Villagers (band)

Villagers are an Irish indie folk project from Dublin, created in 2008 by Conor J. O'Brien.

Villagers at Haldern Pop 2013
Villagers at Haldern Pop 2013
Background information
OriginDún Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland
GenresIndie folk[1]
Years active2008–present
LabelsAny Other City (2008–2009)[2]
Domino Records (2009–present)
Associated actsNico Muhly, Cathy Davey, The Immediate
MembersConor O'Brien
Danny Snow
Cormac Curran
Gwion Llewelyn
Mali Llywelyn
Past membersTommy McLaughlin
James Byrne
Richie Egan
Jack Magner
Stephen DH Rees

Villagers came to prominence in 2010 with the release of the debut album, Becoming a Jackal. Released to critical acclaim, the album was shortlisted for the 2010 Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize. The second studio album, {Awayland} was released in 2013. It won the Choice Music Prize that year and was also shortlisted for the 2013 Mercury Prize. In 2015 they released their third album, Darling Arithmetic, and the following year Where Have You Been All My Life? - a compilation of live reworkings of some of the band's best-known tracks. In May 2016 Darling Arithmetic won the Ivor Novello award for Best Album.

Villagers have performed at several music festivals and toured with Grizzly Bear, Tracy Chapman, Bell X1, Tindersticks and Elbow.


Conor O'Brien formed Villagers after the break-up of his previous band The Immediate. The very next day, O'Brien wrote the first song after waking up with a hangover.[3] O'Brien's time as a guitarist in Cathy Davey's band was also critical to the development of his style as he had never before performed alongside anyone outside of The Immediate.[3] Villagers gave their first live performance as a support act with The Chapters at a show in Whelan's in November 2008.[3] At that point the band had previously only rehearsed together on two occasions.[3] They had only seven songs, written by O'Brien and passed on to the rest of the band to learn.[3]

Villagers performed on the seventh series of RTÉ Two's Other Voices television programme in 2009.[4] The band's debut EP, titled Hollow Kind, was released in February 2009.[5] It contained four tracks, all of which were written and performed by O'Brien.[3] The EP brought comparisons with Bright Eyes and Sparklehorse.[6] Villagers then went on tour.[7][8] They were a support act for Neil Young and toured across Europe with Tracy Chapman.[5]

Villagers appeared at several festivals in 2009. They supported Bell X1 when they performed at Live at the Marquee in Cork on 26 June 2009.[9][10] They performed at several music festivals in Ireland, including on the Sunday of Oxegen 2009, at Indie-pendence on 2 August and at Electric Picnic 2009,[5][9] as well as at Latitude Festival in the UK.[9] The Irish Times's Jim Carroll recommended their performance in the Body Soul Arena at Electric Picnic 2009 as "A must-see for those who dig ragged pop, eerie folk and heartfelt, emotional songs and sounds".[11] They headlined Hard Working Class Heroes in 2009,[12] with O'Brien attracting the ire of the audience when he requested some quiet during the performance.[13] They gave a live performance at The Music Show in Dublin's RDS in October 2009.[14]

The debut single of Villagers was "On a Sunlit Stage" and was released in October 2009.[12]

On 15 January 2010, Villagers represented Ireland at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen, the Netherlands.[15][16] They were involved in efforts to raise funds in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[17][18] They embarked on a tour with Tindersticks in March 2010 and released the single "Becoming a Jackal" on 17 April 2010.[19] A debut album Becoming a Jackal was released in Ireland on 14 May 2010,[20] with a UK release in May and a US release due on 8 June 2010.[21] O'Brien's elder sister died within the same week.[13] The album immediately went to number one on both the Irish Albums Chart and the Irish Indie Albums Chart.[22] It proceeded to continuously top the indie chart.[23]

On 13 April 2010, Villagers appeared on Later... with Jools Holland on BBC Two alongside Paul Weller, Hot Chip, Marina and the Diamonds, Gogol Bordello and Paul Rodgers.[24][25] Shane Hegarty, writing in The Irish Times, noted in his praise for O’Brien that "Irishness wasn't a factor [...] The pithy introduction to his performance didn't mention it. It didn't need to. Viewers could have thought he was from Northampton or New York or anywhere".[26] His appearance included a performance of the single "Becoming a Jackal", but then found himself stranded in Brussels due to the air travel disruption around Europe in the aftermath of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland and had to miss a live performance on Record Store Day.[27]

Villagers played Meltdown in London in June 2010.[28] In the same month Villagers performed a U.S. tour and performed at Live at the Marquee in Cork on 25 June 2010.[29] There was a performance at Oxegen 2010 in July.[30] They were one of the first acts to be announced for Electric Picnic 2010.[31] They also played on the Festival Republic Stage during the Leeds/Reading Festival 2010[32] A U.S. tour was announced for October and November 2010.[33] In March 2011, Villagers joined Elbow on a two-week tour of the U.K. and Ireland.

