Cyclists, musicians and aerials

Conor McAteer. (DER0914PG112)
Conor McAteer. (DER0914PG112)

We Are Aerials front man, Conor McAteer, still gets nervous before every concert.

Conor has been playing and performing music since he was 14 years-old and has appeared in many of Derry’s pubs and clubs down through the years.

“I still get really jittery before every concert,” admits Conor.

“But that’s why I love it so much. If I didn’t feel nervous, sure it would just be boring.”

Conor and the rest of ‘We Are Aerials’ released their debut album ‘Voeckler’ in Bennigans Bar on Friday evening.

Interestingly, the explanation behind the album’s title came about because of Conor’s fascination with a certain French cyclist.

“I started watching the Tour de France several years ago and I became a big fan of Thomas Voeckler.

“Voeckler has had his fair share of ups and downs throughout his career and this is a theme that’s present in the album.

“A lot of the songs on the album are about the hard things that people can go through in life but like Voeckler they get back in the saddle and get on with it,” says Conor smiling.

“When it comes to the name of the band, I’m afraid the story is not as interesting. I just like the word aerial.”

Conor first became interested in music while a pupil at St. Columb’s College almost 20 years ago.

For seven years, he spent all of his time writing lyrics and music in his bedroom and it wasn’t until he was in his early 20s that he first performed live on stage.

“The way I saw it was I didn’t really enjoy listening to everyone else’s music so I thought why not start writing my own? And here I am almost 20 years later.

“I’ve had great support along the way. Lee Mason at Cool Discs has been super as has Stephen McCauley on BBC Radio Ulster. Drive 105 have been playing away at our music too - I owe them and many others a lot of thanks.”

Conor cites jazz, heavy metal, rock, pop and classical music as the genres of music he enjoys listening to but said his favourite band is ‘R.E.M.’.

“I think the music on the album sounds very much like itself. There’s no one band or person I or the band ever set out to replicate - we try to have our own sound.”

The 2013 City of Culture year was a good one for Conor and the band. Not only did they take part in a music project with a local mental health charity but Conor backed up famous English singer-songwriter, Billy Bragg when he played a concert in Derry last year.

“I wrote a song about a group of white supremacists talking negatively about immigrants whilst having dinner in an Indian restaurant. Paddy Nash from ‘Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas’ let Billy Bragg have a listen and apparently he said he thought it was great.

“I was over the moon when I heard that. Billy Bragg is really talented and I imagine when he says he likes something he actually means it.

“I also took part in the ‘Six Strings and Stigma’ music project. It was to raise money for the Beacon Centre in Clarendon Street. They do a lot of work with people with mental health problems. Fourteen people who used the centre told myself and other musicians their stories and then we wrote a song about it. All of the songs were put together in an album. It was a very rewarding project.

“The song I wrote is called ‘There is Darkness’ and it’s on the ‘Voeckler’ album.

“The City of Culture was great for me and musicians like me but I just hope we can keep the momentum going in the right direction.”

Conor released his first solo album ‘Pirates’ in 2007 and it was followed up by ‘The Devil in the Ether’ in 2011’.

“Once we have the ‘We Are Aerials’ album done and dusted I’ll put the finishing touches to my third solo album.

“I’ve a few songs rumbling around in my head and I dare say with a bit of hard work I’ll have the third album ready to go before the end of the year.”

‘We Are Aerials’ comprise of Rion McCartney, Shane McCaul, John Keaveney, Gavin McCartney and Conor McAteer.

‘Voeckler’ was released on Friday and is available to buy in Cool Discs, or it can also be downloaded from