INTERVIEW: FONTAINES DC: Currently The Second Most Important Dublin Export to Guinness

Last year it was emotionally honest IDLES that were everyone’s ‘new favourite band’ and this year FONTAINES DC (who will be touring with IDLES in America this year) seem set to take this title. With every announced UK date sold out and Facebook event pages full of posts with people desperate for tickets, FONTAINES DC are set for a big year. With all this ahead of them we were excited to chat to bass player Deego last week about touring, the album, their history, Dead Poets Society, KEXP and much more.

What is your favourite thing about touring?

Listening to all the tunes in the van and watching DVDs that we buy in charity shops. We got “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” on DVD and forgot how good that movie is. All the other stuff is obvious; it’s class playing gigs and seeing all the places [but] that’s one of the unexpected things that you’d never think about when you were younger.

Tell me about band friendships on tour?

It’s like when you have a honeymoon period in a relationship and you move past that into the ‘real relationship’, it’s kind of like that but with a friendship.

‘The American food is crazy; its almost post modern.’

I heard that Carlos on the bands trip to Seattle had a pancake burger, what is that? Have you managed to have another one since?

We were in Cloud Lake Café in Seattle. The American food is crazy; its almost post-modern the way they put things together. It’s unholy to Europeans. Pancake burger, there you go; he had one, I don’t eat meat. A few of the other lads are vegetarians and vegans now as well.

You’ve revealed that your history as a band and music has a background in poetry commenting that you feel that people at the moment people ‘have a desire to understand the human condition’. Is this human condition theme going to be elaborated on in the forthcoming album and what do you think is causing this change in society?

When information comes so immediately available and so much of it becomes available at the same time it becomes more about how you use the information and what information is really relevant to you. The human condition is turning the lens inwards instead of outwards; trying to find what’s really important to you and which of all this information is really relevant to your life because you’re so overwhelmed with it all the time. I’d say that’s why we look towards that sort of thing in music. The other songs on the album that haven’t been released yet, we’re kind of meditating in an indirect way on different themes like that.

Putting up loads of videos of yourself on Instagram where you are talking about where you ate lunch or what pair of shoes you bought isn’t really going to enhance anyone’s appreciation of your art. The music is for the person listening to it as well. Even if you were putting up really interesting artistic statements I don’t think it would benefit the listener because it’s [the music] supposed to be personal.

 ‘It’s like a city [Dublin] that’s just got over the slump part of the day hungover and starts to feel good again.’

With your earlier comments, lyrics in Too Real ‘Is this too real for ya?’ and lyrics in Chequeless Reckless ‘what’s really going on!’ all feeling like your barbed stab and observation on society; can you give us a bit of a window what life is like in Dublin right now?

It’s like a city [Dublin] that’s just got over the slump part of the day hungover and starts to feel good again. It’s after the economy crashed there [Dublin] and it’s really good again economically again but people still have the scars of it, they’re wary and not as materialistic as they were in the past and they’re focused on different things which is really, really cool to see. Someone my age 10 years ago before the crash would have been focused on all things more materialistic and now they don’t really talk about that stuff at all, they talk about experience which is really interesting. Other than that it’s the same old Dublin.

Being a band who all have a keen interest in poetry does that mean you have multiple members of the band writing lyrics and coming up with song themes?

It’s a case to case basis how the songs are written but for this album anyway it’s pretty much all Grain apart from 1 song that’s Connor (the guitarist) lyric-wise but Grain finished it off. I threw in a line or two on Dublin City Sky; the last song on the album but other than that it’s just down to him having a really coherent voice. We all are poets and read books together but if we all threw work at it, it would be more difficult to get recognised as a band that can connect to it. Your voice was all over the place, so we thought it’d be more prudent to stick to one person for the first album anyways.

‘The line between a lyric and a poem is very vague and even legally it’s very vague.’ 

Chequeless Reckless begins in a way that very much sounds like a piece that was originally a poem but now sung, is that the case? I’m aware you released a poetry book ‘Vroom’, are any of those poems or other pieces originally purely written as poems now FONTAINES DC songs?

The song ‘TV Screens’ was a poem that me and the lads had music that we were just jamming and then Grain had a poem and we put it on top. Chequeless Reckless was a collection of observations that Grain had collected in his notes on his phone which is like the modern version of a notebook I suppose.

There’s no poems from our poetry books that were put into the songs directly like that. Southern City Sky’s was kind of a poem. The line between a lyric and a poem is very vague and even legally it’s very vague.

‘There was no Robin Williams type character. It was a little bit more rated for 18s’

You’ve spoken in interview about sharing poems and poetry in college, this paints the immediate picture of the Robin Williams classic Dead Poets Society; how similar were your college poetry experiences to this?