As part of Record Store Day 2011, Villagers released a live 12" vinyl record, Live at the Workman's Club. The record contains mainly O'Brien performing songs acoustically with occasional piano accompaniment.

In September 2012 the band announced the release of "The Waves", the first single from their follow-up album. While at the time the name of the album wasn't announced, the details for {Awayland} were released soon afterwards alongside news of a headline tour in February 2013. The band were just about to start a tour supporting Grizzly Bear in October 2012. A second single, "Nothing Arrived", was also announced in December 2012 with a release date set for 14 January 2013 in conjunction with the launch of {Awayland}.[34]

Whilst on tour supporting {Awayland}, the band debuted two new songs; "Occupy Your Mind" and "Hot Scary Summer". On 7 February 2014 "Occupy Your Mind" was released as a single, produced and mixed by James Ford.[35] As part of Record Store Day 2014, a limited edition clear 7" vinyl version of "Occupy Your Mind" was released.

In early February 2015 the release of their third LP Darling Arithmetic was announced for the 10th/13th/14 April in Ireland, the U.K/Europe and the U.S.A respectively. The new album was written, recorded, produced and mixed by Conor O'Brien at his own home, with him playing all instruments on the record, similar to Becoming A Jackal. A tour was announced, with several dates in Ireland, the U.K and throughout Europe, and a show in New York supporting Laura Marling. In March 2015, when promoting the band's upcoming album and tour in Ireland, O'Brien spoke to about the songwriting process on Darling Arithmetic as well as addressing love and the issue of homophobia.[36]

On 8 January 2016, the band's fourth album - mostly consisting of live versions of previously released songs - was released unter the title Where Have You Been All My Life?[37] The band toured worldwide throughout 2016 supporting the album.

In August 2018 new album The Art of Pretending to Swim was announced for a 21 September release and new song, FOOL and accompanying music video was unveiled.[38]

On 15 August 2019, the band played at Leith Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Festival's contemporary music programme.[39]


O'Brien is noted for his dark lyrics – "an eerie sense of disquiet", according to The Guardian.[40]The New York Times' Jon Pareles compared them to The Frames, U2 and Leonard Cohen after witnessing a live performance in New York City in 2010.[21]


Studio albumsEdit

Year Album details Peak chart positions
UK Indie
2010 Becoming a Jackal
  • Released: 7 May 2010
  • Label: Domino
  • Formats: CD, download, vinyl etched DBL LP
1 66 1 83
2013 {Awayland}
  • Released: 14 January 2013
  • Label: Domino
  • Formats: CD, download, vinyl LP
1 16 2 17 53 16
2015 Darling Arithmetic
  • Released: 13 April 2015
  • Label: Domino
  • Formats: CD, download
1 27 6 27 128 74 22
2016 Where Have You Been All My Life?
  • Released: 8 January 2016
  • Label: Domino
  • Formats: CD, download
13 23
2018 The Art of Pretending to Swim
  • Released: 21 September 2018
  • Label: Domino
  • Formats: CD, vinyl LP, digital
28 31 55 76

"—" denotes a title that did not chart.


Year EP details
2009 Hollow Kind
  • Released: 2009
  • Label: Any Other City
2019 The Sunday Walker
  • Released: Nov 4, 2019
  • Label: Domino


Year Single Chart positions
2009 "On a Sunlit Stage"
2010 "Becoming a Jackal"
"Ship of Promises"
"That Day"
2012 "The Waves"
"Passing a Message"
"Nothing Arrived" 48
2014 "Occupy Your Mind"
2015 "Courage"
"Everything I Am Is Yours"
2018 "A Trick of the Light"
2019 "Summer's Song"
"—" denotes a title that did not chart


Villagers are the only act from Ireland to have been signed by Domino Records.[6] Jape's Richie Egan has said of O'Brien: "That gentleman embodies everything I hold dear about music".[3] He spoke of feeling inspired after attending one of their early shows, at a time when he himself had just won the Choice Music Prize.[48]

The Irish Times placed them at number six in a list of "The 50 Best Irish Acts Right Now" published in April 2009,[49] commenting: "from what we’ve heard and seen live so far, Villagers generate the type of music (sparse, eerie, casually dishevelled, tangibly cool) that will spread beyond the confines of niche appreciation into a great blue yonder".[50]

