The Hot Seat: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

The Swell Season stops scavenging sidewalk trash to play Prospect Park.

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Bawling, binge-eating and hitting on bartenders are all normal activities after a breakup. Spending every day on a tour bus with your ex is not. But Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of folk-rock duo the Swell Season have never done things the normal way. While playing lovers in John Carney's exquisite 2006 musical film, Once, Hansard, now 40, longtime frontman for the Frames, and Czech songstress Irglová, 22, fell in love in real life. When the couple won an Oscar for "Falling Slowly," a song from the film's soundtrack, audiences swooned.

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Two years later, they broke up. But while the romance is gone, the Swell Season remains; their latest album, Strict Joy, came out in 2009, and they continue to tour, stopping in Prospect Park on Friday 30. But first, we talked to them about broken hearts and busking.

Do strangers try to persuade you to get back together?
Glen Hansard:
There's this one particular woman in the Dublin airport, every time she gives me a huge lecture on my relationship with Mar. We are both wrong and she's right and we should be together and that's that. She's gonna make it happen.

Do you feel people scrutinize your interactions?
Markéta Irglová:
I think it's natural for people to be curious. You have a circle of friends and among your circle, you observe the couples and talk about them. It's the same thing with me and Glen, but on a larger scale, because our relationship has been so public.

Hansard: I know I scrutinize it. Sometimes I'll be in a certain mood and me and Mar will hang out and it can be a bit intense. You know, where you find yourself looking at it too deeply.

We're guessing you'll be together less, since Markéta moved to NYC.
Irglová:
I found this gorgeous apartment in Noho and moved June 1. The other day I was walking home from Bed Bath & Beyond and had this moment of, Hold on a second, I'm walking in Manhattan with a bucket and mop in my hand. And it was like, Whoa, I do live here now.

This reminds us of your character in Once, dragging her vacuum cleaner through Dublin. Was a fondness for cleaning supplies part of what drew you to her?
Irglová:
The thing that struck me most was that she has this no-bullshit, Eastern European–woman thing about her. When I was reading the script, I was a 17-year-old girl in high school, and I aspired to that.

Will you complete the Swell Season's NYC takeover, Glen?
Hansard:
I feel like everyone needs to do their stint in New York. I remember one night I was walking with Mar and we were looking for a suitcase. We were on tour and needed an extra. And bang, we found one somewhere down below Houston—

Irglová: [Laughing] It was literally there on the street and we picked it up.

Hansard: New York is the kind of place that just gives you what you want. It goes, "All right, let's see if we can rustle up a suitcase for these guys," and there it is, right there on the sidewalk.

Glen, you used to be an actual street musician. Any get-rich-and-famous tips for the subway mariachi band?
Hansard:
I realize people are going to read this and be like, You fucking pompous dick, but I never busked for money—I still don't. If you do things for money, then money will be sorry to come to you. My advice to those guys is just to play the music they really like. It's the law of attraction rather than promotion. I remember reading that in an AA pamphlet.

Best place you've busked recently?
Hansard:
I went busking in Reykjavk [Iceland] and about a half hour in, I broke a guitar string. And Jnsi [Birgisson, the lead singer] from Sigur Rs walks out the door behind me and hands me a guitar. And he's like, "I live up here, drop it off when you're finished."

What's the process like when you guys write songs together?
Hansard:
We don't spend as much time in each other's company now, so it's become much more I write my song and she writes hers, whereas before, we would go out for a walk with a pen and paper and sit and punch around lyrics.

Do you have the experience of reading each other's lyrics and thinking, Ouch?
Hansard:
It would definitely be a lie to say that that hasn't happened, yeah.

Irglová: But having gone through all of this together, it would be a shame for our friendship to end because our romantic relationship ended.

People would benefit from your breakup philosophy. Ever think of writing a self-help book?
Hansard:
No, I think we should read more of them.

The Swell Season plays Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Fri 30.

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