“This charming man possesses possibly the most evocative, even beautiful, Irish singing voice ever recorded” – Barry Egan (The Sunday Independent)
The music of August Wells has been described as “Strange other worldly chamber music”, “Sinatra singing Lou Reed songs” and “The secret marriage of Willy Nelson and Lee Hazlewood”
Songs to walk across your troubled heart with.
Exciting new musical project August Wells – Dublin’s Ken Griffin (ex-Rollerskate Skinny, Favourite Sons) and New York pianist John Rauchenberger – share new single ‘Here in the Wild’, out in the UK on April 22nd via FIFA Records.
The solidly luscious tune, gets our full attention from the start, graced by Griffin’s poetic, timelessly emotive and stirring voice.
See full article here
Here’s an interview we did with Barry Egan of The Sunday Independent to go along with the Windmill Lane Session we recently had the pleasure of recording.
In a 2014 interview with Drowned In Sound entitled ‘The Undiscovered Genius of Kenneth Griffin’, the great man himself said: “I think ‘overlooked’ will probably be on my gravestone.”
The semi-legendary former front-man of Rollerskate Skinny lives in New York but is back home in Dublin to promote his band (with John Rauchenberger) August Wells’ new album Madness Is the Mercy (and to play The Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie )
“I always felt like I am looking at life through a window, even when I am walking down the street. There is a kind of terrifying amusement I find in everyday things that people do. I find it fascinating to sit in a diner and watch fifty people eat. It becomes almost pornographic to watch them stuffing things into their faces. I am very interested that people seem to stare to about two feet from their faces. I think ‘otherness’ begins about two feet from their faces. They all seem to be staring at this invisible thing. I was writing a song recently about the dark acceptance, you know, some kind of acceptance that people are in…”
Read and see the entire interview and live tracks we played in the studio here: http://www.independent.ie
August Wells at Union Pool
March 26, 2016
484 Union Ave, Brooklyn, New York
August Wells at 11th street bar
March 22, 2015
with Brian Mooney
BY CARA GIBNEY
FEBRUARY 1, 2016
“I know a boy who/Stays in his bed/Says he’d much rather/The life in his head” were the first lines of “Come Away From The Silence”, off the upcoming album by August Wells. It was breaking through the chat in a Waterford pub on a dull winter night, and had that very specific August Wells’ feel to it – honed from the crooned baritone of Ken Griffin’s charmed well of a voice, and the understated keyboard foundation of John Rauchenberger. This live version also carried a vague Irish air to it, a swaying stroke of Griffin’s guitar that buoyed it off-stage.
read the entire review here:
In a one-off diversion from its usual Monday slot, Ken Griffin from August Wells chooses and selects some of his favourite tracks for this special Friday Mixtape (see what we did there?)
check it out here:
The superb August Wells make a welcome return to Galway with a free show in Róisín Dubh next Thursday, January 28. The project is the brainchild of Ken Griffin and John Rauchenberger, both based in New York.
Griffin is a former member of Irish indie legends Rollerskate Skinny, whose 1996 single Speed To My Side remains a classic.
An August Wells record, will feature a saxophone player, a violinist and a French horn player. But the core of the band is the partnership between Ken and John Rauchenberger, whose style has been described as ‘Sinatra singing Lou Reed songs’. How did the pair meet?
“I met him through a circle of friends,” Ken says. “We were all walking home and he wanted us to show us his house. There was a piano there – I’d known him for two years and didn’t even know he could play!
“He sat down and started playing for a minute, and I thought ‘that’s interesting. Those weren’t very predictable notes’. So I suggested ‘why don’t we just get together and play?’ He lives a hundred yards from me!”
The collaboration has resulted in some fine songs that have a melancholic, Nick Cave feel to them. August Wells recently opened for Glen Hansard for some of his tour dates, and their work will appeal to anyone interested in the craft of songwriting. Unmissable. Doors for their show are at 9pm.
read more: http://connachttribune.ie
2016 breezes in with a chorus of brass, strings and shuffling guitar as the first bars of August Wells’ ‘A Little Too Real’ permeate the January air. Ken Griffin’s baritone returns with the New Yorkers first release of the new year and a taster of their new album ‘Madness Is the Mercy’ due out later this Spring on FIFA Records.