Mercury PrizeEdit

Becoming a Jackal was nominated for the Mercury Prize on 20 July 2010,[51][52][53][54][55] with the judges describing it as "a record of great charm and mystery".[56] According to The Guardian, "an eerie stillness" occurred when the song "Becoming a Jackal" was performed at the event announcing the nominations.[56]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2010 Becoming a Jackal Mercury Prize Nominated
2013 {Awayland} Mercury Prize Nominated

Q AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2010 Villagers Breakthrough Artist Nominated

Digital Socket AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2011 Becoming a Jackal Best Design (Website, Artwork, Posters) Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
Best Folk Won
The Meaning of the Ritual Song of the Year Won

Choice Music PrizeEdit

Becoming a Jackal was nominated for the Choice Music Prize in 2011.[57] {Awayland} won the Choice Music Prize in 2013.[58]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2011 Becoming a Jackal Irish Album of the Year 2010 Nominated
2013 {Awayland} Irish Album of the Year 2013 Won

Ivor NovelloEdit

In May 2011 Villagers frontman Conor O'Brien won the award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically – the most prestigious of the Ivors – for the group's track "Becoming A Jackal".[59]

In May 2016 the band's third album, Darling Arithmetic, won Best Album at that year's Ivor Novello awards.[60]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2011 Becoming a Jackal Best Song Musically and Lyrically Won
2016 Darling Arithmetic Best Album Won

MOJO Honours ListEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2011 Villagers Breakthrough Act Nominated


