Features - Interviews

Still Open Wide: Catching Up With The Altered Hours

Ahead of playing The Spirit Store in Dundalk tomorrow night – and Dublin & Limerick next month – we chat with Cathal MacGabhann of Cork psych-rock heroes The Altered Hours about their luminous journey & highly-anticipated next phase

Go here to buy tickets to the Altered Hours and Alice Robinson at The Spirit Store as part of Collide

Hi Cathal. When I interviewed you guys back in 2013, you had a very level-headed – and honestly very refreshing – conception of “success”. You said “Money, popularity and recognition I have no problem with. I really feel that if just one person gets into it, whether it be a recording or a performance, we are successful.”

Fast-forward to 2024, do you feel much the same way? 

Hey Brian, nice to chat with you again after all this time. Yeah, I do still feel this way, pretty much. A lot has happened since that interview but I’ve always known that I’m going to be making music for a long time so I figured it’s best not to get too caught up in the ups and downs of the music industry and stay close to the parts I love and I guess the only thing that we have any control over… that being our music, integrity and growth as artists.

Your sonic arc as a band has ensured your status as one of the country’s all-time great guitar bands. As we ease into brighter days, how is the next phase of the Altered Hours shaping up?

Thanks. We’re currently working on our next album. I’m excited to get another Altered Hours record out there.

While there have been some big shifts in the landscape of Irish music since you formed, you’re one of those rare bands that have stood fast and pushed forward.

Flipping between tracks like, say, 2013’s ‘Everyone Is Inside’ and 2021’s ‘Stratocaster Dreamcatcher,’ I hear a band that has always loved writing and recording music together. Is that creative kinship the main force behind it all?

There’s always going to be a lot of variation in our sound, from album to album, from song to song. As much as we sometimes fit into certain rock genres, I think we strive more to create music that aligns with where we are honestly at as people and as a band.

Both in terms of personal journeys but also taking into account the journey the band itself has been on since the beginning. As wild as it is to have a band like ours together for over 10 years, it’s this exact journey that really interests me and sometimes informs what’s coming next.

You said your UK tour at the tail-end of 2024 was one of your favourites to date. In that same 2013 interview, you said you liked to think of touring as an “adventure,” adding “The songs are one thing and that’s our focus. Travel is another, personally I never want to go home.” Is it mainly connection with others – your bandmates, fans and fellow bands – that informs that love? 

Yes, absolutely. It’s my friends in the band, meeting people who work at the venues and playing for fans of the band. I honestly still love it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done some long tours over the past five years and I’ve been happy to land home after them, but usually after a couple of weeks I’m ready to go again.

It’s a bit of a weird one, it just goes up and down the whole time and that’s something you have to get good at as a musician I think. In regards to my younger self saying “ I never want to go home,” that really makes me laugh now. But in all honesty, I still feel that way. We just haven’t quite had the opportunity to keep us on the road sustainably for as often as we would like. If we did, I’d be happily bombing it down a motorway right now getting my nervous system ready for another night of it.

That being said, I’ve found the energy it takes to tour sometimes eats into the energy needed to complete full bodies of work, which is something I’m trying to adjust these days.

I think I’ve seen you guys live around a dozen times – maybe more – and maintain you keep getting better with every show. Do you share the feeling that you’re constantly stepping up as a band?

Ha! Wow that’s a lot of shows, we appreciate you showing up every time Brian! I’m not sure what causes that. There’s a lot of love between us, and as we continue together, it moves, changes and ultimately grows with each phase. There’s a certain gear we can reach live sometimes that is a feeling like no other for me. When we’re really taking off, it just goes somewhere else altogether, and sometimes even takes us by surprise too.

You’ve some highly-anticipated shows coming in Dundalk, Dublin and Limerick this month and next. Can we expect to hear some new music and, looking forward, what can we expect from the Hours throughout 2024?

The set list at the moment has been a blend of old, new and unreleased material. We’ve been really enjoying our past couple of shows. More to come.

The Altered Hours play the following the shows in February and March:

8th February – The Spirit Store, Dundalk w/ Alice Robinson (Collide)
16th March – Workmans Club Cellar, Dublin w/ His Father’s Voice
17th March – Dolans, Limerick w/ FONDA

Photo by Alain Bib

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.