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Irish Seoul 

So Cow blends a lot of cultures that don’t usually go together to make weird little pop songs

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Brian Kelly speaks fast, sometimes in circles. But his conversation rolls pleasantly in the ear and usually comes around to something poignant. Much like the pop music he creates, he’s noisy, slightly fringed at the edges and incredibly likable.

As So Cow, Kelly’s sound draws comparisons to bands like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays hectic guitar-laden pop tinged with surf rock and pop-punk.

It’s a sound he found in 2005. Kelly was an Irishman living in Korea and teaching English. That’s when a four-track recording machine and a computer began occupying his free time. And, with no particular goal in mind, before he knew it, he had composed enough music to put out an album. He manufactured 200 copies and sold them online.

“I generated a hell of a lot of material — some of it good, some of it bad,” Kelly says in his thick Irish brogue.

Now, five years later and on tour in the States, Kelly says it’s the sounds of the British Invasion — when the Beatles and the Kinks played pop music in America — that he can relate to.

“I just call us pop music,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s just la-la-la or one, two, three, four.”

Onstage, Kelly is sweaty — shouting out Korean verbs in an Irish accent, twitching and shaking with his guitar. In a way, it almost feels like you’re watching a nerdy kid play air guitar in his bedroom.

Having signed with Chicago’s Tick Tac Totally Records, Kelly is now touring in support of his latest album, Meaningless Friendly. He says “horrifying jobs” back in Ireland paid for him to spend the year touring through America and Europe.

Kelly, who tours with a bassist and a “Yank drummer from Milwaukee,” says he gets homesick, but it’s not the music that drags him down.

“It’s the other 23 hours of the day,” Kelly says. “It’s sleeping on floors and having a sore throat and not being able to afford to get sick.”

The U.S. leg of the current tour ends in early April — which gives him exactly four days to go home, see his family and have a pint before hitting stages through Europe later that month.

But Kelly says that’s OK. He likes that he’s not popular in his own country. He hopes it stays that way.

“I know what I like in life, so I kind of have to keep my ambitions in tune with that,” he says. “I like a cup of tea, and I like a couple of biscuits.”

So Cow with Sonus and Decor Amor at Empyrean on Thursday, March 4, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8. All-ages. Call 838-9819.


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