Fans of the Swell Season wondered what the disintegration of the romantic relationship between bandmates Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová would do to their musical pairing. Their second album, Strict Joy, proves that their partnership is as strong as ever.
GLEN HANSARD has one of the best outgoing voicemail messages of all time. One half of folk duo the Swell Season, Hansard treats callers to a sweet a cappella Irish ditty about how sorry he is to have missed their call and how hell return it shortly.
Its not surprising that hes hard to reach. Since the meteoric rise of the Swell Season on the heels of its winning a Best Original Song Academy Award for Falling Slowly from the 2007 film Once, Hansard and bandmate Markéta Irglová have played to packed houses around the world, and this month, they are releasing their second album, Strict Joy (Anti, $18).
For Ireland-born Hansard, 39, who began busking in the Dublin streets at age 13, the road to success has been a long one. And his struggle to accept his newfound success is an extension of his years-long struggle to make it as a musician, both solo and with the band that he formed in 1990 and formerly played with, the Frames.
I think something happens when youre aiming toward an idea for your whole life, like getting to the place where youre selling records and people are buying tickets to see your show, Hansard says. Youve been struggling for success all your life, and then when success arrives at your door almost overnight in an unexpected way, the only thing you know how to do is struggle. So you struggle at success. And there was definitely a period for me a few months after wed won the Oscar when I didnt really know what to think about it. Then this past summer, we got three months off, and I have to say that those three months were a real time of gratitude for me, because I sort of realized what had happened in the last year of my life.
Alongside Hansard for the bands climb to the top has been Irglová, a classically trained Czech pianist. The two met in Irglovás hometown of Valaské Mezirící. Her father was a concert promoter, and the Frames were booked to play a gig over there, Hansard says. I stayed at her parents house for a week, and she basically joined me on a couple of songs on piano. And for me, it was the beginning of something that I knew was going to be a whole different chapter in my life.
Recorded over a few weeks at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Strict Joy was produced by Peter Katis, who has also worked with indie darlings the National, Tokyo Police Club, and Interpol. The albums 12 original songs -- acoustic-guitar-based folk numbers about love and love lost -- maintain the passion and lyrical content of those on the groups 2006 self-titled debut. Hansard is most proud of In These Arms and the albums opener, Low Rising, which has him channeling his inner Van Morrison (who is one of Hansards musical influences, along with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Bruce Springsteen).
Hansard says the new material comes from his current place in life. After Hansard and Irglovás first records release, their professional relationship evolved into a romantic one, but the two have since broken up. Now, he insists, they are better bandmates than before. Things are actually really good between us, he says. Its brilliant. Frames members Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Rob Bochnik, and Joe Doyle provide violin, guitar, and bass-guitar support on the album, respectively.
This fall, the duo will be hitting the road, where thousands of fans will get to see Hansards trademark raw-emotion-loaded performances firsthand. He admits that he comes by that passion honestly. My father was a boxer and an angry man, so I guess Ive got a bit of his blood in me -- a bit of that fiery thing, he says. Plus, Im a redhead and Im Irish, so Ive got that too.