Slow-building and delicately constructed, Gypsies On The Autobahn are a subtle band, performing like a mainstream pop-rock band that occasionally flits into the realms of something more musically leftfield, or far more profound and nuanced.
The Dubliners have been on the go for a long time. With their band made up of brothers Dan and James Smith, together with Gary Quinn and Niall Mooney, they’ve existed as a band since the brothers were in their fourth year of secondary school. It’s clear there’s a certain predominance of music in the Smith household, too: their younger brother is also making waves in hip-hop, under the moniker Kojaque.
There’s a lot of angst to be found in Gypsies On The Autobahn’s music, and for singer James Smith, the band act as a kind of release. Second album ‘Suspended’ came out this summer, following on from 2017 debut ‘Born Brief’.
“Things were tough, life wise, around the time of the first album” Smith recalls, “especially around the first album, really. My dad committed suicide when I was young and I always felt like I had to be a kind of father figure. I was quite young, and it created something I needed to get over. Once that was out of my system, I had to work on myself, getting over problems myself which I’d set aside.”
“A lot of my lyrics are about me getting over my own problems. My brothers are all capable of doing it themselves now, they’re old enough. It can be scary dealing with your own stuff. It can be tough to stand up there and deliver the lyrics that talk about it, too, but I think it’s necessary in this day and age. I think people can gather a lot of hope from vulnrability. It can be a weight, too, I think. A lot of artists feel the need to be something of a tortured artist so that they feel like they have something proper to say.”
Turmoil, clearly, is simply part of Smith – and the band’s – life so far, and so flows into their output. In fact, it’s there to such an extent that there’s regularly conflict within the band that drives their music forward. It can make life a little difficult, but also drive creativity.
“I try to write after the fact, not in the middle of something,” Smith says. “I need to process something first. I don’t want to be too downtrodden, I want to have a message that’s helpful, and not too negative. Rubicon, the last single, was kind of written in that moment. The last chorus ended up being about figuring the whole thing out.”
“Nialls and I, we’ve always butted heads a bit,” he continues. “The other two guys are kind of a buffer. The harmony comes when we’re playing, I guess. Being in a creative space is kind of a melting pot, and eventually you just burst. Writing this record, the whole thing spilled over.”
“We were lucky that the album was broken up into three different bits, because of our schedules, and it brought a new energy. We wrote the songs between sessions, and by the time we got to the end there was a different energy in the room, we’d forgiven each other. I’m not great with tension, I don’t enjoy it, but it definitely helps creatively. There has to be some kind of pull and drag, otherwise it’s just one person’s project. That’s never what we wanted it to be.”