Dublin’s most popular dance act might have left behind the world of major labels, but with the addition of former Fight Like Apes vocalist Mary-Kate Geraghty to the band, an international-class distance runner on drums and an absolutely pulsating live show, they remain the act to be watching at Midnight (Midnight)
Few acts are quite like Le Galaxie. Locally notorious for their late-night festival shows, glowstick showers, shiny stage outfits and thumping dance-pop beats, they’ve evolved where their peers have stagnated. With the addition of an Irish music legend in Mary-Kate Geraghty, have the potential to push the boundaries a whole lot further, despite saying goodbye to major label Universal after just one album.
Their sound is euphoric: bleepy and charmingly sing-along, lively and driving. They bounce across the stage, blazing through tracks as if impressing at any individual show is the criteria for ever getting to do another. They’ve established a phenomenal depth of local loyalty in Dublin, in part thanks to the constant, lively evolution. It’s personified this time around in Geraghty.
“The decision to bring Maykay [Geraghty] in full time came in the middle of our sessions with the producer on this album,” frontman Michael Pope says of the band’s new addition. “She was doing vocals already, and came in during the latter third in more of a songwriting kind of way. We should have done it a year earlier, really.”
“It was like a movie. I kept it really cool in the office when they asked me, and then got outside and flipped, I was like ‘yippee’” Geraghty jokes. “Before that, I’d been doing at least one song a show with them for a while, but it’s bizarrely frustrating to go out, go crazy for three minutes and then come off.”
“We’d started to bring her on for more songs live, to do Love System and a couple of new songs” Pope continues. “The dynamic of her being on stage is like a bolt of lightning. It doesn’t detract at all from when she’s not on stage. We still have that balance. It isn’t all about myself and Mary, call and response or anything like that. It’s still about the band and what they’re doing, the vibe on stage. If anything, it’s become more dynamic, more intense, more joyous.”
“On every song, my role is different,” Geraghty adds. “There are a couple of songs now I get to do lead on. Then there’s duets, and there’s call and response. There won’t be changes to the old tracks to fit me in, though. As times goes on we might try and fit me into the female parts of more of the songs.”
“But like ‘Le Club’, you know, the vocal on that is part of the track, so that’ll stay as it is. There’s some other stuff I’m doing harmonies on. Stuff like ‘Put The Chain On’. It would be so ridiculous to mess with them just because I’m there. I think it’s kind of fun to come on and knock something out of the park on a song and then head off again. I won’t be taking part just because I’m there.”
Whilst Geraghty had been fronting Fight Like Apes for most of Le Galaxie’s career, she’s long been a fan, and being part of their latest offering ‘Pleasure’ gives her the outside perspective to see how she fits into their progress.
“I’d already seen as an onlooker that the band really aren’t afraid to adapt, to move and change,” Geraghty says, throwing in the planned addition of her own synth station – ideally a rotating one – to the Le Galaxie repertoire. “As a fan, I’d seen them go from completely kind of ambient instrumental, to a bit dancier, then to having vocals, then to having me.”
“It’s not like going into a company where there’s no room for promotion. Le Galaxie always has space to change. They’re open to anything. But they’re also very sure. You’re more than welcome to make suggestions, but if they don’t like them, you’ll be very politely told no. I like that.”
Pope already has big plans for Geraghty,, ones that are likely to fuse into the stage show in the coming months. “Mary will get her own synth station. Rotating. Nancy Wank, that’s what we’re calling her,” he jokes. “I know Mary wants that a lot.”
“I do, yeah,” Geraghty replies. “I would see that as being the two things that I do, the singing and the synth. It almost seems too easy just to bounce on the stage, sing a bit, and leave.”
“Our kind of dirty little secret is that for one night only last year, due to illness, we were down and member and Mary got up there and played the parts,” Pope says. “It’s going to be a big part of it in the next six months. Mary’s going to get her own synth cube. We didn’t realise the person who was missing, when they play keyboard, really slam down on every note, and Mary was there with her little fingers and her little shoulders…”
“Little fingers and little shoulders?!” Geraghty replies, jokingly outraged. “The very first note I played was a bum note, and it was so loud.”
Second Le Galaxie album ‘Le Club’ was released on Universal, a record deal that perhaps looked a little unlikely from the outside, given the band’s fiercely independent nature, but worked out extremely well for them as a one-shot deal.
