FOUR YEARS AGO, So Cow's Brian Kelly was just a regular 24-year-old Irishman teaching English in South Korea when he started recording some songs he had written in his downtime. His motive was "boredom, mixed with restlessness."
"I had a lot of free time," says Kelly over the phone. "I was teaching at a university and was only working 12 hours a week. I had all these songs written, so I figured I might as well record them all because I had nothing else to do."
That musical boredom has turned into somewhat of a full-time job for Kelly, who lives in the small Irish town of Tuam (pronounced "choo-um"). His relentless touring schedule is bookended by time at home, writing new songs and self-recording them, playing all the instruments. It's a low-key, low-budget lifestyle Kelly is perfectly comfortable with. "There's no money being made exactly, but things are taking over so I can continue to do [So Cow] without it being a massive burden," he says.
Those pressures to go back to a regular nine-to-five routine have been lifted with the release of So Cow's 2009 self-titled debut (a collection of early singles and CD-R demo tracks), and the latest full-length, Meaningless Friendly. That album in particular furthers So Cow's mod-pop fascination with punchy rhythms and jangly chord progressions that call to mind early Television Personalities and the Clean. The catchy lyrics balance sweet, heartfelt sentiments with sour-hearted resentment toward no one in particular. "It's just as productive [to write] when there's a girl I'm actually thinking about. If there isn't then I'll just make one up in my head," Kelly says.
But Kelly isn't alone anymore; So Cow is now a full-fledged band with a supporting rhythm section. "I found we play really well together and really complement each other. In 10 years' time, this will be referred to as the 'classic lineup,'" he says with a laugh. "As long as it's comfortable and as long I can continue to do this without completely knackering my chances at a normal life at some point, then I'll keep doing it."