Irish Examiner - July 2020

B-Side the Leeside: Waiting Room - Catering For Headphones

Cork's Greatest Records: A studio fire and a stolen van are just part of Waiting Room's eventful story.

On Thursday, September 25 2003, Dave Ahern, Wayne Dunlea and Nigel Farrelly huddled on a kerbside in Blackpool on Cork’s northside, watching flames rise into the sky. From where they stood, it may have seemed their future was going up in smoke...


Hot Press - "The Waiting Is Over"  May 24 2002

Cork Independent outfit The Waiting Room have just released their debut album Losing Patience, yet they're quite prepared to hold on to the day jobs for a little while yet as Marc O'Sullivan discovers.

At eight o’clock on a Sunday evening, Cork city centre is oddly quiet. The few passersby on Union Quay cast glances at the upstairs windows of the Lobby Bar, where Waiting Room are running through the sound check for tonight’s gig. The occasion is the launch of their debut album, Losing Patience, which they recently finished recording at Secret Garden Studio.

Waiting Room are Nigel on guitar and vocals, Dave on bass, Laois on violin and vocals, and Wayne on drums. In keeping with what is fast becoming a local tradition, they eschew use of their surnames. So too does Chloe, who, as well as being sound engineer for tonight’s gig, took charge of recording the album and contributed piano to the instrumental ‘7lb 6oz’.

Apart from Dave’s composition, the aforementioned ‘7lb 6oz’, all the tracks on Losing Patience were written by Nigel. “They’re all about personal experiences, mood swings,” he says of their subject matter. “It’s not as if I read something in the paper and then write a song about it or anything.”

Waiting Room’s sound is marked by its melodic guitars and murmured vocals. Apart from Laois’s otherworldly violin, the effect is not unlike that produced by the late, and much lamented, Stars of Heaven, a band neither Nigel nor Dave is old enough to remember. However, both readily cite contemporary Irish acts like the Frames, the Redneck Manifesto and the Jimmy Cake as influences. “Outside of them,” says Nigel, “we all like Radiohead, Mercury Rev, Ben Harper and a lot of the ’60s singer/songwriters.”

Dave and Nigel are both graduates of the Music Management Programme established by Çhris Ahern at Scoil Stiofain Naofa in Togher, while Laois is completing her second year on the course. Like Niall Connolly’s Token Mellow Band and Fred, two other groups who got together on the music programme, Waiting Room recorded their album and are releasing it at their own expense. “Stiofain Naofa opened our eyes to the record industry,” says Dave. “We used to think all you had to do was get a deal and you’d be in the money.”

“Then we realised that record deals can actually be scary,” says Nigel. “Sometimes bands are worse off with a deal than they’d be without one. That’s why so many bands round here are setting up their own companies and releasing their own music.”

Waiting Room have been doing things for themselves more or less since they started. “It’s been educational,” says Dave. “Organising our own gigs and everything has been tough, but we’ve learnt a lot from it.”

When it came to recording the album, the band were confident there would be enough local sales to meet at least some of the costs involved. The rest they raised themselves; while Laois is still at Stiofain Naofa, and Dave is currently completing a computer-aided design course, Wayne works in a restaurant and Nigel is engaged in a career he firmly believes will eventually wipe out the remaining debt. “I’m gainfully employed by Maxol,” he says. “At the moment, I just tend the shop at a filling-station, but I hope to work my way up and become a petrol pump attendant.”

Now that Losing Patience is available to the public at large, the band are hoping for radio airplay and a busier gig schedule, particularly outside Cork. “We’ve made a video for one of the songs, called ‘Know Your Place’,” says Nigel. “Actually, a friend of ours named Warren Bridgewater made it; he’s really creative and did most of the work on it himself.”

“We did a lot of the filming down along the docks,” says Dave. “We also got footage of a Christian group doing a sort of dance thing in Daunt Square. The video’s being shown on No Disco in the next few weeks, and we’re hoping to put the song out as a single.”

They are also feeling the need of proper management more keenly. “We’re all busy enough as it is, so at this stage, it’d make sense for us to have a manager,” says Dave.

