Whenever you pass by Eamon Coughlan’s work area, you’re greeted with a variety of stringed musical instruments – a guitar, a mandolin and this oddly shaped wooden gourd.
Eamon is the youngest of six in a family with an Irish background. All of his sisters have been dancing to Irish music for years. Being exposed to the music and dance all of his life, it was only time before it also became his passion.
With 20 years of Irish dancing experience and a few competitive titles under his belt, Eamon retired from dancing in 2014 after he broke his leg in an accident. But that didn’t stop Eamon pursuing a love for his culture – but instead of dancing, his interest now lies in a more musical stream.
After years of experience playing the guitar, Eamon started looking for a mandolin to extend his reach. But after searching for a mandolin on eBay, he found something else that caught his attention – an Irish Bouzouki.
Eager to find a way to develop his interest, Eamon was at Monash during One World Week when the Monash’s Celtic band was playing. After listening to them, he immediately joined the society.
Eamon still occasionally plays with the Monash university band, but has since formed the band known as the Wanton Shillelaghs, which is made out of five members including himself.
The Wanton Shillelaghs suits Eamon’s needs better as they practise on a more consistent basis and perform regular gigs. The band compromises of an Irish flute, a double bass, violin/fiddle, bodhran (a form of hand drum), and Eamon’s Bouzouki. It is a multitalented team, with each individual capable of playing multiple musical instruments
The band members all share one thing in common – they are all scientists at heart. Rumesh is the drummer, but is also a final year law/science student. Naomi (flute) and Tammy (violin) are sisters studying geoscience and molecular biology respectively. Jarrad, the bassist, is a 6th year Engineering/Science student. Most of them are also part of the university Philharmonic society. To say they have hectic schedules is probably a vast understatement.
As a band, they are not interested in the competitive side of things. Instead, their main focus is on having fun and sharing their love for Celtic music with the people around them. Although they sometimes do festival gigs, the Wanton Shillelaghs are most commonly found in pubs. The band has performed at Farouk’s Olive in Thornbury, Open Studio in Northcote, and the Brunswick Hotel.
“The best compliment we received was at our first gig at the Brunswick hotel. We had friends over to hear us play and after the performance, one of the guys came up to me and said that we are ‘actually a legitimate band’. Though it was a simple statement, it was very reaffirming to know that we can be taken seriously as musicians.”
Though the band maintains a strong bond, the future is less than certain. The drummer has gone overseas to Prato, Italy for the 1st semester, and the two girls are conducting an exchange program during the 2nd. However, it’s not necessarily curtains for the band as they have plans for to go to Europe together during 2016.
Eamon is in the final year of his PhD, looking at genes that control the development and patterning of the spinocerebellar system. Though playing in a band keeps his work-life balance in check, a primary career as a musician is not something he is planning on.
“I want to keep it as a side project. Oddly enough, a career in the music world is even more unstable than in the science world.”