Have you heard of Dear Shed Festival? If not this is one event you do not want to miss out on this coming July. Based in Baldersby Park in rural North Yorkshire countryside, Deer Shed promises to bring you a jam packed weekend of music, entertainment and a lovely chilled atmosphere for all the family to enjoy. This is one fun filled festival for all.

So who’s going to be playing this year? Deer Shed 2011 saw the likes of Matthew and the Atlas, Mumford and Sons, The Go Team, and I am Kloot to name but a few. But Dear Shed 2012 looks to be an amazing year with Saint Etienne, School of Seven Bells, Los Campesinos!, Dutch Uncles, and Cherry Ghost to name but a few of the acts this year. However, one of the artists I’m most excited about playing mainstage at Deer Shed this year is Villagers who have been on my music radar for a while.

The first time I heard Villagers was back in 2010 when NME Radar were giving away a Coors Open House Festival Mixtape, and they happened to be on the tape with one of my favorite tracks ‘On a Sunlit Stage’, their first single to be released in 2009 before their debut album release ‘Becoming a Jackal’ in 2010 on Domino Records.

Becoming a Jackal is a musical masterpiece, in which you can’t help but get drawn into the world of Conor J. O’Brien. The band’s music takes you away on a summer breeze to the sea coast, in which the background drone of an organ, followed by chilling strings and beautiful piano tones with hushed vocals truly send tingling sensations down your spine.

O’Connor opens the album with ‘I Saw The Dead’ “Have you got just a minute? / Are you easily led? / Let me show the backroom / Where I saw the dead / Dancing like children on a midsummer morn / And they asked me to join”. Beautiful lyrics that will hold the listener captivated for the entirety of the album, in which the song truly gives insight into the colorful, rich narratives, moving lyrics and depth within each track.

There are 11 beautifully crafted tracks on Becoming a Jackal, that truly show the genius behind O’Connor, and his gift to create moving songs that uplift the listener as opposed to clouding them with a feeling of melancholia. When I listen to the Villagers with such tracks as ‘Pieces’ I find the song rich in depth, with lyrics that hold my attention but don’t necessary make me feel gloomy and disheartened. There are literal howls in the song, as if the band were in fact a lost pack of Jackals, and not a band at all! This album shows why Domino has made them their latest signing.

I find the album is accessible to a number of people in terms of it’s theme which focuses upon change in a person’s life. Not just major change, but the little things be it physical or emotional. O’Connor perfectly highlights this in the following quote “I guess a large part of it is concerned with growing up; gaining and losing friends… these things change a person and I suppose this is my way of making sure I don’t become a bitter old mess! But I only realized this in hindsight. I don’t write in a conscious way; the only thing I start with is a visual image or color, and then it just happens. One line suggests the next, until I have a little patchwork quilt of ideas. If I stick at it long enough, it all comes together and makes narrative sense.”

So is O’Connor a one man band? There are a number of people who make Villagers who they are today, in which the lead vocalist is joined on stage by James, Tommy, Cormac and bassist Danny Snow, as well as sometime collaborators David Crean (on keys) and Richie Egan (of the Dublin-based bands The Redneck Manifesto and Jape); “They‘re central to all this. When we rehearse, my little dictatorial act is over and they find their own way of playing it.”

Whilst O’Connor opens the album with the deep, meaningful sound of ‘I Saw The Dead’, there is diversity throughout with lighter, tracks such as Ship of Promises that has a rainbow video to match! It shows a new side to the Villager’s sound, since I’m used to Sunlit Stage which focuses far more on the poignancy of the lyrics as opposed to the song structure.

I have to say my favorite song on the album that I can’t wait to see performed live is ‘Twenty Seven Strangers’ that encompasses everything I love about the band, in terms of their ability to make everyone stop and listen, as you rue over the beautiful lyrics, and reminisce over some past memory. It’s a bitter sweet song, but I truly feel it’s matches the intensity of Sunlit Stage because so many people can relate to the message within the song. O’Connor explains Twenty Seven Strangers “On a bus, people don’t communicate with each other – we’re crippled by all this social mundanity. But we come home to a loved one, and then we do it all over again next day. I wanted to express that repetition. I like writing about things that are universal and stifling, but that we don’t talk about. But rather than sounding morose, I always want to maintain a celebratory togetherness, which is the root of folk and blues.”

The album “Becoming a Jackal” was nominated for The Mercury Music Prize in 2010. In the autumn of 2011 Conor O’Brien was awarded a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for Becoming a Jackal.

Villagers are currently working on their second album which will be due for release in the summer of 2012. If you haven’t got your ticket for Deer Shed then follow the link below and head over to Yorkshire this July for some musical treats.

www.wearevillagers.com | www.facebook.com/villagers | http://deershedfestival.com/

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