‘A Little Too Real’ is a sensitive ode to those who feel the world can be a daunting place. August Wells emotive first singles ‘Here in the Wild’ and ‘Come on in out of that night’ set the tone and tempo for a band writing and exploring music that rolls in like dusk; warm yet tragic, inclusive while conveying the outsider.
August Wells finished on a high note, supporting Glen Hansard at a sold out show at New York’s Beacon Theatre, before they return to Ireland and Europe at the end of January for a number of dates. Ken Griffin (ex-Rollerskate Skinny, Favourite Sons) and pianist John Rauchenberger have met in the middle of differing musical pasts to form a band who would sit easily at the same table as Scott Walker or John Cale.
‘A Little Too Real’ eases us into a new year full of promise for August Wells and is a tantalising hook for their imminent long player.
Last Mixed Tape reviews our new single “A Little Too Real”
When American artists Ken Griffin and John Rauchenberger came together for a passion project entitled August Wells, they already had an extensive amount of experience between them. In the past, they have been associated with acts such as Favourite Sons, Rollerskate Skinny and Kid Silver. Now though, they’re firmly focused on expanding their audience as a duo beyond the borders of their homeland.
They’ve already managed to make an appearance in Ireland at Electric Picnic and are planning a return at the end of January to embark on a tour of the country. But before that, they’ll be busy promoting their brand new single, “Alice Dear Alice”. Having first featured on their inaugural album, A Living and a Dying Game, the track tells the tale of “a magical woman’s character”.
It reverberates in gently, then wastes no time breaking into some soft but vivid vocals. The instrumentation grows gradually, remaining warm as it establishes an affecting ambience. There’s a sense of solemnness to the singing that’s eventually offset when the music begins to build brightly in the background. Pleasant pianos add a dreamy undertone to uplifting trumpets which sooth the senses as the piece progresses.
Read the entire piece here: www.puremzine.com
August Wells have come up with this very fetching promo for ‘Alice, Dear Alice’, one of the standouts from their A Living And A Dying Game album which follows in spring 2016.
The band, who open on December 1 for Glen Hansard in New York’s Beacon Theater, are lead by former Rollerskate Skinny and Favourite Sons man Ken Griffin.
“I have no idea who Alice really is,” says the owner of one of the richest baritones in rock. “She just arrived in my head one day. I wrote down quickly what I thought of her, then she disappeared. She seemed mischievous and aloof; she seemed to represent the other side of things.
“Someone who saw the worth and worthlessness of living, the point and pointlessness, the hope and hopelessness. She seemed to walk around in the truth, looking with pity on the rest of us. We tried to make the video a simple odd portrait of Alice, nearly coming apart, nearly taking part, almost laughing.”
We’re not ones for over-using the ‘m’ word, but we’ve been listening to that new LP of theirs and it’s a bit of a masterpiece.
see the piece here: http://www.hotpress.com
The voice behind Rollerskate Skinny is back with a new project called August Wells. Ken Griffin left Dublin in the late ’90s for New York, where he formed Kid Silver and Favourite Sons. Griffin still calls NYC home. Indeed, the singer has just returned to a still scorching Big Apple, despite it being September, which is a shock to his system after a brief Irish tour that included a set on the Other Voices stage at Electric Picnic.
“For the very first time in twenty years it has really crossed my mind to move back to Ireland,” Griffin reveals. “There is something in the air and environment, which is now harmonious with who I am. I actually feel a little behind and I need to do some catching up. The Ireland of my mind doesn’t exist anymore.”
Griffin has been round the block with a major label deal, but is much happier with the more modern, independent and self-sufficient way of doing business. “I can play a show now and sell twenty albums directly to people,” he enthuses. “I understand there is less opportunity to make money, but there are communities making exciting things happen. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, anybody who had any integrity in music wanted the industry to die anyway. Who gives a fuck about the music industry? They never gave a fuck about me.”
