Calling a song ‘La Morgue’ tells you that it’s not a song for parties; but the story behind it is worth telling for a party piece.
Gabriel Paschal Blake penned the song for his band For Foresters, the three-piece experimental folk rock band from Letterkenny in County Donegal.
Being the son of an undertaker gives Blake a life experience that a select few of us can share, but he regularly sees a rite of passage that we all go through, death.
It can be heavy going at times for him, when he helps his father, but luckily, he found a release in songwriting.
“I take pride in how well I can do funerals and stuff because you can’t get emotional, you have to be there for the family of the person who is passed away, but that’s the thing with songwriting; it lets me deal with emotions I have when I’m singing it and I don’t have to deal with them in real life.”
Gabriel told the story of la morgue, and a weekend he had to help out his father while he was in England doing a funeral.
“At the start of the day, there were these two bodies, lying beside each other. I just thought it was interesting; these two people had never met, but now that they had passed away they were laying side by side. You never know where you go once you die.
“The first man we took away, it was to a lovely home, and you could really see that he was loved: of course it was a sad time and people were crying but it was a lovely warm house, candles lit, and we left him there, lid open and obviously everyone loved him.
“And then later on that day we took the other body, a lady, to a nursing home. We laid her on her bed, out to wake, but a member of staff came into us and said there’s not much point leaving the coffin open because there’s no-one coming to see her.
“I just sort of HAD to write this song about that day, for that lady who had no one to wake her.”
Gabriel Paschal Blake is the leading man in Donegal ‘For Foresters’. He doesn’t like to describe himself as that, which explains the band’s name change last summer.
“We used to play under my own name, Gabriel Paschal Blake, but myself and the boys were putting in such equal effort, so I didn’t think it was fair that I was getting all the attention.”
For Foresters is certainly a snappy name, a popular one with fans of alliteration; but where did they pull it from?
“There’s a poem I wrote a while back that just sort of fell out of me. It revolved around the idea of foresters, and these people who tell lies and aren’t great people. There’s a line in the poem that says “for the foresters we’ll sleep tonight” and that’s where the name came from.
“To me, our band is about that art, that expression, that realness and that honesty that comes through spoken word, telling a story and the music we make. Our band, For Foresters is for the idea of poetry.
Calling his song La Morgue does give the impression of a morbid experience to come; and yet, a morbid song is the last thing the artist would describe it as.
“To me, I’m not singing about it in a morose way, I’m just trying to think about it in a normal way; not thinking of death of this terribly sad thing that happens but more to deal with it, because you don’t really deal with it otherwise.
“The luxury you have of being an artist is you can actually talk about that stuff, and deal with it. It’s not something I think about all the time, but it’s brilliant to be able to just take it away and write about it and play it; when you play it, you deal with the emotions and you can get on with the rest of your life.
“A lot of people say that my lyrics are very dark but I don’t think I’d be a dark person. I think that when I deal with it, I deal with it in the music, and then it’s done.”