St Francis Hotel and “One Tree Hill”

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-03-17)

Last week U2 announced a new version of The Joshua Tree being released for the albums 30th anniversary. There are two box sets being produced, and each of these will include a disc of remixes of songs from the original album. In the vinyl box the remixes make up one 12-inch vinyl of seven in the set, in the CD box the remixes make up one 5-inch CD of four in the set. The remixes are produced by a number of familiar names, including the studio team behind the original album, including Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Flood (a new mix from Brian Eno is included on a separate disc). One of the new remixes, “Bullet the Blue Sky” is credited to Jacknife Lee, a producer U2 has worked with in the past starting with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. But there is a final remix, a new version of “One Tree Hill” listing a producer we had not seen before, St Francis Hotel. When we saw the announcement we did not associate the act St Francis Hotel with any past U2 recordings, but we’ve discovered that they’ve been involved with U2 for some time.

AUDIO: “You’d Gotta Be Alive” by St Francis Hotel

Who are St Francis Hotel? They are a two piece band located in London. The identities of the two members in the band has been obscured in all of the media about the band. Photographs of the band are blurred and adjusted to keep the identities unknown. So far all of the coverage relating to this band is short on information about who is part of this group. What we do know is that St Francis Hotel is the work of two people. Both are musicians, and both are identified as Irish. And it has been identified that both moved to London during the recent recession, and that they started their work together once in London. One interesting quote comes from the Kartel Music Group, which handles distribution for St Francis Hotel, “St. Francis Hotel know a thing or two about writing music. Having worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, they have the eyes sets on their own career.” That quote got us interested in learning a bit more about this act. And yes it appears they use the name without the “.” following “St,” as it is not used in the announcement, nor on social media.

AUDIO: “Mondello” by St Francis Hotel

The first appearances of the name on social media came at the end of June 2016. They set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and a note appeared saying “St Francis Hotel Opens 29th July 2016.” They have since used social media to share their own tracks as well as those of others, and to share press about their recordings.

The debut single by St Francis Hotel was released digitally on July 29, 2016, and was called “Mondello”. Another track, “Beyond Mondello” was released digitally on September 2, 2016, and on September 23, 2016 a limited 7-Inch single was issued of the both tracks (MELT001). They have since released two additional tracks, “You’d Gotta Be Alive” released December 2, 2016, and “Stay As You Are” released January 27, 2017. A limited 7-Inch single of these two tracks was due on January 27, 2017 (MELT003), but has yet to be released. To date these four digital tracks, and two 7-Inch singles mark the total output of St Francis Hotel.

AUDIO: “Stay As You Are” by St Francis Hotel

The band is releasing material on Ross Allen’s Meltdown Music Production, and it is being distributed through Rough Trade. The listing on Rough Trade for the single “Stay As You Are” states:

New limited 7” single from the enigmatic production duo St. Francis Hotel on the legendary Ross Allen’s recently revived Meltdown Music Productions label.Their recent track Modello debuted by The Line Of Best Fit, who described it as “a classic pop track that hints at raw talent”.

The band are also releasing music through iTunes (USA) and Bandcamp. All four tracks are available for purchase through iTunes. At Bandcamp, both the limited 7-Inch vinyl and digital downloads are available.

AUDIO: “I’ve Had Enough” by Atlas Wynd

The name St Francis Hotel has also started to pop up in production and collaboration with other artists. On the new Lixo 7-Inch single, “Writer’s Block,” released in October 2016, the credits read “Mix and additional production by St Francis Hotel”. St Francis Hotel also turn up producing on the track “I’ve Had Enough” (MELT 002) from Brighton based act Atlas Wynd, who are also signed to Meltdown Music. Press for Atlas Wynd mention that the single “I’ve Had enough” was mixed by St Francis Hotel at their studio in East London (Hackney). Atlas Wynd do thank St Francis Hotel on their Facebook account, revealing a hint of the identity of the band members, “We recorded this along with a couple of other tracks with St Francis Hotel in their crem studio, it was great to work with them so a big thank you to Dec and Barry.” A look through U2’s back catalog finds a “Declan” and “Barry” together — on “Ordinary Love” Declan Gaffney is credited on piano and additional synthesizers, and Barry Gorey appears on synthesizers and wurlitzer on that recording.