Griffin is embracing these new opportunities wholeheartedly. “The power is back in the hands of the musicians,” he says. “I did Other Voices for TV and Electric Picnic. It was all arranged in about two or three direct emails. Before, you would have to go through such rigmarole. The next thing you know you’re being interviewed in Dingle by the guy who was in Game of Thrones.”
While he was home, Ken went into the studio with Girl Band to record a version of the old Rollerskate Skinny song ‘Bow Hitch Hiker’. “In the modern world your work lives forever,” he says. “It is incredible for me to play the Workman’s Club at the age of 45 and the crowd love it. The work is still being found by people.”
– See more at: http://www.hotpress.com
“Underrated”, “Lost Classic” “Hidden Musical Gem” are phrases that you see in abundance when you read about Kenneth Griffin, now a part of August Wells, formerly of Rollerskate Skinny and Kid Silver. Limerick Post meets the genial and inspiring New York based musician who puts more stock in the present and the future rather than dwell on past opportunities and “What might have beens…”
August Wells: Kenneth Griffin and John Rauchenberger
August Wells: Kenneth Griffin and John Rauchenberger
by Eric FitzGerald
NEW York based duo August Wells are Ken Griffin (Rollerskate Skinny, Kid Silver and Favourite Sons) with New York pianist John Rauchenberger.
Cork based FIFA Records is releasing their material here and the duo appear on ‘Other Voices’ on RTE this Friday 28 before touring nationwide, playing Electric Picnic and then Dolan’s in September.
A search for Rollerskate Skinny’s ‘Speed to my Side’ on YouTube reveals one of Irish music’s lost classics, a shoegaze anthem from 1995 that has lost none of its vitality and relevance today. In the comments below from that YouTube clip, a young man called Jude Griffin states “my Dad was the lead singer in this band, he’s Kenneth Griffin”.
What follows in the replies is a flow of well wishers praising the band, telling you most of what you need to know about Kenneth Griffin: “great band”, “definitely one of the best Irish bands ever”, “your dad is an Irish music gem”.
Rollerskate Skinny were NME’s “Top Ten New Bands of the Year” in 1992. The Rollerskate Skinny album ‘Horse Drawn Wishes’ features in the top 20 best Irish albums ever released, according to Irish Times and Hot Press writers.
Though signed to Warner Brothers, success illuded Rollerskate Skinny while contemporaries My Bloody Valentine, Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips have forged a longer legacy. Does the praise in retrospect heaped on Ken’s work annoy him today?
Ken laughs, “I used to joke that if you are ahead of fashion then you are out of fashion. My timing is not very good with the zeitgeist or whatever is going on out there. But it is tasteless to be bitter about not being famous. The thing is I love making music and playing and doing all these things. I make a living part time from this and I live in New York and I get to come back and do a two week tour which is far from a sob story.”
New York city is Kenneth’s base for over a decade and where he met Irish/German pianist John Rauchenberger.
“John and I met through friends, he has a house very near my apartment. When we played together we realised we didn’t have to talk very much to each other!”
The more restrained, understated approach to the music August Wells make is very much in contrast with the sound associated with Griffin’s previous musical endeavours.
“It takes a long time to develop a relationship with silence, I think artists tend to move towards the more minimal approach over the years. There are no drums on the album so it has that almost coming apart feeling that it is not going to hold together but it does, I like that sort of feeling in the music.”
August Well’s new single out on Cork based FIFA records is called ‘Come on in out of that Night’. It has a spiritual uplifting melody telling a very New York story, Kenneth’s story, perhaps with lyrics
Continue reading below…
“I’ve had jobs gave me less pay
that what it takes to survive.”
Kenneth explains that he, unlike some other working musicians, has never made any money out of the business.
“I have actually been down a couple of roads in my life where you find yourself standing on a corner not knowing whether you should go left or right. We live in a world where it can be very paralysing to be broke and worried.”
New York remains an inspiration in Kenneth’s music and the pared back approach of August Wells is winning the duo a new generation of listeners.