“And maybe even approach a record company,” says Nigel. “It’s something we’ve never actually done, but now we’ve got an album under our belts, it’s probably time we tried.” Not that Waiting Room’s future is dependent on their being signed by a major label.

“If it comes to it,” says Wayne, “we’ll just finance the next album ourselves as well. At this stage, we’re used to being self-sufficient.”

An hour or so later, the Lobby is packed to capacity. Nigel, Dave, Laois and Wayne take the stage and launch into ‘Screams’, one of those poignant three-minute pop gems you wish would go on forever. Happily, when it draws to a close, they follow it with a stream of other three-minute pop gems you also wish would go on forever, all of which are recorded for posterity on their shimmering debut.

Waiting Room are a band who may well take the scenic route to success; watching them revel in the sheer pleasure of performing their music, however, it is hard to imagine them ever losing their cool, or indeed, their patience. - An interview with Waiting Room - November 2003

No room to wait as Cork's latest quality act ramp things up...

Wayne Dunlae had the good luck to show up two years ago at a gig the night the drummer from Dave Aherne and Nigel Farrelly's previous band didn't turn up. Since then, the three have traded under the possibly Fugazi-influenced name of Waiting Room. However, as they tell me, this earlier incarnation of Waiting Room differs greatly from that of today. "It was more singer-songwriter stuff than a band, more indie really", explains Nigel. All the songs from their first album were written by Nigel (vocals & guitar), with, as Dave (bass) puts it, "myself and Wayne just following him into studio".

The album in question, "Losing Patience", turned out to be a learning curve for all involved. "We went into studio and we didn't really know what we were doing", admits Dave, "but we know we just wanted to go in and make some songs, and just learn from it". Wayne adds, "I had a piece of paper next to me telling me how many bars were in each verse, sort of making things up on the spot, so it was a bit strange in that sense."

In the two years since their last release, the band have become a very tight unit, who seem very comfortable playing together. Their new album "Catering for Headphones" is already recorded and is being readied for release in February 2004. For my money, there won't be many, if any, Irish releases next year that are going to better it. Originally consisting of eleven tracks, the band decided to get rid of the instrumental title track, which swiftly switches from quiet to loud midway through the song like some of the band's other tunes, notably the wonderful "Message Received". Wayne feels that the track "Catering?", which was supposed to come at the album's half way point, "broke up the album's momentum. However, we may use it for something in the future".

While the album won't be released for a while yet, the band have had it completely finished since the start of the summer. "Our friend Ross O' Donovan recorded it on his computer, basically in my house", Nigel explains, "He had pro-tools in his laptop, and it took us three or four weeks to make it. We were kind of advised to leave the release until February". Explaining the decision a bit more Dave adds, "because within a month it would have been last year's album, and we wouldn't get much press, with Christmas and all that manufactured stuff fighting for number 1".

While waiting on releasing recorded material for a long time can often be the source of much frustration for many bands, Dave's summer sojourn in the States has resulted in as Wayne says, "the songs sounding fresher again".

Listening to tracks like "Angel" where Nigel sings softly "I miss your smile / I miss your face", there seems to be definite elements of melancholy in his lyrics. Surprisingly he agrees with me. "I suppose when you are writing songs or lyrics you start thinking about things a bit more, and I tend to think about the bad things a bit more? I am not as depressed as it sounds though!" Although it is not always the case that the lyrics are tinged with melancholy as David says, "I think that the way Nigel's voice is, people automatically think that he is upset. There are one or two tracks on the album that if you listen to the lyrics, they are really happy. But people who have heard it think that it is too depressing to put on the radio". Nigel agrees too, "Even the one on the Foggy Notions CD, everyone thought it was depressing. But the chorus isn't depressing, it is kind of optimistic".

One thing for sure is that Nigel certainly has a distinctive voice, sometimes sounding as if it is tinged with sadness. However, it isn't a depressive brogue, but something that is far more tender. Or as Dave jokes "He is doing it for the pity from the ladies!" ("Well it's not working!" retorts Nigel).

