Smoothboi Ezra Talks Their New EP, Lyrical Subjectivity, and Their Pet Cat

Photo by Leon McCulloughl

By Hannah Quearney

Since the drop of their ever-suave single “Thinking of You” in 2018, Smoothboi Ezra has established themselves as not only a transient producer and thoughtful songwriter, but as the renaissance songster to watch. Known outside of their moniker as Ezra Williams, the Greystones-based muso excels at a sonic balancing act that few musicians are able to accomplish. Their instrumentals are sparse but harness their own lo-fi splendor as their confessional lyrics lift everything into equilibrium. One aspect isn’t underpinned in favour of the other; both are attuned to the forgiving musical imagination that they have created.

This sentiment lingers three years later, even as Ezra makes their musical transition from acoustics to electronics on their new EP Stuck. Exploring the intricacies of adolescent relationships, Stuck follows a formative relationship with a self-awareness and maturity that scarcely falls in the realm of grovelling or melodrama.

Nameless Faceless caught up with Ezra to discuss their creative process for their latest release, their musical growth, and the people that inspire them most.

Nameless Faceless: Congrats on the new EP! We’re really looking forward to hearing it. I know that you’ve said previously that your music is about whatever your listeners want to take from it. I find this perspective really interesting, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Smoothboi Ezra: I think for me a lot of the time a sad song could actually be a happy song for me and vice a versa, people tend to associate certain songs with different time periods one person could listen to my song during a terrible time in their life and have it mean something really important, and another could listen during the best time in their life and have it mean something completely different. When I go to listen to a song I purposefully don’t listen to Genius interviews or look up what it means because it feels more personal when I come up with my own meaning.

NF: In light of this release, can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

SE: I write in the middle of the night, it’s a brain dump of my thoughts about the day or an event. There isn’t a plan, it just happens. Songs are sometimes whole when I write them, other times they take years to come together as amalgamation of lines from other unfinished songs.

NF: Did you take any new approaches with the EP? Were there any new sounds or ideas that you really liked and wanted to take inspiration from or experiment with?

SE: I never set out to do anything I usually just go with the flow, my songs usually end up sounding nothing like I intend them to.

NF: A lot of growth and maturity can spark in three years – both personally and musically. What do you think are some of the ways in which you’ve matured and progressed as an artist?

SE: I feel I’ve grown as a writer and producer. I’ve learned more about production. I suppose I’m older and so my writing is naturally evolving with me.

NF: I know you’ve cited Elliott Smith as a big influence (I’m a huge fan!) and I’m just wondering what qualities of his music inspire you most?

SE: His melodies just hit with me. I like the honesty of his lyrics, he was an amazing artist.

NF: What artists would you love to work with in your dream collab?

SE: I would love to collab with Phoebe Bridgers, Haley Heynderickx, Soccer Mommy, Kate Bush and Snail Mail.

NF: Do you have any thoughts on the Dublin music scene? I feel that artists who aren’t super central in the city rarely get the look-in that they deserve.

SE: I don’t know much about the music scene in Dublin as I was just starting out in October 2019 and I did four live performances and then COVID and lockdown hit. I was 17 when I started and wasn’t going out much so I’ve yet to learn about the scene but I’m looking forward to it.

NF: In your opinion, what Irish artists should we be listening to?

SE: Patricia Lalor, Sammy Copley, Soapy Rain, Pillow Queens and Anna Mieke.

NF: I love your cat Frog! He’s a very cute boy, could you tell us more about him?

SE: He’s great. He’s a big brother now cause I’ve just got another kitten called Pixie. They’re great friends and keep each other company, which I am pleased about because I wasn’t sure if Frog would accept Pixie, but it has just worked out perfectly.

NF: What are you anticipating most from 2021?

SE: Getting to do live shows with my friends and to travel and see exciting places. I can’t wait to go to Iceland in November.

Listen to Smoothboi Ezra’s EP Stuck below.

Pride Profiles: Sprints

Photo by Conor O’Beirne

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Ellen Pentony

Listen If You Like

Girl Band, LCD Soundsystem, PUP, Porridge Radio 

Who They Are

Sprints are a four piece indie-noise band from Dublin. Using a vocal style reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, frontwoman Karla Chubb talk-sings her way through issues affecting contemporary Ireland. 

“Manifesto” and “Swimming” pulsate with satirical energy as layers of guitar, bass, and thumping drums combine to capture the frustrated, angry spirit of Irish millennials faced with economic and social uncertainty. On “The Cheek” and “Ashley,” though, Chubb brings her queer identity to the fore, exploring turbulent relationships and the bisexual experience. Direct and deliberate, Sprints speak keenly to life as a young person in Ireland. 

Nostalgia Interrupted: HAVVK Talk Growing Up on “Automatic,” Announce Sophomore LP ‘Levelling’

Photo by James Byrne

By Ellen Pentony

Indie-grunge trio HAVVK have released a new single from their upcoming sophomore album Levelling, out September 17th. Like their preceding singles “Home” and “No Patience,” the latest release from HAVVK is charged with the competing energies of calm and chaos.

