Name: HamsandwicH
Members: Niamh Farrell, Podge McNamee, Brian Darcy
Occupation: Songwriters, instrumentalists
Nationality: Irish
Recent release: HamsandwicH's Magnify is out via the band's very own Route 109a.

If you enjoyed this interview with HamsandwicH and would like to find out more about the band, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?

Niamh: Personally I feel inspired by the experiences I have had in life, good or bad, and my friends!

I also recently taught myself how to play the guitar and I find picking it up and messing around and singing really drives me on to a creative space.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

Niamh: I would say it’s mostly chance with a small dash of planning! When we write music I think our aim is just to try different things that are interesting to us and see where it takes us!

We maybe would have a date in mind to be finished writing by, but generally that gets pushed out a bit!

Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?

Niamh: We would start with a rough demo that Darcy has created, that would be the very earliest version of the song. We would then go into working out the melody vocal around that and then we get onto the lyrics. Each part is recorded then and we have a solid demo to work from when we get into the studio.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

Niamh: Definitely lots of coffee for me! I would also do a lot of yoga in my spare time so a bit of yoga and breathing relaxation is good for me before creating.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

Darcy: I usually start by trying to do something I’ve never tried musically before. Usually a new type of chord on a guitar or playing a different instrument can help too.

Then it’s a more exciting process and makes you want to stay and work something out a lot longer.

When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?

Niamh: Lyrics are written when we have enough of the bare bones of the song decided on.

They can come from any place! We might even start with one word on what the song should be about and go from there or myself or Podge will get a certain feeling from the melody of the song itself and it steers it’s own path then!

No one method is stuck to really.

What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?

Podge: There are multiple factors that can make lyrics great.

For me personally I will try to pull lyrics from my experiences and current moods. I think it’s important to aim to pour your own personality into your own lyrical style. Keep it unique to you and keep it interesting for you personally. It’s a channel to vent as much as a channel to have fun and make things a puzzle for others.

I like to obscure the real meaning behind my own lyrics at times because it can convey multiple different meanings to people and to be honest, I think it’s more important what it means to the listener than it is to me. They are likely going to listen to the track more than I am

Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

Darcy: When the 3 of us come together to contribute ideas to the song as a whole, a  much clearer direction will emerge and we try to pursue the route that pulls all of us in the same direction.

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

Darcy: There is definitely a sense that the song will lead you to where it needs to go. Our best material is usually written within 30 mins of initial writing and the rest is just fine tuning. So you just learn to trust that the strongest ideas are the ones that come naturally and the quickest.

There might be an initial idea of what the music is about and that can inform the music and how it feels but I think the more you try to control things the less organic and more contrived your work can get.

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

Darcy: We have had tracks in the past where we’ve had to almost scrap pieces of music and go back to the drawing board.It can be frustrating of course.

However, if you go back to a point where you know it worked at some stage, changing it slightly can be the making of it. Just because you have to work harder on some pieces of music doesnt mean it’s any worse than something than was written in the blink of an eye.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

Niamh: I like to get really inside my head when I’m writing lyrics. And try find new ways of expressing what I’m feeling or thinking.

It’s a very exciting head space to be in, especially if the ideas are flowing and sticking, it’s a nice place to be!

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

Darcy: Usually the end of the process is marked by pressure for the piece to meet a release date or to be sent to a vinyl production plant on time.

It’s always up to the last second for us. It can be hard at times to accept the process is over on a track / album as it can be impossible and prehaps unrealistic to hit the mark every time.

However I think the mark you are trying to hit is not predefined. When the process is over and time is called on it, what you are left with is the piece that you created over that period of time. Over thinking and tinkering away on something can be detrimental.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?

Podge: It all depends on the track. If an idea feels right from the off I think it’s a dangerous game tweaking away at an idea that already works. Any refinement tends to happen quickly deliberately and we try to stop at that.

I think every album we’ve written has had roughly one big bear track that we’ve really struggled to get the way we want and it can really go either way.

The songs that cause the most torture are usually in my top two favourite tracks. I’m not sure if that’s because of the relief after the struggle but these songs usually get completely reworked to the point they are almost unrecognisable. So you end up losing a song to gain another.

What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?

Darcy: We take Production, mixing and mastering incredibly seriously. We do have vastly different albums but you can see a clear improvement in our work. You can hear that we’ve put more time, care and money into each album.

The way we see it is that if you’ve spent enough time creating something, well then you need to prioritise presenting your work in the best way as it’s going to be n the public domain hopefully forever and you want to stand over it and be proud of the work.  

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

Darcy: Once you finish an album, I think it’s important to take a break for yourself and reboot yourself. It’s very important i think.

You need to close that chapter of creativity and then start again with a fresh mind to take on new ideas and not be afraid of new creative paths. You need a clear break between projects.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Podge: I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to doing anything I love because I want to leave things right. There is no right or wrong with music in the way you can mess up a cup of tea.

Writing music definitely feels like it comes from a more lucid side of your thinking. It’s never robotic for me although I’m sure it can be a bit down to muscle memory.

Most song writers I would say start from scratch each time. From the drawing board. It’s not much different to painting. Each step u take dictates the next move a bit like chess only less nerve wrecking and maybe slightly less brain draining haha.