VIDEO: “The Haunting” by Black Soul Strangers

Barry Gorey was the front man of the band Black Soul Strangers, which released an album in 2009, Animate. We have not seen any ties to U2 other than his performance on “Ordinary Love.”

Declan Gaffney is a musician / producer who has worked extensively with U2 over the years. He discussed how he got his start with U2, “I was working at Metropolis Studios in London and doing some assisting for Richard Rainey. Then Richard started working on the record with U2 in Dublin he’d actually been working on it for about a year when he rang me and said that a position was opening up for an assistant and would I like to come over and help him.” That was the No Line on the Horizon album, and he was listed as engineer and mixing on that album. Gaffney worked with U2 on Songs of Innocence as well, where he is listed as engineer and mixer throughout, as well as co-producer on “California” and “Raised by Wolves” and sole producer on “Volcano.” Gaffney has been working with U2 on mixing all of their live material, and he did this for the fan club releases U22 and From the Ground Up. Gaffney also made up one-half of the production team, “Fish out of Water” alongside Matt Paul, which was responsible for remixes of “Get On Your Boots,” and “Even Better Than the Real Thing.” Gaffney has also worked on vocal production for the re-releases of Achtung Baby, and other projects such as the song “Stranded” which The Edge and Bono recorded with Jay-Z and Rihanna, and the song “Bulletproof Pride” which Bono recorded with K’naan.

VIDEO: “Ordinary Love” by U2 featuring Gaffney and Gorey

The pieces all fit together, Gaffney and Gorey have worked together on the “Ordinary Love” single. Gorey moved from Donegal to London during the last recession, just prior to the release of the Black Soul Strangers album. Gaffney relocated from Dublin to work at Metropolis Studio in London around the same time, prior to being asked to work for U2 at their Dublin Studio. We have been able to confirm that it is Gaffney and Gorey who make up the duo St Francis Hotel. With Gaffney’s involvement in St Francis Hotel it makes sense that this little known duo would land themselves a spot remixing tracks from one of the biggest albums ever, The Joshua Tree. Also, Gaffney, as a previous producer of U2 fits the profile of the others mixing tracks for this 30th anniversary release, as each remix is being done by a producer that has previously worked with the band. Gaffney’s remix will sit on the same disc as ones by Jacknife Lee, Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Flood. A remix by Brian Eno is included in the box set, but on a separate disc.

VIDEO: “Even Better Than the Real Thing (Fish Out of Water Remix)” by U2 (remixed by Declan Gaffney and Matt Paul)

A further U2 connection to St Francis Hotel comes via photographer Eoin McLoughlin. McLoughlin has done the artwork for all of the St Francis Hotel work so far, and has been working with them before they made their media presence known on social media, as one of the first images posted was credited to McLoughlin. McLoughlin has worked with U2 in the past, and has traveled with the band during the U2360° tour and #U2ieTour. McLoughlin also worked with Black Soul Strangers in 2010 as director of photography on their music video “The Haunting”. It is McLoughlin’s photograph of crew hanging from the U2360° screen that was used for commercial copies of the book From the Ground Up.

AUDIO: “My Ghost” by Into the Ark

Gaffney and Gorey are also listed as writers alongside Welsh duo, Into the Ark, on their song “My Ghost” released last fall. We have included it above if you want another taste of something they have worked on together.

The new 30th anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree is released on June 2, 2017. The remix of “One Tree Hill” by St Francis Hotel will only be available in the boxed sets, and will not be available on the 2-disc version of the release. At this time the audio of any of these new remixes has not been released.

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