The South London scene has got pretty bloody big lately, what with Shame releasing one of the best albums of the year and all that. It’s actually got so big that now it includes Dublin. Don’t believe us? How else do you explain Fontaines D.C., residing in Ireland’s capital but playing regular shows In London and supporting Shame on tour?
Jokes about the relentless expansion of greater London aside, when we catch up with the band in Camden, they’re thoughtful about why exactly they are doing so well in the UK at the moment.
“I think a lot of it comes from Steve Lamacq,” starts guitarist Carlos O’Connell. “He’s been a great champion of the band from the beginning, and we’ve done all sorts with him. We recorded a session for his show, did a takeover of a show in the summer… loads of stuff.
“I think it also comes from us as well, we wanted to get out of Ireland with our music because a lot of bands do get stuck there, so we put a lot of energy into the English crowd right from the start. We were playing shows in London very early on, and that’s where we got involved with bands like Shame and IDLES. We definitely aimed to give England a lot of attention, because Ireland’s music scene can start to feel quite small after a while.”
“I think there was a fear that by focussing on England so much we might lose the support back home, that maybe the Irish crowd would stop caring so much,” bassist Conor Deegan interjects, “but it doesn’t seem to have happened at all. We played a couple of festivals there in the summer, and the crowd was amazing, just incredible. It’s beautiful playing in Ireland, and we love that people are still engaged with us even though we’re away all the time.”
“It can be inconvenient in a sense, but we just really love living in Dublin,” says Carlos. “We’re close to our family and friends, and the city is such a massive inspiration for us. We take so much from the literary heritage we have in Ireland. I think we’d all say we were poets and we all love Yeats and Joyce especially. We even reference James Joyce in ‘Boys in the Better Land’, because there’s such cryptic beauty in his novels.”
The music that the band have put out so far is undeniably influenced by Irish culture, history and heritage, and this is something that they’re keen to place front and centre going forward. “Dublin is probably the biggest theme on our upcoming album,” Conor says, without hesitation. “It’s a very personal and vulnerable record, but those feelings are tied up with storytelling based around our experiences in Dublin. Representing our home is something that’s very important to us.”
Not that they’re the only band in Dublin making good music though, something they’re quick to point out. “There is definitely a scene back home,” Carlos starts, clearly enthusiastic. “There are still so many people that could break out of Ireland, and they’re all making unique music that deserves to be heard. One of our favourite bands collectively is Girl Band, who have influenced the whole scene so much, really making it so that people aren’t afraid to make very different kinds of music.
“We’ve been really lucky because our manager Trev has helped us navigate through the pitfalls of the scene in a way that a lot of bands don’t manage to do. For example, there’s a massive EP culture in Ireland, and a lot of groups just get bogged down in releasing them, but they never have as much impact as when you release an actual full-length album.”
“That’s another reason why we came over to England so early on,” he adds. “Trev said we had to do it early and make sure we didn’t get stuck in Ireland, and he was right, it’s really helped.”
While conversations about the band’s scope may revolve around Ireland and England, their musical influences come from much further afield and aren’t as straightforward as they first appear.
“A lot of people don’t realise that we’re massively into the Beach Boys,” laughs Carlos. “There’s a huge surf element to our tunes, especially in the way we approach things. We try to keep things unpredictable, but not too experimental. I guess at the end of the day we’re a rock and roll band; we’ve been tagged as post-punk and all that kind of stuff, which I get because a lot of the songs are quite dark and bass driven. But we started with rock and roll, and while it’s harder as an arrangement when it comes to songwriting, I think that’s where we’re gonna stay. Straight up rock and roll.”
Words: Jake Hawkes