Valerie talks to Ham Sandwich

Ham Sandwich: that band with the silly name. Still, it’s definitely not forgettable. Formed in 2003, the band have worked considerably hard since then to ensure the name Ham Sandwich stays in our heads. Their last album, White Fox, was released in 2010, a follow up to their highly successful debut Carry The Meek, which firmly placed them on the list of Irish bands to watch. The band have been touring near-constantly since the release of White Fox, determined not to hurry into producing a new record.

“White Fox was pretty rushed,” Niamh says. “We were at a time when we were like: do we go ahead and do this or do we quit altogether? We didn’t know whether to try and get an album out within a year or to take a break for a while. So we decided, feck it, let’s do it. We wrote and recorded it in a ridiculously short amount of time.” Couple these troubles with the death of their manager, Derek Nally, in 2010, and you can fully understand why this was their most stressful and trying time as a band. “The day of his funeral we had booked the studio to start recording the album. If he was alive, he would have told us to get our asses in there and do it. It gave us that extra push because we wanted to make something Derek would be proud of.”

And White Fox was something to be proud of, with lead single “Ants” becoming their surprise breakthrough hit. “With “Ants”, it was the one we said if we’re going to get daytime radio play, we’re going to get it with this song,” Niamh says. “It kind of took on a life of its own, especially after we released the video. It became an animal, just running off of its own accord.”

Niamh herself had something of a surprise in 2008 when she gave birth to a baby boy, Oscar Farrell, after having no idea she was pregnant. Now four years old, Oscar is not a fan of his mother’s day job: “He’s at the age now where he knows what I do. It’s funny because he doesn’t like me singing at all, he would always tell me to shut up! He’s heard it all before.” American broadcasting network TLC picked up on the news of the birth and contacted Niamh to ask if they could feature her on the show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. “It was just an interview and they did a reconstruction of the birth, with actors, which was bloody hilarious. The accents are classic, to say the least. It’s pretty funny.” Having a baby didn’t stop Niamh performing with Ham Sandwich at the Glastonbury festival three weeks after giving birth. “It’s Glastonbury like, you can hardly say no! I couldn’t ring and be all “Sorry I can’t go on, I’m a bit tired,” she says.

Ham Sandwich spurn the major label approach to making music, preferring to release their albums on their own record label. “I think it’s a good way to go, you hear horror stories about people being signed and recording a whole album, then being dropped and the album isn’t theirs anymore. Stuff like that is frightening,” Niamh says. The band also firmly believe in the power of the local gig, with Niamh hoping that soon more people will wake up to the wealth of local talent here in Ireland. “It surprises me when people pay big bucks to go to the O2 to see bands when you can go down the Workman’s or to Whelan’s and see a few Irish bands for a tenner,” she muses. “I think in the next year, fingers crossed, there will be some sort of trigger that’ll make people starting realising that we actually have so much talent in this country. Why do we look to America and the UK for music? Hopefully people will start looking in here.”

Ham Sandwich play The Academy on December 15th. Follow the band on Twitter @Ham_Sandwich

Valerie Loftus

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