Speaking of ladies, a chanteuse who appears on some of the album's tracks who Nigel confirms to be Lisa who "sang on some of the earlier stuff, but she has gone off doing her own thing now. There is another girl, Aisling who plays in a number of Cork bands, and she played cello on it. We are kind of always adding guitarists and taking people away. Johnny the drummer from Rest played guitar with us a few times, but we have never had a settled fourth member". Dave adds "Because we overdub stuff on the album, you don't want it to sound empty live, you want to produce the same thing live".

At the time of the interview Waiting Room were looking forward to supporting the fantastic Nad Navillus at his gig in Limerick. "We saw him when he played the Lobby, and there was literally four people there. But the gig was unreal? he is an amazing guitarist", says Nigel.

This turns the conversation to talking about Limerick in general, and Waiting Room seem to be more than complimentary. "We like it a lot more than (hesitates)?maybe? Cork", confesses Dave. Wayne adds, "People will automatically be more interested in listening to you because you are not from Limerick". Nigel doesn't disagree noting that "People really seem to listen to the bands up here in Limerick". For Dave it is because Limerick has "a really good music scene with the AMC and everything. You do get people who go to gigs for gigs and not just to get pissed, and act the dick with their friends".

On the other hand in their native Cork "there is no solid collective" according to Dave. "I think every band in Cork seems to be linked in some way, but they don't seem to be playing gigs together. It seems to be the same music in the same venues, people don't seem to be expanding their audiences by adding other bands to the line up and so on. Its kind of weird, it's kind of snobbery in a way".

When an adjoining building next door to their practice space caught fire in September 2003, the band lost an estimated 10,000 euro worth of music equipment. While such a tragedy would have left a lot of bands in tatters, Waiting Room are somewhat philosophical about it all. "The way I was saying about the snobbery in Cork between bands, this did bring a lot of bands together, and there is a lot of people playing benefits", says Dave, "which is really cool because these line-ups mightn't have happened otherwise". It's not just bands from Cork who are rallying around them either, with the Dudley Corporation offering to donate the takings from their recent Cork gig to the band. "We would prefer if they didn't because they were launching their own album", says Wayne when you consider, as Dave noted, "they recorded the album off their own backs, and we know how expensive that can be". As Nigel confirmed "It was a really, really generous offer. Also, Music Maker in Dublin said they would sell us the equipment at cost price." The timing of the fire however was really bad, as Waiting Room are to go on tour soon.

The tour in question will see the band playing their own headline show in London, and dates in Cork, Dublin and Limerick with Nad. The London show is especially important for the band as the promotion company involved may be interested in setting up a full UK Tour for the band in the New Year. That, coupled with the release of "Catering For Headphones", means that 2004 is going to be a very big year for the band.

Ciaran Ryan


Hot Press -  Room on Fire - January 23 2004

Corkonian four- piece Waiting Room are brewing up a storm.

They say good things come to those who wait… well your patience will be rewarded soon with the sonic treat that is Catering For Headphones, the new album from Cork’s Waiting Room. The band, whose fan base has been multiplying in loaves and fishes-style proportions, has secured full distribution for their debut long-player which includes the radio single Another Take. The offering will be a given an official launch in the Half Moon on Feb 12 and the group also appear on invitation from Rough Trade at the Rough Trade shop in London on February 28… ooh, suits you sir !…

In other local news Michael Carr, scribe, DJ and head of Blue Monkey studios has recently taken over as host of The Green Room on 96FM/103FM. The alternative Irish music show goes out from 6-7 on Saturday nights – so tune in to hear a fine selection of underground tunes…

Making waves in Limerick are Golf (a mongrel outfit comprising members of Tooth and The Kyboshi) allegedly sounding a lot more interesting than their chosen moniker might imply – watch out for live dates soon…

Also on the live front, watch out for Dublin and Limerick dates from Giveamanakick in the next few weeks…

Another name to watch out for is Galway man Tom Portman. His recently released album I Have Found combines his unique style of Dobro / lap steel guitar playing and soft intimate vocals. Sounds delicious…

In other news from the City of the Tribes Jon Richards in studio sessions are taking a technical break for the instalment of a brand new mixing desk. Will keep you posted as to when they resume….