  1. ^ Monger, James Christopher. "Villagers". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Any Other City release label sampler". Hot Press. 18 January 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2010. They may have bid a tearful farewell last year to Villagers, but Dublin’s Any Other City label has plenty up its (record) sleeve for 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Byrne, Niall (6 February 2009). "Interview: Villagers". State. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Other Voices". Other Voices. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Rise of the Villagers". Fingal Independent. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  6. ^ a b "tipping point: Three new Irish acts for 2010". Irish Independent. 9 January 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Conor O'Brien brings Villagers on tour". Hot Press. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Villagers extend Irish tour". Hot Press. 5 January 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  9. ^ a b c "Around the Villages". Fingal Independent. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Villagers land Bell X1 support". Hot Press. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  11. ^ Jim Carroll (28 August 2009). "Pick of the Picnic". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 January 2010. Conor O’Brien’s band of merry citizens have been attracting plaudits all year long on the back of their Hollow Kind EP and live shows. A must-see for those who dig ragged pop, eerie folk and heartfelt, emotional songs and sounds.
  12. ^ a b "Villagers headline Hard Working Class Heroes on October 16 to kick off Irish tour". Hot Press. 21 September 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  13. ^ a b Power, Ed (21 July 2010). "The Villager who's the toast of the town . . ". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  14. ^ "Gigs, Gallagher, Glen, etc". The Irish Times. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010. Live performers at this year’s symposium include Imelda May, The Blizzards, David Kitt, Director and Villagers.
  15. ^ "More Irish acts added to Eurosonic bill". Hot Press. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  16. ^ "2fm announce live Eurosonic broadcast". Hot Press. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Cathy Davey, Villagers & more for Drop Haiti's Debt gig". Hot Press. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  18. ^ "'Drop Haiti's Debt' gig cancelled". Hot Press. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  19. ^ Meagher, John (5 March 2010). "Sterophonics hit new note". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 March 2010. A single, Becoming a Jackel, is set for release on Record Store Day (which is, as we all know, April 17) with the digital download version available on April 26. An album is expected in the autumn. [...] The brainchild of ex-Immediate man Conor O'Brien, Villagers have already toured Ireland twice, played festivals at home and abroad and opened for the legendary Neil Young. They will be going on the road later in the month as support to Tindersticks, who now include David Kitt among their number.
  20. ^ "Villagers announce album details". Hot Press. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  21. ^ a b "Villagers album receives US release". Hot Press. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010. He has the particularly Irish gift, which he shares with The Frames and U2, for painful sincerity without mawkishness, and at times – this is high praise – he approaches the bitter romanticism of Leonard Cohen.
  22. ^ "Villagers score Irish chart double". Hot Press. 21 May 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  23. ^ "Villagers top Indie charts yet again!". Hot Press. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  24. ^ Murphy, Lauren (9 April 2010). "A little bit Later". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  25. ^ "Villagers for Jools Holland + Record Store Day gig in Road". Hot Press. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  26. ^ Hegarty, Shane (17 April 2010). "Why Brand Ireland now means Crystal Swing and Jedward". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  27. ^ "Happy Record Store day!". Hot Press. 17 April 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2010. Conor J. O’Brien has tweeted his apologies that because of pesky Mount Eyjafjalljokull he won’t be able to make it home today for his scheduled Record Store Day appearance. "Stranded in Brussels," he writes. "No way out. Sorry to Road Records and everyone coming to celebrate Record Store Day. I'm totally bummed out. Shit." The good news is that the Villagers’ fantastic ‘Becoming A Jackal’ single – which Conor performed brilliantly earlier this week on Jools Holland – is out today on 7".
  28. ^ "The Duckworth Lewis Method, Lisa Hannigan & Villagers confirmed for Meltdown". Hot Press. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  29. ^ "Villagers Confirm US Tour". Hot Press. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  30. ^ "Oxegen Latest: Hot Press Academy Stage Lineup Announced". Hot Press. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  31. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (25 March 2010). "Electric Picnic Picks: Festival Line-up Announced". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 March 2010. Yesterday’s line-up announcement was dominated by reforming acts and Electric Picnickers will hope Public Image Limited (PiL), fronted by John Lydon, will do better than the Sex Pistols’ shambolic headline act at the festival in 2008. [...] Choice music prize winner Adrian Crowley, rockabilly singer Imelda May and Villagers make up some of the home contingent along with the Frames, Paul Brady and Afro-Celt Soundsystem.
  32. ^ "Leeds Lineup 2010". September 2010. Archived from the original on 5 May 2009.
  33. ^ "Villagers announce US tour details". NME. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  34. ^ "Villagers news and reviews". Tuppence Magazine. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  35. ^ "To Who It May Concern". February 2014.
  36. ^ Gibney, Cara (3 April 2015). "INTERVIEW: Villagers' Conor O'Brien". Gigging NI. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  37. ^ "I'm absolutely thrilled to announce the release of a new Villagers album". Villagers. 19 October 2015.
  38. ^ "Villagers Unveil Video for New Song, 'Fool' - Music News Net". Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  39. ^ "Villagers". Edinburgh International Festival. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  40. ^ Swash, Rosie (5 May 2010). "Villagers: Becoming a Jackal". Guardian Media. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  41. ^ "Discography Villagers". 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  42. ^ "Villagers | full Official Chart history". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  43. ^ "Official Independent Album Breakers Chart Top 20". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  44. ^ "Villagers – Becoming A Jackal". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  45. ^ "Discographie Villagers". 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  46. ^ "Discografie Villagers". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  47. ^ "Villagers claim highest new entry on Official Irish Albums Chart with The Art of Pretending to Swim". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  48. ^ Boyd, Brian (6 March 2009). "A matter of Choice". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 January 2010. The Choice Music Prize comes for Egan at a time when he’s already on a roll. Having only just won, he’s still not sure what significance it will have for his musical career. "Like I was saying before about knowing when a song is good, this is a really good time for me in terms of songwriting. I’ve already got six songs written for the next album and am really excited about it." He mentions attending a recent show by an excellent new band called Villagers. "It was so good it just opened up so much for me. I know I’ve got to push myself now. Winning the Choice prize is great – but there’s a lot more to do."
  49. ^ "The next 50 bands". The Irish Times. 10 April 2009. Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  50. ^ Jim Carroll; Tony Clayton-Lea; Sinéad Gleeson; Lauren Murphy (3 April 2009). "The 50 best Irish music acts right now". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2009. Following a stint as one of Cathy Davey’s backing musicians, O’Brien quickly regrouped his thoughts and created Villagers, a band that to date has officially released just one four-track EP, Hollow Kind. An album will follow later this year, and from what we’ve heard and seen live so far, Villagers generate the type of music (sparse, eerie, casually dishevelled, tangibly cool) that will spread beyond the confines of niche appreciation into a great blue yonder.
  51. ^ "Paul Weller heads up Mercury prize nominations". BBC News. BBC. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  52. ^ "Dizzee Rascal, The xx tipped for Mercury Prize". Reuters. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  53. ^ Burke, Fiona (21 July 2010). "It's the day of the Jackal for Mercury nominee Conor". Evening Herald. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  54. ^ "Villagers nominated for the Mercury Music Prize". Hot Press. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  55. ^ Taylor, Charlie (20 July 2010). "Villagers make Mercury shortlist". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  56. ^ a b Topping, Alexandra (20 July 2010). "Mercury prize shortlist sees return of banjos but barely a beard in sight". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  57. ^ Forbes, Anna (3 March 2011). "Choice Music Prize Preview". State. Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  58. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (28 February 2014). "Villagers win best Irish album Meteor Choice Music Prize". Irish Times. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  59. ^ Flinchbaugh, Kerri. "Villagers frontman Conor O'Brien scoops songwriting award". Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  60. ^ "Villagers win Ivor Novello for best album". The Irish Times. 19 May 2016.

External linksEdit