The man behind the music videos – and more


The sun pours into D-Light Studio on North Great Clarence Street through the windows of its sloping roof.

Under the arches and between the iron pillars is a photographic backdrop of white wood, spread across the floor and curving like a steep half-pipe.

An eagle-eyed onlooker of Pillow Queens’ appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden might recognize it. This is the space where they performed their single “Liffey”.

And, in the corner of the room, behind a dark blue Georgian front door, is segment director Bob Gallagher.

He is calm and politely reserved at first. But once it goes out for a walk along the Canal Royal, it gets a bit busier.

Gallagher recounts how he recently filmed at the Hugh Lane Gallery, near painter Francis Bacon’s infamous cluttered studio, “A Great Inspiration.”

Perhaps much to the relief of the owners of D-Light Studio, Bacon’s influence on Gallagher did not manifest in his bedroom there, with his chair, desk, laptop and bare brick walls. .

Her workspace reflects her fluidity as an artist. There’s not much to tell a stranger what they’re doing at any given time, and while one might hazard a guess, a glimpse into his work would cast doubt on any assumptions made.

Gallagher is a filmmaker, photographer, actor, historian, occasional choreographer and once, WB Yeats in a “pop opera”.

Lately he has added ballad singing to his repertoire. We are far from the often disturbed clips that established his name as a director.

Everything is history, he said. The ballad is a more emotional and direct means of expression, “whereas the cinema as an art form is considered and less impulsive”.

Regardless of the medium and despite the obstacles caused by the pandemic, this underlying principle has remained true. Blockages limited his choice of mediums, but that couldn’t stop him in any way. There was always a way if the story was there.

Embrace influence

Born in Dublin, Gallagher received a Catholic and “fairly conservative” education. “My first interactions with the visual arts were probably through Catholic and Christian imagery,” he says.

It’s in his job, he says, and ingrained in his psyche. “You might lament the effects of growing up in that environment and not get anything out of it, but I prefer to take advantage of the expressive and interesting elements. “

In high school, he first became interested in filmmaking, encouraged by his religion teacher, who had resigned from the priesthood.

Gallagher later studied directing and cinematography at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

He made his directorial debut as a student with the 2009 short sleight of hand, before co-directing a concert film, The Amazing Few: Live at the Button Factory, the next year.

After graduation, he worked as an in-house director at Facebook, filming various musical events. And it is while filming live performances that he meets Myles Manley, one of his oldest collaborators.

“He filmed me playing Knockanstockan,” Manley said on the phone from Delaware, as a chorus of birds chirped in the background.

The pair then teamed up to the video for Manley’s single, “Easter Morning”, in which they recreated a trio of Caravaggio paintings.

“Each lasted about five hours,” says Manley. “He does a lot of takes. He will have an idea he wants, and he keeps doing it until he gets it.

Naoise Roo and Girl Band

Gallagher also directed the video for the single “Whore” by singer-songwriter Naoise Roo in 2015.

“I really wanted to work with him, so we ended up having this meeting in Acapulco on George’s Street,” says Roo. “I had left with my own ideas, then he said, ‘What about a priest who is so in love with Jesus, so much that he wants to become Mary Magdalene? “”

“He wanted to do something with just this incredible amount of sexual tension between a priest and Jesus,” Roo says.

Back in the northern city center, Gallagher stops walking to sit on a grassy bank near one of the locks on the Royal Canal.

“It’s not really conscious,” he said. “I am not preparing to do a project on repressed inner beings. It’s an instinctive response to music.

Here, he designates Girl Band, another recurring collaborator since 2015, whose “intensity” helps her “really access these interior landscapes”.

In their first collaboration, the video for “Why they hide the bodies under my garage”, a pathologist dances with a corpse.

Thanks to his partnership, Gallagher made his first foray into choreography – for the 2018 video for their song “Shoulderblades”.

It is a sinister six-minute Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque dance piece performed by Belfast choreographer Oona Doherty.

“I told him to choreograph me,” Doherty says. “We shot from 8:30 am to 9:30 pm, and I almost died.”

“He’s not afraid to ask for more, which I loved – being pushed to the limit. He’s caring and a legend, so you go with him, ”she said.

Junior Brother, Lankum and Aiteach

Around this same time, Gallagher began to branch out into the field of contemporary Irish folk. First by making clips for the singer-songwriter Junior Brother and the group Lankum.

While staying true to his cerebral style, visually he became more nuanced – using stripped-down sets, unique takes, and simple framing techniques to tell stories.

In April, her review of gender and queer identities in Irish music and literature, Aiteach: Cú Chulainn to Quare Fellow – shot at Hugh Lane, near Bacon’s studio – premiered at the 2021 Musictown festival.

“It’s been brewing for quite a while,” says Gallagher, explaining that the series stemmed from a screenplay he was developing about American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax and Irish folk in the 1950s.

“I was wondering what was the atmosphere of the 1950s in Ireland in the traditional music world? Were people conservative? Or was this scene perhaps more liberal? I researched this base, asking if there were any overtly queer and bisexual mainstream musicians.

By chance, he explains this by passing the Kiss Gates that lead to the second lock of the Royal Canal, below Drumcondra. There, he sees the bronze statue of author Brendan Behan, a first point of reference.

“While in prison, Behan discovered his ‘Hellenism’. A cute and euphemistic way to refer to exploring your gender identity, ”says Gallagher.

By researching what has become Aiteach, Gallagher explains that he decided to start singing, being mentored by a member of the Inishowen Traditional Singing Circle in Donegal. “You can’t really sit on a session. You have to participate, so I wanted to overcome the fear of participating. “

Throughout the blockages, its production barely faltered. He adapted and ran with the resources spared by the restrictions. For a live Junior Brother gig, he cornered the singer in a seedy peep-show booth.

And with Sitting in the car, his latest short film, written by _This hostel life _Author Melatu Uche Okorie, he relied heavily on close-ups and characters filmed in isolation to dramatize Okorie’s story of a marriage collapsing under the psychological weight of the Covid.

Leaving Dunne Street, Gallagher arrives outside D-Light Studios and, he says, is back upstairs to resume a heavy editing session.

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