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Sheer art attack
Returning with an album of dark, alluring sonic journeys into the avant garde, Laura Sheeran talks about a tough year, ‘80s soundtracks and her little cousin Ed.
Craig Fitzpatrick, 16 May 2012
Laura Sheeran, a Galway girl more convivial than her brooding work suggests, is asking me about a pole dance I once witnessed. “Did that freak you out?” she grins. “Most people just think of it as being really seedy. Degrading to women, almost.” Actually, the pole didn’t seem too secure, so I was distracted with concerns for the dancer’s well-being. Oh, by the way, this all took place at a Laura Sheeran gig in Whelan’s last year, as dancer Arlene Caffrey visually augmented her performance.
“Arlene is a total campaigner for overturning people’s views,” Laura explains. “When you say ‘pole dancing’ most people just think of one thing. But her skill is so high that she brings it to an athletic level. We were in school together actually. We hadn’t been in touch in years and she randomly came on Ireland’s Got Talent. I was watching TV and went, ‘That’s fecking Arlene Caffrey!’ So we got in touch.”
It’s all part of Sheeran’s avant garde bent. On record, her portentous sound startles. On stage, she wants to make things multi-sensory. It’s the thinking of a generation of young Irish artists, a community of experimentation in music and performance, throughout the nation. But it’s tough to be heard.
“There's such a strong scene and I wish there was more awareness of it,” the singer sighs. “It’s really exciting but it’s not being embraced by the Irish mainstream. More people need to hear the stuff.”
Even getting records out is a struggle. Thankfully, with second LP What The World Knows, Sheeran enjoyed a relatively relaxed process, emerging with a work that should raise her profile considerably. That wasn’t the case with her debut, released last year after much delay, at a time when her beloved mother was losing her fight against cancer. “It’s been very difficult, the past couple of years. My mum only had a few weeks to live, though at the time we didn’t realise that. She needed full-time care so I was making sure I got down to Galway as much as I could. It really was ‘autopilot’, there was no time to think. But she wanted me to put out the album, she didn’t want me to wait. With cancer, you never know how long it will go on for, so she would say, ‘You just have to do it Laura’. And so I did. The work gives you a separate place in your head where you can forget. And in the writing, you get to deal with everything. I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t making music!”