On “Automatic,” lead singer Julie Hough’s shoegaze vocals lull you into a false sense of security, creating a comforting air of nostalgia before screeching guitars rip you from the safety of the verse and into a chorus filled with the panicked loss of cherished memories.

Speaking on the inspiration for the track, Hough says: “Automatic is about cherishing childhood friendships and the way that they evolve. It’s about snapshots that will always be imprinted in our minds – for me it’s hours talking on the landline, swapping clothes, burning CDs, mitching school or going to gigs for the first time. It’s about the fuzzy feeling of nostalgia when you slip back into a conversation with an old friend as if you saw each other yesterday. But it’s also about being afraid to lose that feeling; being anxious that those memories might burn away and having to be open to growing together even as your paths change.”

Levelling will be released on September 17th on VETA records. You can find the tracklist below. 

Levelling Track List

  1. Tides
  2. Home 
  3. No Patience 
  4. Automatic 
  5. Easy
  6. Under Your Breath 
  7. Halfway Out 
  8. Machines 
  9. Hold 
  10. By Night 

Pride Profiles: Rebecca Locke

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Hannah Quearney

Listen If You Like

Car Seat Headrest, Kero Kero Bonito, Hobo Johnson

Who They Are

A darling of both Irish Twitter and the fledgling live music scene in Dublin City, it goes without saying that Rebecca Locke’s brand of frenzied confessional pop deserves equal credence to their online shitposts. Best known as the curator of Indigo Sessions at The Workman’s Club, their music rapidly oscillates between moody atmospherics and infectious danceability. Their brand of organised chaos is consolidated through gang vocals about going to Aldi and wanting to die, reclaiming the ukulele as a symbol of Gen Z ingenuity and detaching it from any of its millennial twee connotations while they’re at it. 

The second best thing they’ve done this year (first of which is becoming Lidl’s Next Top Model and subsequently ending up on First Dates) is releasing their third single “manic energy.” An unfiltered stream-of-consciousness capturing the experience of being mentally ill in your early twenties, the erratic track quickly became a fan favourite at shows, evolving each time it’s played live with increasingly more ridiculous ad libs from their backing band. A detour from their previous lo-fi indie pop releases, the mangled glitchcore aesthetics look like they mark a new era for Locke and we cannot wait to see what comes next.

While Indigo Sessions is currently on pause, “manic energy” transports the catharsis of a crowded venue to your home speakers. Listen to it below. 

Pride Profiles: Gadget and the Cloud

Photo by @isi.dorra

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Clare Martin

Listen If You Like

Jon Hopkins, Four Tet, Brian Eno

Who She Is

The first time I listened to Gadget and the Cloud’s latest EP Things I’ll Never Say, I was immediately reminded of Little Big Planet, a whimsical video game that transports you to an ethereal world fastened together with jewel-bright colours and rich textures. Gadget and the Cloud, aka Kelly Doherty, likewise whisks you away with her brilliantly layered electronic music. 

The Cork artist crafts a magnificent sonic tapestry, binding together glimmering synths, ambient nature sounds, and deeply distorted voices. The end result is transcendental, wrapping itself around you until you forget quite where you are. “It Never Felt Right” promises to make your heart swell as the track crescendos, lifting you up to some dreamy, unimaginable landscape. Her 2018 album Songs for Sad People to Dance To does exactly what it says on the tin, in the best way possible. The record captures a sense of isolation, but in the process forges a connection, like a lone lamp shining in a window. At the end of the day, though, words fail when it comes to Gadget and the Cloud’s atmospheric art; it simply must be experienced.

Pride Profiles: Babylamb

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Sophie McDonald

Listen If You Like

Charli XCX, Troye Sivan, Kim Petras

Who They Are

A quintessentially queer quartet, Babylamb having been hitting all the high notes since their first single “Bodyright.” Their debut explored body image and positivity, avoiding any sickly sweet message and achieving well-thought-out awareness. Upbeat and fantastically dance-y, Tobias, Laoise, Cian, and Rían produce lively tracks perfect for the dancefloor. Their latest single “Mister Magic” thrives on its opulent production. Filled with layered synths and electronic soundbites, Tobi and Laoise’s harmonies add a touch of dreaminess to the pop anthem. 

Part of Hot Press‘ Hot for 2021 list, they’re building themselves up for the year ahead. Having already graced the stages of Whelan’s and Workman’s, Babylamb have made a name for themselves as an unmissable live act. Energetic, they pulsate with a love for each other and for the magical hyper-pop they’ve created. Whether you’re looking to add a touch of zest to your day or pumping yourself up for the night ahead, Babylamb will provide a tantalising, terrific soundtrack. 

