Introducing your next big band crush Courting, who refuse to stick to the tired old clichés.
Words: Jamie MacMillan. Photo: Marieke Macklon.
“Are we responsible for Kanye’s divorce?” asks Courting’s Sean Murphy-O’Neill precisely three minutes into our chat. “I’m not sure? I hope we’re not actually cursed…” Never mind David Byrne then, it seems like it might be Courting’s badside that you want to avoid, after a string of “unfortunate incidents” that seem to be following any Twitter mention or lyrical namedrop from the band. “I’m not sure that’s the best angle we wanna run with,” he laughs in a whirlwind chat that takes in perfect potatoes and pancakes, indie beefs and chart battles. As well as some actual music. Welcome to Courting then.
Coming from a fine tradition of Indie Twitter nonsense purveyors, the Liverpool band have been talking a good game for a while. But good chat only goes so far, and they’ve been backing it up with the hottest of hot streaks when it comes to this run of singles. You’ll have likely heard ‘Grand National’ by now of course, a blast of frenetic indie-pop that is a reference to 100gecs as well as being a close runner and rider to the chaos of Sports Team. Arriving so soon after ‘Popshop!’ and ‘David Byrne’s Badside’, it tells us pretty much everything we need to get properly excited and smashes the myth that bands can’t break out in these times of not being able to play shows.
“It’s been kind of a blessing and a curse,” admits Sean. “Because on one side, we don’t get to do the fun bit, which is play shows and see what our hard work is doing. But on the other side, it’s given us time to refine what we were doing and finish the EP. It was a nice respite to focus on what actually mattered.”
Describing the EP as a “mission statement”, Sean sees ‘Grand National’ as being “a logical conclusion to the type of music we’ve been writing for the last two years” but expects ‘Crass’ to be the transition point into their first record. With that and ‘Slow Burner’ signalling a more overtly post-punk sound, albeit one with a million and one references chucked in for good measure, the band are at that exciting point when they could go anywhere next. It’s textbook music of 2021, taken from a love for music as diverse as the likes of SOPHIE, Charli XCX, Beastie Boys, 100gecs and Black Country, New Road. In other words, begone with your tired references to The Fall.
“Yeah, we pull from a lot of things,” Sean agrees. “Our whole ethos is to take from what interests us and make it available to people who wouldn’t usually look for them. I think it’s a case of not wanting what we do to get stale; I’m fearful of being pushed into a box, I suppose.” As happy to be in the pop world as any other, there’s a refreshing honesty about the band and who they want to appeal to. “My opinions of what our music is, is so far disconnected from what other people clearly think. I’m not making music to drag you in, but I’m not consciously pushing people away, which I feel a lot of others do,” he explains. “They purposely make things weird to get cultural cool points, trying to look a lot cooler than they actually are.”
Talk turns to nonsense and ‘the curse of Courting’ soon enough. Kanye’s namechecking in ‘Crass’, right before news of his divorce with Kim, follows a pattern. Pontins getting caught banning Irish names right after their ‘Popshop!’ mention? Check. Daft Punk announcing their retirement the day after Sean bigged them up on Twitter? Yup. Worrying times for 100gecs then, one of the inspirations for ‘Grand National’.
“There’s a problem there, isn’t there?” admits Sean. “But if my career choices lead to the end of 100gecs, then I’m going to dissolve the band immediately. At that point, our actions are irreversible.”
Everybody loves a bit of indie Twitter chaos, and we’re no exception. From Sports Team getting set upon by a pack of angry Gaga stans, to Alfie’s irrational hatred of cucumbers, it is the wind beneath our wings. And it is something that Courting excel at. Three-minute-long listening parties, pancake flipping live streams, roast potato competitions with Circa Waves, it’s all going on.
“I worry whenever anyone asks about Twitter,” he laughs. “Because I’ve often forgotten what I said. I see a lot of bands who are really miserable on social media, and I think my god. There’s no need. We try to just take the piss.”
We interrogate Sean about his cooking tips, and he delivers the goods. “Perfect roast potatoes? Rapeseed oil and cover them in flour; that’s standard. I don’t think I’m breaking the book here, but I am good at it; I’ll tell you that,” he explains modestly. “It’s my goal to teach every single person who likes our music how to do a proper roast.” He moves onto pancakes. “I think they deserve more attention than they get; it’s surprising how many people are bad at making them,” he says, plainly having seen some of the attempts from Dork’s finest. “But when you perfect it, it’s almost an art form. Vanilla extract, that’s the one there. I’ve always said, if the band fails, then I could start an entrepreneurial cheffing business. I can only cook three things, though. Roasts, pancakes and good muffins. Main course, breakfast and dinner. That’s it.”
After a recent thwarted attempt to generate a bit of indie beef, who would Sean most like to beef with if given a choice? His answer is immediate. “Oasis, the entirety of Oasis. If Liam Gallagher wants to argue with me, then it’s on,” he says. “But I think Liam would like us, and Noel would hate us; I don’t think he’d be into it. But if Noel Gallagher wants to be our biggest fan, then I’m all for it. It’s like a litmus test, like in the way they dislike Blur, and they’re very good. So if being disliked by Oasis makes you a good band, then I can’t lose. I either end up with Oasis as my fans, or they call me bad, which means I’m actually good.”
He promises that there’s logic there. Somewhere. Hoping to avoid any of the big guns in a chart battle when the album gets released, “I want to stay out of the territory of anyone with annoying fans, I can’t deal with the stress,” he laughs, though knowing their cursed luck, the chances are that it’ll be Kanye. With plans in place for tours now that gigs look to be back on the horizon, we bid our fond farewells. An hour later, they are slagging The Stone Roses off on Twitter. Ian Brown is next for the curse then, but this one’s fine. Just leave 100gecs out of it, yeah?
Taken from the May 2021 edition of Dork, out now. Courting’s debut EP ‘Grand National’ is out now.