“There was almost no downside to the whole thing,” Pope recalls. “We got great investment, great videos, great exposure. We couldn’t have afforded the twin vinyl package we got designed by an artist in Tokyo we found on Instagram. We wouldn’t have had the resources to do any of that. I’m not being disingenuous here, we did see it as a one-shot deal.”
“They were good enough to buy the album, completely finished. We had mixed it, mastered it, everything, it was done. They came along and threw their might behind it. There was no downside. We got a ‘Love System’ video, a ‘Le Club’ video, a ‘Put The Chain On’ video. These are all still doing the rounds.”
“When the pros list on signing with a label is pretty long, and the cons list is just ‘we don’t know’, you need to sign it,” Geraghty agrees. “We all kind of love the idea of remaining independent throughout our careers. I guess that is the dream. I remember talking to Mick about it when it was on the table. There was no good reason not to do it. It’s easy to say you were doing fine, but during that time attendance at shows went up.”
“The old trajectory of come out and get a record deal, and then ‘oh God, you lost your record deal’ doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t matter in the slightest,” Pope explains. “The bands on those labels are playing huge live shows, they’re on television, their records are all over the place. I don’t see the problem. At all.”
Strangely, the next move for Le Galaxie – ahead of ‘Pleasure’ – hasn’t been one back to complete independence, but a move to a record label in Austin, Texas called Red River. “We played in Cannes almost two years ago, on this scorching hot day,” Pope recalls. “It was so hot, and the centre was completely barren apart from us pasty fucks going nuts in all white. It’s an industry thing, and this guy Bob Frank saw the show which by our standards was quite poor. The laptop had a literal meltdown. Himself and our manager began this dialogue that we thought was all pie in the sky, until early last year, and then it seemed to become a real thing.”
“We thought the album would be out by October, we came out with ‘Pleasure’ the single a little too early. But we’re going to meet him in New York and then in Texas. He’s great. It’s going to be a real collaboration, and it’s another one of those things where there’s no downside. We get a whole new audience in the States.”
For me, Le Galaxie has always been about the live show, something that’s become notorious in Ireland. Pope agrees to an extent, but is keen to emphasize that it’s not everything. “It’s always been a two horse race between the live show and capturing that on record,” he says. “Initially, say for ‘ Le Club’, the idea was to capture those ideas in a studio setting. Live drums, live bass, live guitars. On this one, we approached it a different way. This album is a studio album. It’s meant to be, by design.”
“Before, some of the big live songs were played live for months or even years before they were recorded. These ones were written in the box, and now we have to learn to play them. It’s trick, especially since we worked with a producer for the whole album this time. There are a lot of someone else’s inputs and design choices.”
MayKay recalls her initial surprise, in fact, at how close the live show was to the recordings. “I was shocked how much they do live when I first joined,” she says. “The could have got away with doing a lot less. The energy on stage is so good, but they do so much on stage, which is really important to me.”
“There’s a weird purist vibe there for us,” Pope explains. “We can’t go on the road with all the stuff we cherish. You just can’t. I was talking to Erasure’s tech crew, as they were stuck here for about three days because they had cancelled shows. I was asking what Vince used, if he has a big bank of synthesisers. No. He has a big laptop with all his tracks on it, because it makes more sense. We’re purists in terms of what we record being really warm and analogue, but if you simplify and digitise it, it’s much easier. You can play a lot more of it. Unless you’re in the privileged positions of your LCD Soundsystems or your Soulwax, it’s not realistic.”
“Everyone has their dream setup, stage size, dream instruments,” Geraghty agrees. “In Fight Like Apes, Jamie used to play these instruments on a song and be all like ‘that sounds great’ and I’d just be there going ‘not happening, ever’.”
The ‘Pleasure album was already finished when Le Galaxie went on a bit an aside earlier this year and reproduced their own version of ‘Apocalypse Now’ as a promotional event for Smithwicks, something that turned out to be a whole lot of work.
“That was interesting,” Pope says. “It was really quite a unique thing for us to try, to write six pieces of original music. It was a huge amount of work, incredibly challenging. We had to find our six moments in the movie and work with them. I know it’s probably what some people do for a living, soundtracks, but it’s not something we’ve done. It had to be dynamic and vibrant and huge as a stage show.”