Recent releases from the north include the new Feline Dream EP Hell And Highwater which is now available to buy online from Corruptive Records and for all you metal fans, the new Sinocence album has just been unleashed…

In other new release news, Erica Jennings, singer with the band Skamp, is releasing a Radio-only single ‘It’s a Lovely Day’ in late January. The song has previously been featured on a chill out compilation Living Theatre Volume 1 by The Buddha Bar, Paris. Lending her talents to the project is US DJ Tracy Young who was in charge of remixing duties. Tracy has previously worked with Madonna, Christina and Pink. Meanwhile Skamp are working on their new album in London…

On another UK-related note, Dublin music organisation Gigsmart has forged an alliance with Dragon Music, a Welsh Music Collective. After a successful year, the high-light of which was the Gigsmart compilation reaching Number 6 in the Irish Chart, the organisation is looking to expand its influence abroad.

The new alliance will give Irish bands access to a network of Welsh bands enabling both to exchange gigs. Gigsmart is also in contact with music collectives in Belfast, Birmingham and Edinburgh discussing similar initiatives…

One lady who is no stranger to gigging is NYC resident elaine k, who is back in Ireland to promote her second album as is. Elaine will be appearing across the country throughout the end of January / early February. Check the gig guide for more details…

More new release news… Morello release a double A-side single – ‘Alarm/Hold’ on February 6 – available in Road, Tower and independent outlets nationwide…

Other stuff to look forward to… new releases from Music Matters International Battle of The Band winners The Kings Mistake who are currently at the mastering stage. Ex Wilde Oscar, Les Keye, is also putting the final touches to his new album Plan B Again…

With lots of Feb/March releases due from a plethora of acts around the country it seems 2004 isn’t shaping up too badly at all…

Roisin Dwyer


Hot Press - Room at the Top

...or, at least, very much on their way up. Fresh from their victory in a Today FM listeners’ poll, Cork’s The Waiting Room are on the move.

When interviewing new Irish bands, it’s not entirely uncommon to come across an outfit that are ever so slightly keen to get across some kind of mission statement. Feverish at the thought of finally getting their manifesto in print, they lean purposefully into your voice recorder as they impart their profound musical philosophies and wayward opinions, while trying to muster up as much mystique and bravado as they can.

The Waiting Room are definitely not one of those bands.

Frankly, it’s been a while since I’ve come across two such laid-back, straight-up characters; I could well be mistaken, but it sounds as though one of them is unloading bags of shopping as we speak on the telephone. They are refreshingly unpretentious and under-whelmed, even though the effusive reception for their Catering For Headphones album gives them license to be anything but.

In saying that, they are visibly chuffed at topping Today FM’s recent ‘Operation Green Day’ poll, with the song ‘Return My Rabbits’ ahead of Snow Patrol, Bell X1, Republic Of Loose and The Chalets.

The band themselves were perhaps the most startled at the outcome. “It was the first competition I ever won. I never won school raffles or anything,” muses bassist Dave Aherne. “It was definitely a nice first thing to win. I really love (Snow Patrol’s) ‘Run’ and I thought it would win without a doubt.”

“It was a listeners’ poll, it wasn’t just an industry panel, which makes it all the nicer,” he continues. “We love that regular people listen and like it as opposed to industry people that have been around for 20 years thinking it’s good.”

So listeners’ reaction would be more important than industry plaudits?

“Yeah, well that’s the point really, getting fans on board,” notes Dave. “We put the record out independently and we’re doing that whole DIY route thing.”

Fortunately for The Waiting Room, they needn’t bother choosing between fan and industry reaction. While the public have been drawn to their sound, press, radio and labels have been queuing up to heap praise on the album, the fruits of a melee of influences ranging from Low and Fugazi to Bright Eyes and Sebadoh. One person who has been particularly encouraging is Alison Curtis, who promptly snapped up the band to headline the Cork leg of Today FM’s Last Splash tour. “It was unexpected, but we’re really honoured that we were asked,” says Dave. “Since we did a session for her earlier in the year, Alison has been really good to us.”

