Five Things: Villagers

Villagers’ CONOR O’BRIEN takes some time out from reading Kurt Vonnegut novels to share five things that inspired his new album {Awayland}.

Irish folk band Villagers have just released their second album {Awayland}, the follow-up to 2010’s Mercury-nominated debut, Becoming a Jackal. Recorded in Donegal, Ireland the record is inspired by great literary characters and bursting with ” string arrangements and dreamy, shape shifting percussion.” Lead singer Conor O’Brien took some time out from reading Kurt Vonnegut novels to tell FL about five things that inspired the band’s latest creation.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I was reading this book while I was writing a lot of this album – I love how Vonnegut is able to infuse the heaviest, most miserable moments with pure hilarity and satirical absurdity. I think I unknowingly started to write from the perspective of the lead character Billy Pilgrim, or, at least, from my own inner version of him.

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan

My mind was being blown by this 1980 television series in which Mr. Sagan, and his red polo-neck (Or ‘skivvy’, as you guys call it), discusses our place in the universe and our origins on this planet. It helped me to be continually inspired over a relatively long period of time, since there was always a well of wondrous insight from which to draw the waters of creativity.

Minimal electronic music

A lot of the demos for the album were experiments in making electronic music and I was listening to lots of minimal glitchy ambient and techno stuff like Monolake, Oval, Plastikman, Drexciya, as well as more contemporary stuff like Nosaj Thing and Caribou. I wanted to play with textures and soundscapes so it was a surprise to me when they slowly became songs and I ended up stripping a lot of the electronics from it. I can’t really explain what drew me to this music – it’s just music isn’t it?

Harry Nillson

I just remember listening to him quite a lot during the whole period of writing. I like his extremely succinct approach to songwriting. There’s a sort of flowery prettiness brimming with a deep sadness which appeals to me. There’s a sort of mathematical quality to his songs as well as a sort of madman humour which is very impressive considering the tumult of dark emotions evidently brewing underneath.


I was listening to lots of Krautrock. The most obvious being Kraftwerk, but also Can, Faust, Neu! And Cluster. I enjoy the production techniques as well as the sheer audacity and breadth of vision inherent in the genre. I thought {Awayland} was going to sound more like an instrumental Krautrock album for a while. But it didn’t. My record label rejoiced.

Villagers’ new album {Awayland} is out now on Domino.