I mean there was no one standing up on tables or anything like that, there was no Robin Williams type character. It was a little bit more rated for 18s; we were going out drinking and sitting in bars, late nights poetry and passing books around, talking about poets. It was very, very inspiring I suppose that movie; we were inspiring each other on a daily basis it was almost competitive with each other as well on who can bring this fresh idea about this poet or who can bring a new poem and use this different [technique]. We probably learnt more about writing lyrics or poems from that than I did from college.

I notice you comment a lot in interviews about Whitman who is mentioned a lot in Dead Poets Society too

[To quote Walt Whitman] ‘I leaf and I loaf’d and I sing the song for myself’ and all that. Sing the song itself is very important, I always think of it as one of my maxims, from Whitman anyways.

In the video for ‘Too Real’ you’re wearing ping pong balls for eyes and you as a band have commented in interview that it gave you awareness of how debilitating having your sight impaired was; would you rather do a video with your sight impaired or your hearing impaired (you don’t have to play instruments in either)?

I think [I’d prefer to be] hearing impaired because with being sight impaired all I could hear was the music so you kind of coordinate with your playing the instruments to the music so that was useful but if I’m not playing the instrument and I can see but can’t hear I’d probably act more naturally in what I’m doing and it’d be better in that way; less contrived and more genuine. I’d rather be neither, ya know!

‘One thing we said is that we don’t want to come off as cool we want to come off as weird and wirey and unnerving.’

Who came up with the ping pong balls idea and what does it represent?

The director is Hugh Mulhern, he did our last video as well. We said we want to make a video influenced by Pogues- ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, Girl Band and influenced by various other elements and he combined them together. One thing we said is that we don’t want to come off as cool we want to come off as weird and wirey and unnerving because I think when bands try and come off as really cool in their videos it comes across as contrived and stupid. So, he came up with the idea of the ping pong balls to kind of undermine the idea of us trying to come off as cool, serious artists. Imagine if we didn’t have ping pong balls in our eyes and the video had all the zooming and serious music we’re probably come across as really try hard. Putting on those eyeballs [ping pong balls] disarms the listener and disarms ourselves and lets the art speak for itself.

How has it been to tour with and how do you feel about the prospect of touring with IDLES?

We really admire them [IDLES] and really like their music but [musically] they’re not direct influences [on the type of music we make]. As people they are [an influence], definitely IDLES as people, they’re really great guys. To be on tour with them is unbelievable, I’m really looking forward to seeing America. I don’t really know what it’s going to be like or what to expect. I’m trying to leave it to the experience and not try and build up any expectations.

When you did a session on KEXP you and presenter John Richards revealed the bar you were playing in that night; did that make for a wild busy night? Tell me about that night?

Well you can definitely tell that KEXP is a real radio station that people actually listen to which is unbelievable because people did show up and it was really full; it was buzzy; it was full of music lovers. It felt like music lovers coming together in a big city. It was a tiny Irish bar with a tiny stage. When you’re Irish coming to America it’s such a feeling it’s almost hard wired into your genetics, it’s almost instinctual to go to America. To go there and play has this really weird pay off feeling.

‘Conquering [America] is very dramatic. We’re not egotists, but we’d definitely like to.’ 

KEXP last year and now SXSW in 2019 off the back of a tour with a band (IDLES) with a strong following in America feels like the perfect start to a bands American career, how does it feel to be playing SXSW and do you have your sights set on conquering America?

I suppose yes, we’d love to have success in America. We love people to listen to our tunes and enjoy them and we love to see those places and play there. Conquering is very dramatic. We’re not egotists, but we’d definitely like to.

Is the album likely to be released by the April tour and will there be any more singles released prior to the album?

They’ll be another single and the album probably won’t be out for the April tour, it’s out end of April/start of May depending on a few things. But yeah, there’s a new single and a music video or two and a few little things. I can’t talk about it too much.

‘We’re writing our second album. We went jamming last Saturday and wrote two songs.’

This year is packed with your debut album, your own headline tour and an American tour with IDLES, what else do we need to know or be ready for with FONTAINES DC and 2019?

To be honest that’s quite a lot, [but] we’re writing our second album. We went jamming last Saturday and wrote two songs. We’re trying to get the second album out for 2020. That’s what we want to do.

How did the new songs feel?

They felt really good, because all the time we’ve been on the road and stuff we haven’t been able to jam together because we’ve been playing gigs and been in the van for hours when all we want to do jam. We’d all been jamming on our own and coming up with different ideas and then when we come into the room and jam for a couple of hours it’s very easy for a song to come out because some of the ideas just fit together naturally. It’s very exciting; you just want to make sure the second album is good as well. We want to do it right.

To hear what they’re like live check out our Southampton gig review too.

Questions: James Wadsworth