’s ability to move the goalposts and adopt new sounds.

In an unusual move, O Emperor announced ‘Jason’ in September along with the news that they would also be calling time on the band after nine years.

Saying the project had “come to a natural conclusion”, the band will depart after two final farewell gigs in Cork and Waterford this month.

Having formed O Emperor in Cork back in 2009, only guitarist Alan Comerford and drummer Brendan Fennessy still live Leeside. Guitarist Paul Savage lives in Bray, while vocalist Phil Christie lives in Dublin and bassist Richie Walsh lives in Waterford.

Given how the members have dispersed, it’s no surprise to hear that ‘Jason’ took three years to come out, or that the band are calling it a day.

“I think we kind of knew for some time,” guitarist Savage says of the split. “We knew it was getting increasingly hard to meet up. Life has a way of leading you in different directions. So when we met up this summer, as we were mixing the album we felt it would be nice to let this be the final piece.”

“Artistically though we’re happy that we’ve actually reached a nice conclusion with ‘Jason’. We feel that if it’s going to be difficult practically, then the best thing to do is to leave with our strongest, or at least a strong statement,” he adds.

Recorded independently by the band, ‘Jason’ is a far cry from the quintet’s days at the Universal label, under which they release their first two albums.

“It can be very tough for a band to survive independently,” Savage admits. “We recorded this whole album on a shoestring budget. A lot of it was just enjoying it and taking our time with it.”

“It was a good experience (with Universal) to see the other side, and that the grass maybe isn’t always greener.

“You get to a point where you realise that there’s only a certain amount of options in Ireland, and that there’s very little an Irish label can do that you couldn’t pretty much do if you had a few grand yourself – PR, getting your record in the shops etc. So seeing it for what it is is refreshing. You have to see it as cynically as possible!”

Although some of the band members already have other projects up and running, Savage says it will be strange to reach the end.

“The shows are gonna be great, Cork is our second home really. It’ll be somewhat weird saying ‘that’s finally it’, but there’ll always be new things from us in the future.”

As the O Emperor adventure draws to a close, and with an album more creatively diverse than the band has ever been, they are already assured of signing off in style.

O Emperor’s final Cork gig takes place in Dali tomorrow Friday 16 November at 8pm.

Tickets are €15 and are available from the venue and Eventbrite.

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