He wryly comments, “There is a very active illusion here that it is the centre of the universe. It keeps people trapped here in a weird way. It’s a great city to write in. You can pretty much keep yourself stimulated for the whole day and night here.”
I ask Kenneth about possibilities of the Rollerskate Skinny back catalogue being reissued or dare we say, a reunion?
“The back catalogue is out of my hands. I could spend a few months getting on top of it all. I kinda like to move forward.”
But an Irish film called ‘Dare To Be Wild’ due for release in 2016 features ‘Speed to my Side’ by Rollerskate Skinny in the film’s pivotal scene, so we might just be hearing a whole lot more of that song next year.
I remind Kenneth about the YouTube clip that I watched of ‘Speed to my Side’ and the comments from his son Jude which he is obviously very happy about.
“That was a very sweet moment”, he comments.
And Jude is playing a bigger part in his dad’s music project today. The current album from August Wells is ‘A Living and Dying Game’ which features sleeve artwork from Jude Griffin.
“Yeah, we were looking around for artwork and John Rauchenberger liked this picture that Jude had drawn. It strangely works with the music.”
“He wasn’t commissioned and he didn’t receive any money,” he laughs.
August Wells feature on ‘Other Voices’ along with Young Fathers and Buke & Gase RTÉ2 at 11.30pm this Friday August 28.
August Wells play Electric Picnic, Other Voices stage on Sunday September 6 (6.15pm) and play Dolan’s on Saturday September 12.
Read more: http://www.limerickpost.ie
Interview with Dublin People in the latest issue:
see the issue here:
“A LOT of people say that New York is a kind of salvation place for a type of person. I came here; felt very much at home almost immediately.”
Irish musician Ken Griffin has been living in New York for the best part of two decades now. During that time he has had a couple of periods playing with bands, such as Kid Silver and Favourite Sons, but he has been mostly getting by as a bar man.
“I’ve basically been owned by the New York night now for 20 years,” he quips.
Even so, the city sustains him and continues to excite him as much now as when he first arrived here “There was just an energy here,” he explains, “and in Dublin at the time it was pretty grey. There wasn’t really much of a music scene. It’s not like it is now at all. New York just excited me and it made me feel awake.
“There’s something about New York and its nightlife that just satisfies you. It’s almost like art in itself. I don’t know. I just kind of find it inspiring and satisfying.”
Griffin’s first forays to New York City were made while his band Rollerskate Skinny were beginning their implosion during the making of the ambitious Horsedrawn Wishes album.
“I think very few bands survive that kind of total commitment,” he says with a bone dry laugh, “and madness that we had at the time. When you get into the studio whoever pushes themselves harder kinda gets their say and I decided to push myself pretty hard on that album. So I ended up pretty isolated in the band. And it was clear we weren’t going to survive. I wanted to move to New York and the guys wanted to stay in Dublin, so… “
Taking their cue from the dense production methods of acts like Public Enemy, Rollerskate Skinny ran counter to the prevailing mid-90s orthodoxy of Britpop. The reputation of their albums Shoulder Voices and Horsedrawn Wishes has only grown and Griffin’s revelation that alternative takes exists of a handful of songs from the latter album will only serve to excite fans as the 20th anniversary of the album approaches next year.
Griffin is promising nothing. Right now he is immersed in his latest project August Wells, a two-piece comprising Griffin on guitar and pianist John Rauchenberger. Over songs that are stripped-down, wistful sounding and replete with strings and French horns, Griffin’s bruised vocals tell tales of heartbreak and regret.
Griffin initially planned for the album to be self-released but his friend and fellow New York resident Graham Finn, a former member of Cork bands Emperor of Ice Cream and Bass Odyssey, suggested he try Cork indie label FIFA Records.
Rauchenberger’s musical interests stem from experimental classical music and bebop jazz and Griffin takes delight from his total lack of interest in or knowledge of contemporary music from the last forty years.
