Brian Kelly talks Half Forward Line and The Back of Mass

Brian Kelly is one of Ireland’s most prolific and talented musicians. For years he has been writing and recording garage and indie-rock gems, with the charm of rough diamonds. Having gained fame, in Ireland and the US, recording and performing as So Cow, Brian has now formed a new band called Half Forward Line and written a new album, The Back of Mass. The album is 30 minutes of fantastic pop tunes that are twitching with punk and garage energy. As with all of Kelly’s previous work, the lyrics are the star of the piece. The songs wryly deal with a range of hefty topics such as anxiety, love and crippling dependence on a loved. It also spends time dealing with the mundane moments in life when people ask to try on your glasses (although, this is probably about anxiety too!).

We spoke to Brian about the new venture and the album, which will be launched with an early evening gig in The Blue Note on Friday, 27th of October. Local charmers Field Trip will be supporting and the show starts at 6pm. Find out more below….


So, Brian, tell us about the new Half Forward Line Album, The Back of Mass?

Let’s see. The key info is that it’s about 30 or so minutes long, has an even number of songs on each side and has really great artwork by Loreana Rushe. It’s coming out on CD (Jigsaw Records, Seattle) and cassette (on Galway’s Rusted Rail). Those are the key things to know. Breaking it down any further probably means I’ll repeat myself in later questions, so I’ll keep this first answer brief. Which kinda works as a description of the album in itself. Does it?


Is Half Forward Line a change of moniker? A new project? A totally different band?

Brian Kelly ….. Half Forward Line

A totally different band which sounds pretty fairly similar to anything else I’ve been involved in. I will probably do something else under the So Cow name in the near future (impending fatherhood means ‘near’ could be 2023), there’s a couple of plans with that knocking around my head. Half Forward Line will hopefully do more. It’s a relaxed deal. Niall has Oh Boland and Mollusk to be busying himself with, Ciaran has a rake going on between recording folks/photography etc. I’ve got about 7/8 new songs that could be put together very quick, all with Half Forward Line in mind. But I’d hope no one is looking for artistic progression / boats being pushed out. Fun dumb jams, all the way.


How does this differ to your previous work?

I’m not massively sure it does. And I don’t think it particularly has to. I’ll probably write songs like this into my 60s or whenever nuclear war reaches South Connemara.


A couple of these songs have been floating around at your live shows for a while (Joint Account, Everyone Else), what made you decide to record them now and include them on this album?

There were one or two of these songs that existed in a full form for a few years, and a few scrags and half-verses, probably some back to 2009. They needed recording, basically, or they would join the forgotten pile. The forgotten pile consists of songs that failed the cut at least three times. You should always give an idea a second chance, if only to confirm that it’s rubbish. Most of the songs are totally new though.


I love the song Joint Account and it sounds great on the album, especially the duet vocals. Is this a first for guest vocals on one of your songs?

As far as I know, yes. Heather did vocals on two of the songs. Dunno why it hasn’t happened before, really.


What were the biggest influences on the album? Musical or otherwise.

Musically, I think the usual influences I’ve listed for anything I’ve been involved in since 2007…The Clean, Chris Knox etc. Myself and Niall have been geeking out on Game Theory a lot. Lots of Replacements. Otherwise, and however indirectly, books about the Sicilian Mafia, the Irish Times cryptic crossword and the endless mathematics and permutations of age.


How was working with Rusted Rail / Jigsaw Records on this release?

I’ve worked with both before. Rusted Rail put out the first So Cow release, a 3″ CD. I hung out with Keef all the time in the early/mid 2000s, after having met in Flirt FM on the day Michael Karoli died. In recent years, we have started hanging out again with more frequency. So I’m super happy to be returning to the RR fold, both for musical and personal reasons. And Chris of Jigsaw Records has been so easy to deal with, over email, save for a fairly recent “Hello and how are you?” at NYC Popfest last year.


Are you looking forward to the launch? Any plans after that?

Yes, it’ll be an early show. 6-8pm on the first day of a long weekend. In a place we’ve never played. We’re gonna play the album and some covers, and try and sell the shit out of the thing.


Half Forward Line – The Back of Mass