Celaviedmai Just Wants to “HEAL” on Her Latest Lovelorn Track

Photo by Bekah Molony

By Clare Martin

Plenty of rap focuses on the performer’s wins: their money, their status, their romances. Despite this being baked into the genre, some of the most enduring rap instead zeroes in on hardship and emotional pain. Case in point: Galway rapper Celaviedmai’s new single “HEAL.”

Starting off with humming and distorted, lo-fi vocals, the track tells the story of the first woman Mai loved and subsequently lost. That heartbreak is palpable from the opening line: “Loving you was a choice / And I chose you / You didn’t even pick me.”

In a moment of courageous vulnerability, the rapper and songwriter cycles through the self-critical thoughts that plague a person after rejection. “HEAL” proves both contemplative and sultry, a chance for Mai to show off her incredible vocal chops as well as her lyrical prowess. 

Listen to “HEAL” below.

Pride Profiles: Niall McDowell

Photo by Aaron Cunningham

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Ellen Pentony

Listen If You Like

Lucy Dacus, Father John Misty, CMAT 

Who He Is

Antrim singer/songwriter Niall McDowell is the latest artist making country music cool again. Like CMAT, McDowell uses the structure and sound of the genre to sing about modern themes. His latest release “Do You Think I’m Pretty” is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of insecurity and narcissism. Placed within a queer context, the track takes on a satirical meaning as McDowell plays with pronouns and gender. Writing about another man, they sing: “There’s only so much waiting around a girl can do / until it all falls through.” 

Personable and unpretentious, his stream-of-consciousness lyricism is akin to the boygenius crew, subtly and humorously evoking the trials and tribulations of modern queer dating. “Do You Think I’m Pretty” is the first of a series of singles McDowell is releasing this year, each one exploring a different musical genre. We can expect more of their insightful and skilled songwriting in the near future.

Pride Profiles: Pretty Happy

To celebrate Pride, we’ll be highlighting a different Irish artist from the LGBTQIA+ community each day in June as part of our Pride Profiles series.

By Clare Martin

Listen If You Like

Girl Band, Suburban Lawns, Pixies

Who They Are

Art-punk trio Pretty Happy are gloriously gritty and unconventional — they have a song called “Mr Crabs,” for fuck’s sake! Made up of siblings Abbey Blake (guitar) and Arann Blake (vocals, bass guitar) as well as drummer Andy Killian, the Cork three-piece have drawn praise for their eccentric vocal performances and frenetic, guitar-driven tunes. Listening to them feels like someone left the tap on at full blast, washing you away with noise and raw energy. 

“Salami” is their most-played song on Spotify, charging you head-on with outlandish lyrics and off-kilter guitar. Their latest release, “Sea Sea Sea,” specifically delves into queer identity and the limitations of gender roles. Abbey’s delivery is steeped in sarcasm as she sings, “Your daughter wants to ride a motorcycle / You can’t handle it / She’s your only son.” Her activism also extends to life outside the band: Abbey founded the Angry Mom Collective, a Cork-based group dedicated to supporting women and queer people in the Irish music scene. With an EP due out later this year, we’ve plenty to look forward to from Pretty Happy.

banríon and qwasi Critique the Exploitation of Queer Pain on “do you miss her”

qwasi (left) photo by Donal Talbot, banríon (right) photo by Anna Heisterkamp

By Clare Martin

As queer people, our rights have literally been put on the ballot. Even though Marriage Equality passed in 2015, having your personhood up for debate is a fundamentally dehumanising process. Your private life becomes a spectacle for others to gawk at, like some curio they’ve found in a charity shop.

This sense of exploitation, of a person’s existence becoming a form of entertainment for others, inspired the new single “do you miss her” by indie rock artist banríon (Róisín Ní Haicéid) and experimental electronic producer qwasi, aka Eric Fitzgerald.

“It’s about this voyeuristic radio interview I heard last year with Nell McCafferty where [the] interviewer was prodding into her heartbreak and sexuality, I hope I did it justice,” banríon tweeted about the song, out via Bad Soup Records. McCafferty is a legendary journalist and queer activist, who was in a 15 year relationship with fellow journalist Nuala O’Faolain.

Single artwork by Peggie McKeon

qwasi’s expert production purls through the song, marrying lo-fi fuzz with rich, fluid textures. Segments of the aforementioned interview flit in and out, McCafferty’s melodious Derry accent grounding the track. “Would you be asking me if I was a man to wear my heart on my sleeve?” Ní Haicéid asks pointedly, critiquing the media’s treatment of McCafferty. It’s an important message to remember during Pride Month, when plenty of queer people’s stories are exploited by companies looking for a bit of good press.

Later on, Ní Haicéid’s lovelorn, listless voice repeats the track’s title over and over again: “Do you miss her?” A clip of McCafferty answers assuredly, “Oh, yes.”

Listen to “do you miss her” below. The song is in aid of BeLonG To Youth Services, which helps young queer Irish people.