Villagers frontman Conor O'Brien has cultivated a following with his acoustic folk debut, "Becoming A Jackal," but soon after he finished touring behind the Mercury Prize-nominated album, he hit writer's block. Unable to conjure up any new songs, O'Brien put down his guitar and picked up something entirely foreign to him, a synthesizer.
"I was sort of wary of going through the same processes of writing all the lyrics, picking up my acoustic guitar and making little folk ditties," O'Brien tells HuffPost Canada Music. "I wanted to come from a very different perspective and synths, samplers and things I've never used before made me excited about music again and it made me feel really playful, which is always a creative way to be.
"Once I was in that mood, the words started coming again."
Article continues after slideshow
Funny enough, majority of those synths that inspired Irish singer-songwriter to write again were eventually cut from the final product and acoustic guitars and the like replaced them, returning Villagers back to its lush and beautiful landscapes. O'Brien explains this process as "shaving it back down to its original form, so it was a strange, kind of circular thing."
"The Waves," one of our first glimpses of their current album "Awayland," still bore a glitch electronic blip that threw some fans off, but O'Brien wasn't too fazed by the negative responses.
"I always say if you're going to annoy anybody then folk fans are the best people to annoy," O'Brien laughs. "They're very precious about their music I think there's an idea that playing an acoustic instrument is somehow more honest or more real, whatever that means, but I think that's bullshit. I think the main thing is if you're stretching your imagination or opening your mind while making music, that's the most important thing; other than that, I don't really care."
O'Brien might not care what narrow-minded folk fans might think, but he has begun incorporating his bandmates' opinions. Whereas "Becoming A Jackal" was a solo effort, the new album sees him letting his band in on his recording process, something which O'Brien admits "just loosened up the songs and made it a bit more exciting to play."
When asked if this was his new way of working from now on, O'Brien refused to give a definitive answer, instead opting for an open-minded approach at the future.
"I don't know because I think I'm willing to just leave it open to see what's next," he says. "I don't want to have any expectations on how we're going to make future albums. I've been writing more recently and they're all piano ballads and acoustic things, but I have no idea where they're going to go."
Villagers play NXNE, June 15 at 8PM @ Sidedoor and Midnight @ The Great Hall