Two years ago when we started this thing called Oh Yeah we didn’t really know what we were doing. Our only clear thought was that Belfast needed a place for music. Pure and simple. Nothing complicated about that is there? Well let’s not get into that right now. Suffice to say we found an amazing structure, the Outlet Building in the Cathedral Quarter, and began with gusto to make it our own little world. I say WE but really the warriors behind Oh Yeah day to day are Stuart Bailie, Marty Neil, Davy Matchett, John D’Arcy, Mike Edgar and Lisa McElherron. Many other people have given over their time and energy to the project and we’d like to thank everyone that has. The public response too has been overwhelming.

Everyone shares the same basic drive: to help people make, learn about and/or simply enjoy music. Our intention from the start, once we saw the vast potential of the three-tiered Outlet (or now more oft referred to as the Oh Yeah) Building, was to develop a place in Belfast that people of any age, background or ability could play, learn and listen to music and, if they so desired, learn the other, lesser taught arts, of sound mixing, band management, gig promotion or basically any of the varied disciplines associated with music. In fact the building, in a past life, was already fitted with the shell of a studio. And that’s where this album’s story begins.

Rocky O’Reilly from Oppenheimer, along with Ben McAuley and Barrett Lahey took over the running of the little studio shell midway through 2007. In fact before it was kitted out with much of anything they had recorded some of Oppenheimer’s second album and a few other things besides. I remember being in the little shell at the end of summer last year and the next time I saw the place, just before Christmas, it was a fully operational (Death Star, sorry couldn’t resist) and very professional studio into which they had put all of their extensive and very sexy equipment, not to mention hours and hours of love and energy. They began to record constantly and the fruits of their labours include tracks by Foy Vance, Desert Hearts and Duke Special as well as the albums of many of the artists featured on this very album. Then came the idea of this very, Oh Yeah, album.

The idea was to record all the tracks in the space of a few weeks (a day or two per band) and to include some of Oh Yeah’s favourite bands. See the back cover. Yes, that’s them. It’s quite astonishing not just that it was done in such a short time but that it bristles with such quality from minute one with Cashier No. 9’s ominous shuffle and head-bending guitars, along the way taking in Kowalski’s elegant majesty, Panama Kings’ swooning jaggedness (an unusual combination!), And So I Watch You From Afar’s headlong abandon, The Jane Bradfords’s graceful oblivion, the infectious ramshackle of Mojo Fury, General Fiasco’s ocean sized choruses, to (what would seem) finally Lafaro’s full tilt grind.

Wait though, as if the above marvels aren’t spoiling you all enough already there are two bonus tracks from the awesome In Case Of Fire and the legendary David Holmes. In Case Of Fire sounding, as they do, much more guilty of gleefully starting the fire than having any information on what to do should you be trapped in one; and Mr. Holmes returning from years of making music for Hollywood movies to get back to his own incredible solo stuff which is spectacular news for fans of his earlier records like myself.

The vast array of approaches by every band on here is astonishing. A lot of it quite defies categorisation but is always thrilling and extremely exciting and undeniably encouraging for the future of music from Northern Ireland. And this is just the tip of the iceberg as waiting in the wings are hundreds of amazing bands some of which we’ll hopefully get the chance to highlight on the (fingers-crossed) many albums we’ll put out in the future. Regardless of this we hope any and every band in the country and perhaps beyond (you’re more than welcome) will benefit from the Oh Yeah project. So turn it up loud (louder than that!) and let its wonder smash you in the baik+.

+ For those outside of Norn Iron*, finding this record in their hands, ‘baik’ means face.

* No clues for this one.

Gary Lightbody, Spring 2008