FADING PHOTOS star on the covers of Dublin rock band Fontaines D.C’s early singles, the images featuring a variety of street-famous Dubs of old. The story, we’re told, goes back to tales of local ‘characters’ passed down through generations in the west of Ireland.
When the band set up in one of Dublin’s most iconic districts, in the shadows of Guinness, they kept hearing similarly compelling stories of local ‘characters’, and the stand-outs became a core part of the band’s identity.
“We all lived in the Liberties together, and it became a big part of our lives. Both the people and the place. We’ve got so much love for it,” guitarist Carlos O’Connell tells us. “The Liberties got us really focused on authenticity, in particular in our vocals. So many Irish bands sounds Americanised. Our band’s accent is just that: ours.”
“We’ve found that authenticity travels. People respect it, even if they don’t always 100% understand it.”
There are plenty who won’t immediately connect with the harsh, jarring backdrop to plenty of five-piece Fontaines D.C tracks. They’re a well-constructed affront: intense and pulsating, lyrically oblique and layered in a kind of tonal grit that makes the guitars scream and the speakers judder. The vocals are almost spoken, yet manage to twist and cut. Tracks like ‘Chequeless Reckless’, ‘Hurricane Laughter’ and pointed reference ‘Liberty Bell’ have got the band jetting around Europe, though a first album remains out of sight around the corner.
“It’s going to be as live as possible,” bassist Conor Deegan of the album they’re working towards. “It’s all written. We’ll take a few days preparing and then go through it as we set up on stage, or as near as possible. We might get to it when we’re done touring.” There’s only a handful of touring off-days for the band between now and Christmas.
“It’s funny that a year ago we were doing our first 2FM session and we were so excited,” Deegan recalls. “It’s become normal so quickly. It feels great to have people coming to us, to have so much reach. The reception has been unreal, we’ve been on BBC6, Radio X, KEXP. You get caught up in the moment. We’ve had to try hard not to let days just pass by; to really appreciate it all.”
“We recently took over BBC 6Music, which was really surreal,” O’Connell says of the band’s finest off-stage moment to date. “It was so strange to do. We saw it as a chance to raise a flag for the Irish scene, so we played a lot of Irish stuff, Dublin stuff. It’s difficult to get a bit of success here. Sometimes we’re characterised as a bit of a backwater of the British scene. There’s so much good music here.”
“That said,” Deegan interjects, “we never wanted to be another Irish band only playing at home. Luckily, the characters we use in our songs seem to travel.”
“It’s like Ulysses, a little mythological,” he reflects on Fontaines D.C’s scatty but charismatic take on the Liberties locals. “It’s the gravity of the ordinary, making people of central focus and importance.”
“We’re best friends, and we’re very used to the touring life now, which makes this a whole lot easier. We really love it. The album will be coming sometime in 2019, and then the touring will be heavy after that.”
That won’t be something new. “We’ve been hanging around a lot with (notoriously impressive live punk band) IDLES, O’Connell concludes. “We keep turning up in the same place and find ourselves just hanging out. They’re like big brothers. I guess we’re learning from the best.”
This article is one of my weekly music columns 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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Fontaines D.C return to The Liberties to support Shame at the Tivoli Theatre on November 21, as part of their pan-European tour.