Irish multi-instrumentalist Abbacaxi has served a long and proper musical apprenticeship. Now he is stepping out on his own. He has a fresh and heartfelt sound that brings positive vibrations and good times. It draws on his love of jazz, funk and proper songwriting, harks back to a time when dance music was made by real musicians, but comes with very modern dynamics.
Playing instruments was one of the few things that a young, Dublin-based Thomas Garnett was interested in outside of school. He started on drums, and soon joined all sorts of teenage bands. The energy of rock rhythms captivated him at first, but it was the beauty of melody that eventually turned his ear. After studying Music Technology in York, he had three hard partying years in Berlin. Rather than raw techno clubs, though, he was most at home in the warm and cosy house clubs.
Still not ready to take up music full time, he spent those years in Berlin doing deliveries on his bike. “They were really important times,” he says, “because I had the opportunity to listen to hours of live house mixes whilst working. I was always fascinated by the way tracks transitioned together and the new sounds those segues produced.”
After that, he spent a couple of months busking in Spain and Portugal, living purely off the proceeds. He picked up how to play bossa nova rhythms so quickly and effectively that he often had Brazilian tourists coming up to him and talking in Portuguese. His music was so authentic that they mistakenly thought he too was from the land of bossa. When he returned home, he embraced a career in music and spent a couple of years as a session vocalist, guitarist and drummer. As well as holding down a weekly residency in a bar singing classics by Amy Winehouse and Marvin Gaye, he played hundreds of gigs with some of Ireland’s biggest bands including The Waterboys, Fehdah, The Hit Machine Drummers and Kodaline, as well as sharing the stage with the likes of Thundercat, Yusef Kamal and Tank and The Bangas.
Now performing on his own, an Abbacaxi live show takes you on a trip with plenty of emotional peaks and troughs. Playing instruments and synths, looping from a library of his own sounds and singing, he goes from trip-hop to house. Hands-in-the-air moments to singalongs and back again, all with the sort of melodies and top-lines you don’t soon forget. “I find it fun to make my guitar sound like a synth,” he says. “I express myself more comfortably on the guitar, but love the deep and watery sounds of synthesizers.”
That sense of musicianship defines the new music that Thomas has coming on the Lost Decay label. After national airplay of well-received singles ‘Got To Hold On’ and ‘Used To Keep Me Warm’, EP1 will be his first full release. The five tracks show he has already honed in on a unique and accomplished sound that draws on a broad range of styles.
There are floaty-light summer grooves with airy drumming and heavenly vocals. Bubbling deep house rhythms are stuffed with organic sounds, and funky bass riffs make for steamy late-night grooves. They are songs rather than tracks, and are all infused with love, warmth and balmy synths. The subtle but seductive vocals add to the classy good-time feelings. They are the sort of tunes you want to hear on a compact summer festival stage surrounded by greenery, on a beach in Croatia, or a cosy basement club amongst happy smiling faces.
Abbacaxi is an intentional misspelling of the Portuguese word for pineapple. With that fruit’s sweet and juicy associations, and the extra ‘b’ a subtle nod to Abba’s sing-song disco sounds, you have a big hint at what to expect from Thomas’s music. Though his fun, effervescent character is reflected in his music, he is just as able to break your heart with his melancholic acoustic guitar and neo-soul vocals. Musicians as versatile as Abbacaxi don’t come along too often, so strap in and enjoy the ride.