“If we were told we had to sit at home and write six bits of music, it would have been something different. What we did, it was dancy in parts, post-rocky in parts and really kind of Hans Zimmer-y in parts. I was thinking about deleting the folder from my desktop last night, but I decided not to. Because there’s no need. We did four shows of it, and I think three of them were great and one of them was shite. That’s a pretty good hit rate, because we didn’t play Le Galaxie’s music. We actually own all the music, so that’s good.”
“The one in Dublin was fantastic. They knew what they were getting. It was a home crowd, but there were no illusions that they were going to hear Love System. They went with us in an incredible way. I remember the roar when the first song kicked in. We’ve had a published in the US for a number of years,” Pope explains of the need to keep ‘ownership’ of things like the Apocalypse Now music. “It’s good to have that in your kitbag.”
The vinyl version of ‘Pleasure’ will actually be the first record to be released from Dublin Vinyl, a new vinyl pressing plant in Glasnevin. “They’re booked up for years,” Pope tells us. “They won’t get any free time until every band in Ireland has gone through them. It’s about time, we’ve sent away to Prague, and outsourced this huge industry everyone wants a part of over the years. The reaction you get when you post a picture of your vinyl says it all. People are like gimme…”
“If you go on tour and have different bits of merch, t-shirts, CDs, records etc, there are some places where nobody will go near the records,” Geraghty says. “There are others where you sell 20 in one night. It’s just a particular scene. There are some places who have a particularly strong scene around it and a great record shop, like Rollercoaster Records in Kilkenny, and loads of places in the UK and Europe.”
“You usually find they have a really amazing record shop owner who keeps it all really vibrant. I’m really glad that it’s happened.”
“I think bands have chosen against vinyl in part because of the time involved in printing, but this changes everything over here,” Pope continues. “When you can go to the plant and see your test pressing, hold it in your hand… It’s a comfort thing, as well. It was always very daunting, to even think about vinyl ten years ago was unheard of.”
“We got vinyl once where everything was backwards. Just a mirror. It was crazy,” Geraghty recalls of her Fight Likes Apes days, laughing.
“It’s a sign of where we are now in terms of variety of acts in the country. There were only a couple of electronic acts around the Thumped crew ten or fifteen years ago, it’s totally different now. There are live dance acts out doing it every single week. If you’d gone to an Ireland showcase a few years ago, it would have been bands, lads, lads, lads, bands. Now the hip-hop scene and the dance scene are both unreal. Those showcases really are something special. If you had to put a flag on it, you’d be really proud of it as an Irish showcase.”
There’s one last aside that has to be made on Le Galaxie: drummer Al Higgin’s propensity for extreme distance running – he often covers a half marathon a day, and has been known to hit triple figures in kms in a single run.
“He was drumming the other day in this t-shirt about a 50km race,” Pope jokes. “When we were in the studio one Saturday, he was missing, and then there was this knock on the door, and he came in, and he showed us this little trophy. We were like ‘did you win’, and he was just like ‘yeah, I won’. He’d run 100 kms, like two and a half marathons, and won. And then come into the studio.”
“The guy has more energy than anyone. He’s a busy man. I just don’t think his muscles get tired. Many times he’ll have run a marathon and then he’s in there sweating through his t-shirt playing drums with us hours later. These incredible achievements of his are the least overbearing achievements I’ve ever known. I don’t feel intimidated, I don’t feel he lauds it over you. He just happens to be a fantastic ultramarathon runner. Occasionally he just casually drops it into a conversation that he came third in a 100-mile race.”
As for Le Galaxie, it feels like the laughs are as key as the work ethic. These two might be in the middle of a long press day, but they’re effortless in their love for what they do, joking around throughout, and it suits them. So drummer Al Higgins will continue to show up to practise a few hours after running 24-hour races and batter his drum kit like it’s not a thing. Michael Pope, dressed in a silver shell suit with glitter flashes smeared across his face, will egg on the crowd with glow sticks and triumphant gestures. Mary-Kate Geraghty… she’s a Dublin music icon, and for Le Galaxie, right now she’s their great unknown.
Le Galaxie’s third album Pleasure is out this Friday, April 6.
This article is a greatly extended version of my weekly music column for the Dublin Gazette, reproduced here with permission. Note: this column is published in the Dublin Gazette several days ahead of on this website. The Gazette is a freesheet paper available across Dublin, published on a Thursday. Pick up copies at these locations.
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