The band also got a boost from touring with the Future Kings Of Spain.

“They were nice, at least we were guaranteed a good crowd…except in Waterford, where we played to about 15 people,” recalls vocalist/guitarist Nigel Farrelly.

“Touring is nicer with a good-sized band than when you’re doing your own DIY thing,” explains Dave. “You get a rider and somewhere nice to stay every night, as opposed to crashing on some stranger’s floor, which is what we normally would do.”

As it goes, stranger’s floors could well be a thing of the past if their recent sprint to London (where they took in shows at the legendary Dublin Castle, Barfly and Bush Hall) is anything to go by.

“Sanctuary Management invited us over, they heard the album and liked it, and wanted to see if we could play live,” explains Dave. “I guess you could say they’re representing us over there now. The guy that managed Iron Maiden started the company 20 years ago, and he’s also managed Page & Plant. Plus they’ve just signed Morrissey, so we’d be pretty comfortable there.”

All in all, the boys are on course for an extremely busy – and fruitful – summer.

“The plan is to do the ‘Out On A Limb’ tour, hopefully do the festivals, and spend more time in the UK, where we’d like to sort out a release,” explains Nigel.

Something tells me that The Waiting Room are not long for a world where they have to crash a stranger’s floorspace…

Catering For Headphones is out now on Out On A Limb

Tanya Sweeney


Hot Press - Squeezing Out Sparks - February 17 2004

Not even the loss of their gear in a fire has dampened the enthusiasm and ambition of Cork’s Waiting Room.

Change, as we are frequently told, is good. It’s certainly an ethic that has worked for Cork’s Waiting Room, who have taken great leaps with their second album, Catering For Headphones. While their debut Losing Patience was a more straightforward affair, this release finds them heading down a more experimental, complex path.

“The first album was just (guitarist/vocalist) Nigel’s songs”, explains bassist Dave (drummer Wayne completing the picture). “We just went into the studio and recorded them. Once we had it done we started practicing more and writing together more. The old songs didn’t mean that much to us anymore so we never really released it properly. We just started to work on the second album from then on, it’s come from all of us and our different influences. We realised we could do a lot better with the second album, especially if we took our time”.

It transpires that the positive reaction from domestic audiences was a key factor in the band’s decision to push the stylistic envelope with their second album.

“Yeah, people who go to gigs here are actually there to watch the bands and not just go out and drink. It’s cool because there are so many musicians in Ireland, more so than in the UK or anywhere else we’ve played. People who are actually interested come to the shows over here and they get where you’re coming from.

Still, given that the live experience can be something of a battle of wills, was it a leap of faith to begin playing quieter, more intense material?

“It’s a hard one to call really but you have to have dynamics to grasp people,” Dave agrees. “If you don’t people will just hear the one thing all night and it’s not interesting enough. It’s good to have diversity in every song.

Yet Waiting Room persevered and refused to be rushed into making a second album.

“We took our time. In fact there were a lot of overdubs that we took out because we didn’t want it to be too cluttered. We’ve all done a course in music and our lecturer always said that less is more. You come to realise that it’s important that certain notes don’t get lost behind keyboard effects. Plus you can’t do too much on the record because then it’s even harder to produce it live, especially when there’s only three of us”.

On the evidence of Catering For Headphones they got the balance just right. The influence of those instrumental post-rock bands is there, as are more diverse elements. It’s an apt title too, with close scrutiny revealing a world of subtleties.

“It’s really nice to be able to stand back and listen to each song, seeing what works and re-arranging things,” says Dave of the recording process. “It’s a totally different experience to playing live or when we’re rehearsing in the garage. We’re happy though, it’s a nice mix between the garage and the studio”.

Catering For Headphones is out now on Out On A Limb. Waiting Room play Half Moon, Cork (February 12), High Stool Limerick (13), Tower Records, Dublin (14 @ 1pm), Sugar Club, Dublin (14), Aunt Annie’s Belfast (15), Nerve Centre, Derry (16), Mullingar (19), Skellys, Ballymahon (20).

Phil Udell