By the time her previous band, Kathematics, played its last show in 2010, singer, guitarist and songwriter Katalin Orr knew it was time to move on to a different project. “I’d been playing as Kathematics for quite a while, and we’d gone from a three-piece to a two-piece, with just me, and Danny on drums,” Orr says. Orr’s songwriting had already progressed from the pop-punk style that characterised Kathematics originally. “By then I’d already written a bunch of new songs in a different style, and I decided that Kathematics had had its day. I felt like my tastes had started to grow up.”
It was Orr’s increasing interest in blues, and subsequently soul, combined with some tumultuous events in her personal life that laid the foundation for Haunting August. “I had a lot of personal stuff going on around that time, with sickness in my family, and other adult stuff,” Orr recalls. Orr’s new material provided her with an opportunity to explore her own emotional circumstances. “There was definitely a cathartic thing going on with the lyrics that I was writing,” Orr says. “I was writing about things that were going on in my life. The first EP was dedicated to my dad, and I was writing about what was going on, and acknowledging and facing up to it – it was really important to deal with it,” she says.
The name for Orr’s new band derived from the darker themes and heavier musical style. “I chose ‘haunting’ because the songs were haunting and sad,” Orr says. “Originally I had Haunting Autumn in my mind, but Haunting August seemed to work. And then my dad, who’d been ill with dementia for a while, ended up dying in August a couple of years ago. So I took that as a bit of a sign,” she says.
Going from a two-piece pop punk outfit to a four-piece band has had its occasional logistical challenges. “We were all good friends before we started the band, so there’s no egos, and we get along really well,” Orr says. “But I think probably the only thing that’s more difficult is availability. When it was just Danny and I in Orrematics, we were both really flexible, so it wasn’t hard to find time to play a gig. But now with four people, and everyone’s got other commitments, like family and jobs, finding a date when we’re all free to play can be difficult.”
Orr remains the principal songwriter in the band, and feels her own songwriting has evolved significantly in recent years. “I would love to be making a living out of music, but unfortunately that’s not the case, as with so many other musicians,” Orr laughs. “But even when you’re not making a lot of money out of music, you can still evolve as a songwriter. You still go through a transitional phase, and you still grow up as a songwriter”. While Kate admits her Kathematics material was constructed in an entirely different personal context, she can still listen to the music with affection. “I don’t listen to a lot of my old stuff, but I did put on Add It Up on the other day, and I loved it,” Orr says. “With some of the lyrics, like ‘Life is simple, like a pimple’, I was trying to be funny, though I don’t think that always worked,” she laughs.
For Haunting August’s latest release, Oscar’s Song, Orr has turned for inspiration to a topic close to her heart: dog welfare. Oscar’s Song has as its narrative centre support for the so-called Oscar’s Law, a law that would prohibit ‘puppy factories’. “It’s about banning puppy factories, and it’s been getting a lot of support recently,” Orr says. “The puppies there are living terrible conditions, and then they end up being sold to pet shops. The dogs look really cute, but you don’t get to see the mother and father, who tend to be treated really badly.”
Orr hopes that the song will draw attention to the plight of maltreated dogs. “The song is about the conditions that these dogs live in – Oscar is the symbol, waiting for someone to help him,” she says. I put to Orr a theory propounded in my own house – that dogs are very rock’n’roll, and cats are not. Orr’s reply is diplomatic. “That’s probably true,” she laughs. “The best thing about cats is that they make you laugh, but dogs follow you around, and they get you out of the house.”
Having endured the difficult events of the last few years, Orr is philosophical about what the future holds for Haunting August. “These days I tend to live more in the now, rather than dwelling on the past or the future,” Orr says. “I”m putting a lot of time and effort into this upcoming launch, and we’ve got an unplugged thing at Ding Dong later in the year. But I try not to fret about things too much.”
BY PATRICK EMERY
HAUNTING AUGUST launch Oscar’s Song at Cherry Bar with help from Arcane Saints and Falconio on Friday August 24.