Locals Only: : Voodoo Loons

Working both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with their debut, 'Euphobia'

Feb 27, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Amy Fournier

Voodoo Loons

Voodoo Loons couldn't be considered a Celtic band by any stretch of the imagination. But they are very nearly a band of Celts. Loons frontman Dennis O'Hagan holds dual American and Irish citizenship and has a home on the Emerald Isle, while drummer Bill McCarthy has deep family roots in County Cork (bassist/keyboardist Chris Hooks is Irish only by proximity to his bandmates).

Because of the band's Irish connections, Voodoo Loons' debut album, Euphobia, is generating equal interest at home and abroad ... which is sort of home, too.

"We're talking to two (distribution) groups over there, as well as a label in Spain that wants to put some of our stuff on 7-inch," O'Hagan says. "Online, the CDs have been selling well, both in Europe and here, probably a 50/50 split."

Voodoo Loons began three years ago when O'Hagan, a veteran of several local bands, began writing and demoing songs on his own. He eventually thought about putting a band together, but envisioned a rotating collective rather than a fixed membership.

"I was interested in putting a band together but not knowing if one night would be just me, another night it could be a three-piece, on another night it might be a five-piece." O'Hagan says.

"Kind of like the World Party model."

After posting tracks on his Web site, O'Hagan was contacted by an Irish DVD arts magazine about including one of his songs — a spontaneous screed about the state of the union called "The Unabashedly Political Song" — in an upcoming edition.

"The original version was, swear to God, a stream-of-consciousness rant," O'Hagan says. "It was just a home recording and it worked pretty well. That take ended up on the magazine. The version on the album is completely different."

With the groundwork laid, O'Hagan wanted to formally record the material and contacted old chum McCarthy (a partner in local audio production house Mind Ignition), who brought in local session handyman Hooks (owner of Middleground Studio). When an attempt to implement a second guitarist failed, O'Hagan stuck with the core trio and Voodoo Loons — a name inspired by O'Hagan's post-Katrina rehab work in Louisiana — was officially launched in early 2006.

The Loons immediately began re-recording O'Hagan's songs with McCarthy and Hooks bringing fresh perspectives to the arrangements and ideas for new songs. Sadly, McCarthy's mother's cancer diagnosis and eventual passing forced them into an understandable hiatus, but they reunited for a memorable gig at 2006's MidPoint festival.

"My guitar amp caught fire on our first song," O'Hagan says. "We recovered nicely. That gave us a boost of confidence."

By last spring, the Loons returned to the studio to finish Euphobia, which was officially released in January. Although Voodoo Loons have not been active in the live scene as yet (their two MidPoint sets are the extent of their local appearances), they're working toward more area bookings as well as some European dates, which will definitely include some Irish gigs.

As for Euphobia itself, O'Hagan is infinitely proud of the work that he, McCarthy and Hooks have invested in the album, which bears the mark of their musical and writing influences (Pixies, Jane's Addiction, Ray Davies, Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg) focused through a soaring, careening Afghan Whigs-like Indie Rock sonic filter, resulting in the expansive sound of a major label album.

"We had a mindset going in that there was not a particular sound we were shooting for," O'Hagan says. "We had some ground rules rather than a stated goal for how we were going to sound. We weren't going to direct each other — whatever sound the three of us created together was the sound — and we weren't aiming for any band sound. Each particular song, we tried to be true to that song without regard for how that would fit with the other songs we'd recorded. We approached it from this mindset, we stuck to it throughout and we're happy with the resulting sound."

For more on VOODOO LOONS, go to voodooloons.com and myspace.com/voodooloons.