Irish Musicians Abroad: Romes

An interview with Romes, an Irish band living in Toronto

Romes band
Photo Credit: Chris Wahl
L-R: Andrew Keyes, Jacob Bitove, Nick Bitove, James Tebbitt

Indie-pop quartet Romes released their debut EP ‘Believe’ this year, which is garnering worldwide acclaim. For a first release it’s an incredible start for a band who are certainly preparing themselves for fame. Half Canadian, half Irish, they all grew up in Wicklow before relocating to Toronto.

A band very much in their infancy, it’s exciting to see where this EP will take them and what might be in store. We caught up with them to find out why they based themselves outside of Ireland, the comparisons between the Canadian and Irish music scene and if they think the move gives them a greater chance of success.

Where in Ireland are you from?
Andrew Keyes: We’re all from Wicklow.

How did you all meet?
AK: We all met in secondary school in Bray. We’ve been mates since first year when we first started playing music together.

How long have you lived in Toronto?
AK: We’ve been in Toronto on and off for the last couple years. If we have a gig or promo to do in Toronto, we’ll be there. We’ve also spent a bit of time in the States this summer. Ireland is still home though.

Why did you decide to move there?
AK: There’s a great scene in Toronto, I’m sure it’s very similar to what’s happening in Dublin. Everyone knows everyone, and we all play gigs and hang out together. There’s no shortage of great artists to come out of Toronto either, with Drake, The Weeknd and DFA 1979 and then Badbadnotgood and Majid Jordan more recently coming to mind.

Where else did you live before you moved (or was it always Ireland)?
Jacob: Myself and my brother Nick were born in Toronto and moved to Ireland in the late 90’s. We met Andrew and James in school over there, so we ending up spending about half our lives there.

How long have you been playing music?
AK: I’ve been playing the bass for around 9 years now.

Jacob: My dad bought me my first drum kit when I was 5. I was pretty rubbish; that’s when my brother stepped in.

How was your music career doing in Ireland?
AK: Our music has only been out for a few months, so things are very much in their infancy. That being said, we’re doing better in Ireland than anywhere else at this stage. The support has been amazing, we’ve been getting texts from friends and family whenever our song is on the radio, or being used in an ad on the tv, and it’s a surreal feeling. We couldn’t be happier with the way things have been going at home.

Did you really find it was necessary to leave to get your music out there?
AK: I don’t believe so. We ended up taking a different path to most Irish musicians. It’s a purely hypothetical scenario, but I feel that we’d be capable of writing the same songs and playing the same gigs in Wicklow or Dublin as we would anywhere else.

You’re experiencing a big level of success already for a debut EP release, do you think if you lived in Ireland you would experience such success so quickly?
AK: I think so. We might have different opportunities just by the fact that we might have different management and the likes. I just don’t think that our home base is too much of a factor in the grand scheme of things.

What are the differences between the Irish and Canadian music scene?
AK: I wouldn’t know to be honest. We’ve been out of the Dublin scene for a couple years, so it’s hard to say. In Toronto, there’s a tonne of venues teeming with young, talented musicians of almost any genre. Every half decent bar or pub will have a live band on every day of the week. It’s just part of the culture over here. You could go out for a random pint on a Wednesday and leave as a fan of a band. It’s pretty cool.

What do you think needs to change in Ireland in order for more musicians to become successful?
AK: I think Irish musicians are incredibly successful. Over the last few years, Hozier, Little Green Cars, Girlband and James Vincent McMorrow are just the first names who come to mind. Then you’ve got other bands like Otherkin and Overhead, The Albatross on the up too.

Ireland has always punched above it’s weight with it’s musical output, and it always will. That being said, an introduction of a grant system, similar to Canada, would be hugely beneficial.

Would you ever move back to Ireland?
AK: Of course. It’s home!

How are you feeling about how things are going for you so far?
AK: I’m over the moon. The reaction to the EP has been fantastic. I’m having the time of my life!

What are your future plans?
AK: We’d love to get a tour so we can play the songs to as many people as possible. We’d love to play the Olympia at some stage next year, too.

Romes – Believe is out now!


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