Interview: The Riptide Movement

Ellen Desmond chats to The Riptide Movement’s lead man, Mal Tuohy


2014 was undoubtedly a turning point in The Riptide Movement’s career. It saw them secure not just a number one album, but a gold selling album and a sold out release launch performance at Vicar’s Street. Next stop, their fan favourite song All Works Out garnered a nomination for Best Irish Song of 2014 – and it was one of the most played songs on Irish radio in 2014. It was also only just last year when we saw the purveyors of “energetic, feel good, Rock ‘n Roll with a lot of soul” sign with the Universal Music label and, as it expected, this move went hand in hand with their ascendency into the ranks of top new Irish musicians.

“Coming from a DIY band that self-released two albums already, we understand what’s involved in promoting and marketing an album, so having Universal take over the release of our latest album (Getting Through) has been unreal.  We have a great team of people who really get the band and have our backs covered. We’re now getting the air play that we could never have got as an independent, self-releasing artist and with having Universal behind us, it feels more like being in a band, more ‘rock n roll’ than having to run a business.”

Indeed, their snowballing rise to fame appears to have rolled its way into 2015; it was just a few weeks ago when the Meteor Choice Music Prize announced its shortlist for best Irish album 2014 and The Riptide Movement’s third album, Getting Through, made the cut. The list is riddled with some of the biggest acts, new and old, on the scene at the moment; James Vincent McMorrow, U2, Sinead O’ Conner, Damien Rice and Hozier to name a few. Listening back to Getting Through there is no major surprise the decision was made to include it on the shortlist, but for a newly signed band like The Riptide Movement, it’s an impressive round up of names to even be included in.

“We got a call from the label and management congratulating us.  I’d actually completely forgotten about when the announcement was going to be made.  We’re delighted though, it’s a great list of nominees this year, some big names and some great albums.  It’s nice to be included on the list.”

The band first started to make noise in around 2006 before securing a safe level of interest in 2010, so it’s been a long road for Malachy ‘Mal’ Touhy and the rest of the Riptide crew to sew together the support they’ve been receiving over the past 12 months. Despite their tangibly recent climb, their unusual name rolls off the tongue with the ring of an old household name.

“Like all bands starting off, the band name is always a tough one to settle on. We wanted a name that had some meaning and made a statement. The Riptide Movement was that name, and of course, we’re all avid surfers!”

Like all musicians, Mal Tuohy, John Dalton, Ger McGarry and Gar Byrne have had their fair share of ups and downs on their way to becoming The Riptide Movement that we recognise today. Even the smallest of achievements often take a huge sacrifice and for anyone working in a band the situation is no different.

“I guess the most difficult aspect of playing in a band is missing a lot of family events, weddings, parties, holidays and all that,” says the frontman, “It can also be difficult on relationships too.”

The Lucan lads have only recently seen their music creeping up on the international industry, but Riptide has long been popular with audiences on home turf. Day after day we don’t notice as the surplus of aspiring musicians pack up their cases and give up. A booming industry though it is at the minute, it couldn’t be more competitive at the same time. The first step to success for an Irish band is breaking through to a level of nationwide recognition in Ireland. So, what does it take to impress an Irish audience and gather such a strong home following?

“Obviously it must be the music first and foremost but I also think it’s the band’s personalities,” claims Tuohy, “We’ve been playing as a band for 8 years now.  We’ve all been friends since childhood and I think that comes across in our music and live shows.  Added to that, we’ve always done things our own way.  We have always played the music we wanted to play and navigated our own journey on our own terms.”

The world is watching the Irish music scene very carefully right now and music fans are consuming the Green Isle’s creative output ravenously. In recent weeks Motley has spoken to a plethora of Irish acts from all ends of the spectrum of success. It’s been unanimous that lucky breaks are important but can only give you so much in terms of progress in the industry; it ultimately comes down to raw talent and business drive.

“I guess it’s different for every band.  We have our own story but no matter what your story, or path is, the principles remain the same.  If you have good tunes, a well-produced album or EP and a good live show, you’re halfway there.  The other half is drive, work ethic, luck, and building the right team around you, as in management, booking agent and label.”

With three studio albums to their name, they’ve already we’ve began writing material for their next release which they hope to start recording in late 2015 and a release date coined for 2016.  “If people like Getting Through they’re going to love what’s coming next!” exclaimed the musician. The pressure is on now to better their last output and The Riptide Movement are looking to do it in quite a short space of time. With a backlog of hypnotic, too-soft-to-be-labelled-Rock anthems but tunes that seem almost purposely penned to be chanted back by crowds, the creators behind the catchy tracks, surprisingly, put together their music through typical jam sessions and individual brainstorming. However, Tuohy looks to the greats for inspiration and references Bob Dylan as one of the acts he would most love to work with.

“All things considered I think of myself as a songwriter first and foremost, so who better to collaborate with than Bob Dylan? In my opinion he’s the best lyricist / songwriter I’ve ever heard.  He’s a poet that weaves words together so simply and effortlessly, yet his songs and lyrics are so deep and profound.  A wizard with words; a true wordsmith.”

Mal Tuohy and his band have put in the decade and dedication needed to push their craft to where it is now. They are a band on the brink and it has taken time, and been a rollercoaster, but they have arrived. The ultimate goal for 2015 is now “world domination or at the very least for the band to break internationally.” 2014’s All Works Out will be released internationally on March 9th of this year and will be followed by an international release of Getting Through on June 1st.

“Sure it’s taken time, from busking on Grafton Street to opening for The Rolling Stones, from trying to get radio to play us for years to having one of the most played songs on Irish radio and from selling our debut album from a guitar case on Grafton Street to a number 1 gold selling album; I wouldn’t change a thing.  We’ve grown up as a band in public and it’s been a real journey; a journey of progression and people have seen that progression.  They’ve been on the journey with us, we’re their band and in reality, the journey is only really just beginning.  We’re only a few miles in; it’s a marathon not a sprint.”