“It’s kinda like playing with Thelonious Monk or something,” Griffin surmises. “I’m playing like three chords and singing and there’s this mad genius in the corner. It’s just a very exciting experience for me to feel pushed so I feel like I have to push my lyrics, push my voice. Push what I’m good at or what I think I’m good at and just leave the musicianship to him.”
It could be a winning combination.
In conversation with Ken Griffin, formerly of Rollerskate Skinny and Favourite Sons, now of August Wells…
The following interview was published in Cork’s Evening Echo on 23rd April 2015
Having just woken up in the city that never sleeps, August Wells’ Ken Griffin chats from his Brooklyn apartment in New York where the former Rollerskate Skinny and Favourite Sons frontman has lived for the past 20 years. A mere weekend in The Big Apple can significantly change a person so what effect has two decades had on the Dubliner?
“I have tended bar for most of that time”, explains Ken, “so my experience of New York is very much about its people – an almost constant flow of face-to-face encounters with strangers. As a writer I hear a wealth of common experiences, and not so common experiences. It’s good for me through work to be forced into these social situations because, left to my choices, I tend to pick isolation. New York has pushed me out among people, which I am grateful for…most of the time.”
Despite retrospective acclaim (Rollerskate Skinny’s 1996 record Horsedrawn Wishes placed #7 in the Irish Times’ Top 10 Irish albums of all time), commercial success has continuously eluded Griffin’s various projects. After more than 20 years in the business, he’s still unsure why.
“I seem to repel the industry for some reason. Maybe the gods are protecting me from all that stuff! I suppose I have never really liked indie or alternative rock. It always seemed so insincere, mocking even. I think it’s an attempt to disguise a lack of any real talent. My secret probably is this: I have always loved hip hop and Willie Nelson.”
Set to release new single Here In The Wild on FIFA Records – a label with an attitude he “found both refreshing and straightforward” – the plaintive piano ballad is an ode to escape from reality and time itself. Containing slicing lines of self-examination such as ‘People like us don’t exist anymore, we’re invisible now’, the song is anything but disingenuous.
“Worry is a feeling I battle with a lot”, admits Ken when asked how it felt to leave himself so emotionally bare on the new track. “It’s a useless feeling and it makes me second guess myself. I try to ignore that particular inner voice if I can, but I struggle with it. Rollerskate Skinny was a youthful attempt at a huge art statement. It was about filling every space and gap with sound, so that any reflection could be avoided. The desired effect was total surrender to an alternative perspective, but I have no idea if we achieved that grandiose youthful idea.
“I suppose at heart Favourite Sons was four people very uncomfortable playing rock and roll, playing rock and roll. It was also my first attempt at traditional songwriting. I know it seems like a different world to all the members now but the second album, The Great Deal of Love, is a piece of work I think we are all very proud of.
“But laying myself bare? I think there are three routes to finding your authentic voice. One: you are a natural, it just pours out of you. You still have to work on your chosen instrument, but your voice is just there. Two: you are good at creating a fictional character, you can make it seem very like authenticity. You’re a storyteller, a craftsman.
Three: if you just live long enough, and keep at it long enough then you have a life behind you, and you can just speak from your actual experiences, your truth. Me? I went around the mountain. So ‘laying myself bare’ is where I have finally found my true artistic voice.”
Integral to the August Wells voice and sound is New Yorker John Rauchenberger’s piano which provides the perfect foil for Griffin’s sombre baritone. What is it about their partnership that makes him feel ‘there’s something magic here’?
“I had known John for two years before I even knew he played piano. It was strange to know him and then, one day on a piano in his living room, witness a great talent he had. About a year later I asked if he would be interested in playing a few songs together. We set up in his house and from the beginning I noticed everything he played was taken with an unexpected approach to each song. I don’t think he will mind me saying that he is refreshingly unfamiliar and uninterested in the popular music of the last few decades. His high level of musicianship put me in the position of having to reflect on my own strengths and limitations. In a way it freed me to purely concentrate on vocals, guitar and song structure. So to answer your question, I think the magic comes from the combination of very different skills, and a mutual respect for each others’ skills.”