Voodoo Loons is an alternative rock band from both Donegal, Ireland and Cincinnati, Ohio that was formed in 2006. The band is known for blending influences from various musical genres, ranging from bluegrass and celtic to punk and psychedelic, into their own signature alternative rock/pop sound.
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In 2005 music that Dennis O'Hagan, who holds in both Irish and U.S. dual-citizenship, had been posting and distributing freely online started gaining attention in both Europe and the United States. When the Dublin, Ireland arts magazine Pro Bono Publico asked in early 2006 if they could feature his "Unabashedly Political Song" on their DVD magazine (the demo version of the song was published in their first volume, O'Hagan decided that it was time to put a name to the project, and Voodoo Loons were born. O'Hagan's original concept for the Loons was that it would be the name of a project rather than a "band" much like in the way that Karl Wallinger's World Party operated. The idea was that Voodoo Loons on one night may be just O'Hagan, another night it might be a trio, or a quintet, etc.
The Voodoo Loons name was born out of O'Hagan's experience working in Mississippi and Louisiana in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Working as part of the Red Cross Disaster Response team, he encountered "walking dead": folks wandering around in a state of shock hoping to find loved ones who had been washed away by the storm. A local cajun had referred to them as "voodoo loons", meaning they were under a spell of delusion or craziness, etc. (the reality was usually post-traumatic stress).
In early 2006, due to an ever increasing volume of downloads on both the Voodoo Loons website and new MySpace page, O'Hagan decided that it was time to record a proper album. He initially recruited his old school chum Bill McCarthy on drums, who recommended Chris Hooks for bass, and that became the core band.
The Loons spent the remainder of 2006 working on material for the debut album. The bulk of the music consisted of songs that O'Hagan had already recorded demos of, while a few others were written during this period. A crucial agreement among the band, though, was that each member had free rein to create their own new parts to even the existing material, so that the resulting sound would arrive naturally and not as a result of O'Hagan's previous vision of the songs as captured on the demos. In the summer of 2006. the band decided to road test the material, and was invited to play several U.S. festivals. However, McCarthy's mother fell ill with cancer, and the band limited their appearances to that summer's MidPoint Music Festival. The band's MPMF set kicked off in legendary fashion, with O'Hagan's guitar amp bursting into flames during their first song. A backup amp was quickly employed, and the band went on to deliver an enthusiastically received and well reviewed set.
The band began recording its first full album, titled Euphobia, in early 2007. The bulk of the album was recorded at Middleground Studios, with O'Hagan doing some minor work at his home studio. The original working title of the project was "Self Proclaimed Prophets & Profiteers", but was changed to Euphobia in the eleventh hour after O'Hagan had thought he had invented a word. They soon learned that the word Euphobia already existed (it is a rare medical condition that involves the fear of good news), but enjoyed the actual definition so much that they kept it as a title. In addition to the core band, mandolin virtuoso Mark Daly contributed mandolin parts on four tracks, and Charlottesville, Virginia based pianist/composer Michael Sokolowski played piano on "Intangible" (in exchange for which Hooks and O'Hagan did some work on a forthcoming Sokoband project)
Much like O'Hagan had done earlier with his demos, incomplete tracks, rough mixes, and outtakes were posted throughout the recording process on both the band's website as well as their MySpace page. During the final mixing process the band would update the online recordings often several times a day, so that fans were involved as much as possible with the entire process. Some of these tracks were also included in the Rough Mixes EP that the band also released in early 2008.
The finished album was pre-released on the band's website on Christmas Day 2007. It was released worldwide in January 2008, and immediately received warm reviews. OnlineRock.com said that the album's sometimes politically pointed angle took political rock "to a new level... Without ever losing track of the hook that catches their listener fishes - the powerful chords (but not power chords), rough beat and fierce energy of the song -Voodoo Loons reaches down and unwraps the part of the brain where you keep your fear... Whether you're on board with their message or not, Voodoo Loons' grungy hard rock will surely hook you. Be afraid of the government, by all means. But do not fear the rock."
New York's Music Reviewer said that "the Voodoo Loons musical appeal is as far stretching as their apparent influences. The opening track Hello could easily be heard over lubricated conversation at a dorm room party, while the mandolin driven Emerald could satisfy a bluegrass/folk fan" and ranked the release higher than those of Panic At the Disco, Tea Leaf Green, Scarlett Johansson, Counting Crows, the B-52's, and other more established artists during the same period.
CityBeat Magazine said "As for Euphobia itself... 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, results in the expansive sound of a major label album."
The album also caught the attention of Black 47 founder, author, and playwright Larry Kirwan, who featured tracks from the album on his weekly Celtic Crush program on Sirius and XM satellite radio outlets. Kirwan called Voodoo Loons "a great new band, if you get a chance you should do see them.... great stuff!". Kirwan featured both "The Unabashedly Political Song" and "Emerald" on the program, the latter of which was later voted No. 56 in the 2009 Listener's Poll Top 100 Celtic Songs rankings.
In 2010 the band started work on its follow-up album, tentatively titled The Criminal Ear. In 2011 the band released two songs ahead of the album, "Delicate Flower" and "The Winter Trail", the latter of which features Mark Daly again on mandolin. The band says the album will be released February 2014, and have been previewing tracks on their website and Facebook pages.
Rather than doing extensive touring, the band has traditionally focused more on music festivals and strategic "stealth" shows. O'Hagan explains: "we started online, and we decide where we want to play based on where the most interest seems to be coming from, rather than living in a van and hitting every town along a path. Doing our one-off shows allows us to put more effort into collaborating with local art schools and so forth, so that we create a different experience both musically and visually each time. Doing this with the traditional touring model wouldn't make sense from a time or economic standpoint."
The band may be taking a different approach in 2014, though, as they plan to play more extensively in support of The Criminal Ear album.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license