Noise Annoys: Lost Brothers man Mark McCausland talks McKowski and making movies, plus The Big Busk returns to fight homelessness

It’s another solo Lost Brothers special this week, with a chat with Mark McCausland about his music and upcoming Co Tyrone-shot movie, plus details of this year’s Big Busk charity events...

A photo of Mark McCausland, aka McKowski
Mark McCausland The Lost Brothers man is releasing solo records as McKowski. PICTURE: Paul Savulescu

IF YOU’VE been paying attention to Noise Annoys over the past year or so, you’ll already be aware of the ongoing solo projects from Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, AKA alt-folk geniuses The Lost Brothers.

This week, Noise Annoys caught up with Mark to chat about his solo guise, McKowski, the moniker under which the Omagh man released last year’s hugely atmospheric instrumental record, Notes From The Boneyard Vol 1, and its festive follow-up Winter Guitar Hymnals From The Boneyard.

Just back from opening for peer/collaborator M Ward in the US, he’ll soon be performing double-duty as band member and opening act on American alt-folkie Jolie Holland’s upcoming tour, and has just finished work on the soundtrack for the upcoming Omagh-shot road movie, The Spin, based on one of his short stories.

“I’m just practicing for this Jolie Holland tour,” explains Mark when Noise Annoys calls.

“I’ve got to try to learn her entire back catalogue. The people who play on her albums some of my favourite guitarists, like Marc Ribot, so it’s great learning all their parts.”

You can see how he measures up on April 3 in Belfast at The Black Box: get there early enough and you’ll also get a chance to hear some live McKowski originals, from Boneyards past and future – another couple of Vols are already in the works.

“I still haven’t considered my opening set,” admits the Omagh musician.

“I never intended to tour the McKowski stuff - my album is entirely instrumental with a lot of different instruments, so I’m not entirely sure how this is going to translate to me solo with a guitar. But it’ll be fun working it out.”

According to Mark, who’s probably still got sand in his boots from his most recent trip to Tucson, Arizona – “It’s kind of a home from home, now. I feel like I’m there, even when I’m not,” the Co Tyrone man admits – he will enjoy being part of Jolie’s band just as much as doing his own set.

“She’s one of my favourite artists, so I’m happy to play with her any time,” explains Mark.

“Originally, she just asked me to be in her band. Then she was like, ‘do you want to open a couple of the shows?’. Eventually, that became ‘do you want to just open every show?’.

“It’s was kind of the same thing with M Ward there: he just happened to be doing shows in Tucson when I was there, so he said to come on down and play. Me and Howe Gelb [performing as a duo] ended up playing three gigs with him. It was just a very natural, friendly thing.”

As for his own records, they are Mark’s way of escaping reality, part of a fantasy realm that will soon be further expanded on the silver screen in the form of The Spin, the Colin Broderick (Emerald City, A Bend in The River) written and directed road movie about a pair of music mad buddies on a cross-country mission to save their ailing record shop.

“I live in Omagh,” he explains, “so to escape the mind-numbing human existence of small town life. I kind of have to create this other world to make it a bit bearable. That’s probably why I opened a record shop [Boneyard Records] as well.

“But, as much as small town life kills me, I’ve also taken a lot of inspiration from it. Like, I’ve been writing a weekly newspaper column for the past 10 years which is like an exaggerated, semi-fictional version of my life. And it was from one of those stories that the movie came about.”

We can expect the movie, and McKowski’s accompanying soundtrack album, to land later this year: there will also be more McKowsi music and Boneyard-informed movies to follow, the latter made in collaboration with US director Geoff Marslett.

“We’re going to make a trilogy of horror films here in Ireland,” enthuses Mark, who contributed a song to the Howe Gelb-penned soundtrack for Marslett’s 2022 sci-fi Western, Quantum Cowboys.

“I’ve got the movie bug now. I really just want to make work with people I love, put out little indie movies and do the music for them as well.”

Sounds very much like a plan – keep up at notesfromtheboneyard.com.

The Big Busk for Focus Ireland returns to fight homelessness

Today FM presenters Matt Cooper and Louise Cantillon with busker Saibh Skelly
The Big Busk Today FM presenters Matt Cooper and Louise Cantillon with busker Saibh Skelly. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

THE Big Busk for Focus Ireland is back next month for its third year of giving musicians a chance to play a part in the fight to end homelessness - having already raised over €615,000 to date.

Busking events in aid of the homelessness charity will be held across Ireland throughout Friday April 12 in partnership with Today FM. Focus Ireland are calling for musicians, choirs, singers, buskers, community groups and schools (solo artists and groups) to sign up to help raise funds.

Participants can get involved at Big Busk events in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick and Sligo, or by gathering their family, friends, neighbours or colleagues and organising their own event in their local community, at a location of their choosing, or even online.

You can also support by donating at todayfm.com/busk or via the Revolut app.

Today FM presenters Matt Cooper and Louise Cantillon with busker Saibh Skelly.
Photo: Justin Farrelly.
The Big Busk Today FM presenters Matt Cooper and Louise Cantillon with busker Saibh Skelly. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

This year, Focus Ireland and Today FM will release a Super Focused Set List in the week before the events, comprised of songs requested by those who have experienced homelessness. Already requested are Better Days by Dermot Kennedy, Learning to Fly by Tom Petty, Raglan Road by Luke Kelly and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

Buskers signing up for The Big Busk are invited to review the list and include some of the songs, with a dedication to the person who requested it, in their set. TodayFM will also be playing some of the tracks and featuring the stories behind the selections in the coming weeks.

Focus Ireland will be holding Big Busk events in the following venues:

  • Marina Market, Cork (12pm - 7pm)
  • Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin (10.30am - 7pm)
  • Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Dublin (10am - 7pm)
  • MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre, Kilkenny (11am - 6pm)
  • Crescent Shopping Centre, Limerick (10am - 7pm)
  • The Canopy, Sligo (10am - 6pm)

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