Ímar are on the crest of a wave at the moment. Having won the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards earlier this year, they are suddenly the name on everybody’s lips.
The five-piece are a true confluence of Celtic traditions; Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) and Tomas Callister (fiddle) hail from the Isle of Man, Adam Brown (bodhran) and Ryan Murphy (pipes) from Ireland and concertina player Mohsen Amini – who was named Folk Musician of the Year at the same awards – is a Scot from Glasgow.
We spoke to Adam Rhodes about the band and their current run of success.
Q. Where did you first meet and what made you decide to form Ímar together as you were already playing very successfully with lots of other people and bands?
A. Some of us have known each other for years, but all five of us met up in Glasgow, where we all currently live. We all play regularly in the Glasgow session scene and it became pretty apparent that we enjoyed playing music and hanging out together. In late 2015 we decided to try putting some sets together in more of a band format, we recorded a quick demo, and then at the start of 2016 we put it out on social media for people to hear. The response was amazing!
Is it fair to say your music was primarily influenced by traditional Irish music and do you feel it is now more open to other influences?
Our music is definitely heavily influenced by Irish trad music for sure, but there’s definitely other influences creeping in from all over the place. Not just the music of some of the non-Irish places we’re from (the Isle of Man, Scotland) but also the places we’ve travelled to. As a band we all listen to a lot of different music, and all play in different types of bands, and I think it comes together to form a shared taste in what we all like.
Congratulations on your recent Horizon Award! Were you truly surprised by it?
Yes! We were extremely shocked to be nominated at all, and then on the night itself were ready to just crack on and enjoy the night with a few pints of Guinness. But when we heard Jamie Lawson utter the sound ‘ee’ we all looked at each other and realised there’d be a few more pints to be had!
Do you think the award will change your schedules very much?
To be completely honest, our schedules are pretty crazy already! All five of us play in at least one other band, but usually several other bands. So we have to be really careful when scheduling gigs. We basically squeeze in what we can when we’re all available! Hopefully the award will persuade more people to come out to see us live. It can be difficult to get your name out there when you’re relatively new, so awards like this really help. We had a great response on our last UK tour in May, and I’m sure some of that was down to the folk award.
I see that the day after playing at Priddy you will be heading straight to Belgium, then straight back to Stonehaven in Scotland and then to Galicia via The Isle of Man. How do you keep your energy levels so high on tours like these?
I really don’t know! That week is a particularly mad one for us. Myself and Tom are coming to Priddy straight from Austria too, and then after Galica we’re straight back to Germany… As I said before, our schedules are crazy! Luckily we all really enjoy what we do, and I think that helps to spur us on.
You are touring in the States in September and again in March 2019 – Is this the first time in the States as Ímar?
Yes it is. We’ve all been over there many times with our other bands, but this will be our first time as Ímar. We’re also launching our second album around that time too, so it should be pretty exciting!
Do you have a favourite country to play in?
Personally not really. I love travelling and playing to different audiences in different parts of the world, and it’s possibly one of the best parts of the job. That said, there’s nothing quite like a sell out gig in your home city!
Most of you have played Priddy before as part of other bands. What do you remember about our festival (good or bad)
I remember a very generous audience who are up for having some fun, surrounded by tasty food stands and great beer! All organised by a lovely bunch of folk. It doesn’t get much better than that really 🙂
What would you like to find in your ideal green room?
Blue M&Ms. No, we’re not fussy. Water, a few beers and some towels maybe. We’re pretty easy to please.
I hear you have had a few step dance lessons (Adam B)! Will you be adding step dance to your set at Priddy this year?
I doubt there’ll be any dancing from us during the gig, hopefully some of the audience can help us with that! But I wouldn’t put it past Adam B to show off a few of his moves later on after a few beers…