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Digging Deep: Introducing DUG

Off the back of their first-ever show and debut single ‘Jubilee,’ Dublin-based folk duo DUG, aka Lorkin O’Reilly and California native Jonny Pickett, speak to Ciara Byrne about new beginnings and what looks set to be a very bright future.

In the aftermath of their debut single, ‘Jubilee,’ and two sold-out shows at Whelan’s in Dublin, DUG injects fresh energy and a comedic twist into the age-old fusion of Irish folk and American old-time music. October 2023 marked the inception of the project, a collaboration between songwriter Lorkin O’Reilly and California native Jonny Pickett. Their musical journey began amidst the cosy ambience of the Mad Hatter in Stoneybatter and the steamy confines of Inspire Fitness in Cabra. The moniker “DUG” pays homage to O’Reilly’s father, Douglas, blending years of musical expertise with a profound appreciation for folk traditions.

Pickett’s musical odyssey started early, guided by his father, an avid Fender Rhodes player, while O’Reilly opted for the more unconventional path, picking up the balalaika at the tender age of seven. After spending a decade in upstate New York, where he released three albums and amassed over twenty million streams on Spotify, O’Reilly felt the pull to return to Dublin. He attributes this decision partly to the vibrant music scene, noting, “one reason I came back was the scene. Everyone’s working really hard. People are catching on that something’s happening here.” Pickett initially integrated himself into the Irish music circuit in 2016, performing weekly at the International Bar alongside violinist Gareth Quinn Redmond and Fin Divilly, expanding his network in the process. The pair later began discussions about a joint musical venture during All Together Now in 2022.

Despite being relative newcomers, Pickett and O’Reilly have swiftly made their mark in Dublin, supported by a stellar ensemble featuring Gareth Quinn Redmond on violin, Aidan Gray on bass, and Michael McCarthy on drums. Even before the release of their debut single, DUG managed to sell out two shows at Whelan’s. Their inaugural live performance on February 3rd, with electronic pop-folk artist Holly Munro as support, drew an enthusiastic crowd. Munro set the tone with her ethereal melodies, paving the way for DUG’s diverse repertoire, which included their debut single ‘Jubilee,’ the tongue-in-cheek ‘I’m The Promoter (Man!),’ and the nostalgic ‘Cumberland Gap.’ With a tight and varied setlist, DUG raised the bar, leaving audiences eager for their future releases and live performances.

When it comes to influences, O’Reilly gravitates towards the folk scene, with minor nods to contemporary American artists like Magnetic Fields and Damien Jurado. Pickett draws inspiration from a diverse array of musicians such as Tom Waits, Jon Brion, Radiohead, and the cinematic compositions of Yann Tiersen. Reflecting on their creative process, O’Reilly notes Pickett’s musical acumen, while acknowledging his own admiration for Phil Elverum’s project, The Microphones. Their songwriting process is fluid, with Pickett emphasizing, “There’s no set way. Some songs are fully formed when they’re brought to the group. Other times you sit down and hope something good comes up. Often nothing will, but you have to keep sitting down and hope for the best that something does.”

Under the production of Belfast singer-songwriter Joshua Burnside, DUG’s debut single ‘Jubilee’ was released by A For Effort Records earlier this month, accompanied by a live recording on GemsOnVHS’s YouTube channel – which you can view below. With plans for more music releases and live performances in the pipeline, DUG have already created high expectations for themselves with bated anticipation for what’s to come. Ciara Byrne

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