Club Gardenia has a New Pope

“You don’t have to be an aspiring careerist like myself to benefit from art.”

I’m sat with singer-songwriter David Boland aka New Pope at Jungle Cafe. He’s sporting gym gear and sunglasses but rolls a cigarette to accompany his coffee.  

Besides being a respected local musician, Boland is also founder of cultural movement An Ait Eile (which translates to the other place), and Citog Records.

But I’m here to chat about his latest venture Club Gardenia, which he is organising for That’s Life – a charity that helps people with intellectual disabilities. 

“Club Gardenia is about community – and I’m fully committed to Galway as my community”, says Boland. “I moved around a lot when I was younger, and I’ve lived in Galway the longest – there’s a vibe, an atmosphere, the people – they’re of my ilk”. 

The night will see acts from various record labels. Anna Malarkey will be representing the Strange Brew label that operates out of the Roisin Dubh, and Jack Lee is a regular at said club’s open mic nights. NewDad from a collective called New Heights Music group will be performing, as well as bands SlyRydes and Oh, Boland

It was the entry of the band Electric Dreams into his own Citog event that first united David with the Brothers of Charity, and the coordinator of the That’s Life program Andrew Medac.

“Citog was brilliant. It had a big effect on me and my thoughts on life and society because through that night a community formed  – unintentionally – of bands and songwriters. We did it because we thought it would be fun to do, but it grew my personal understanding of what community meant and informed the rest of my impetus for why I do stuff.”

That sense of a desire for belonging, a feeling of yearning, of whimsy, and of searching for a place to call home, permeates Boland’s own music. His song “Onwards, Westwards” for example from his album Youth speaks to a desire to flee the “smoke, endless grey” and to “get lost” in the “setting sun”. 

“I’m from a lot of places, but I consider myself from Donegal. I was born in Dublin to a single mother who was 20 when she had me and I grew up as an only child and moved home often – Dublin, Amsterdam, Shannon, London Limerick and eventually Donegal. That kind of melancholy, that feeling of being your only thing kind of inhabits it – I’m describing it these days as ‘existential folk music’.”

He pauses for a moment reflectively before laughing self-deprecatingly.

“To be honest I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds good”.

Existential Folk Music

Of course music, as with any creative endeavour, also affords Boland introspection and – in his own words – helps him make sense of his life.

“It’s about two years before I can write about something with … I dunno…”
“Clarity?” I offer.
“Yeah exactly. You need that kind of distance. That’s why songwriting and any kind of creative writing is helpful it helps you understand yourself. My first album Youth was purposefully nostalgic – looking back and my life and putting that rosy feeling to it. But I’m not one to generally feel like things were somehow better before. I just like the idea of nostalgia. Looking at things in a kind way – being kind to yourself and the people around you.”

And this seems to be a recurring theme in Boland’s life – being kind to yourself and others. He did, after all, found An Ait Eile, whose express aim was to lobby for a community cultural space – sort of like a crisis cafe – where any one could go to essentially self-medicate with culture and creativity. Galway is sadly lacking such a space.

“That’s the thing about the arts, it’s so beneficial – instead of saying “you’re having a mental health problem we will send you to this stranger or put you in this room” you can turn to art, it’s therapeutic. If I didn’t have music I don’t know what I’d do. You don’t have to be an aspiring careerist like myself to benefit from art.”

Slyrydes will also be performing at Club Gardenia

This lobby has so far proven unsuccessful, yet unwavering and relentless, Boland is now at the helm of Club Gardenia.

“It’s really exciting that this year Club Tropicana (of which Club Gardenia is but one strand) is expanding to three days – possibly testing the waters for funding to make this a regular thing in support of people with intellectual disabilities to show that they can contribute to the artistic life of the city – not in their own special category, but as part of the music scene alongside other acts.”

Club Gardenia (€10)
Thursday June 27th
7pm – 11:45pm
Black Box Theatre, Galway

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