A stroll down memory lane with Kerry’s new chart stars…

DINGLE FIVE-PIECE Walking On cars are hot property right now. So much so, in fact, that when we finally manage to catch up with the Kerry five-piece, it’s back stage at a festival in the Czech Republic. They’ve just performed to a crowd of tens of thousands on the main stage at Colours of Ostrava – the only Irish act on the bill – and clearly won over a heap of new fans. But it hasn’t always been quite so glamorous.

The Dingle act got off to a somewhat iffy start, in fact, as they went topsy turvy in their home town. “We booked a gig, and then we wrote the songs to play that gig,” singer Pa Sheehy tells the Gazette. “One of the songs we still play now, ‘Don’t Mind Me’, dates back to then. ‘Speeding Cars’ didn’t come too long after that.”

“We just stood in a kitchen for two or three nights a week until we wrote them. But the first couple of gigs were shocking. I feel sorry for people who were there,” Sheehy recalls.

“We’ve been quite lucky playing so many international shows,” Sorcha Durham says of the current Europe-wide tours. “‘Speeding Cars’ got a lot of radio play, and we gained fans from there.” The European Border Breakers Award, which the band collected for ‘success outside their own country’ earlier this year is indicative of how an act still based in rural Dingle has flooded onto the international market.

“You start from the bottom and work your way up, from small venues to middle sized venues, that’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years,” they modestly explain. Those ‘medium sized venues’ now include fields.

“It’s really different going on to stages like this, but it’s not like we swapped a pub in Dingle for festival stages,” Sheehy recalls. “You can never fully get used to it, but it’s been a gradual change, and in some ways it’s more nerve wracking playing a pub. A pub is just so intimate.”

“There’s been some amazing moments, like the first time we got a tour bus. It’s all bunks, with a lounge and kitchens and stuff like that. That blew our minds. It still does to be honest.”

‘Speeding Cars’, strangely as the band’s biggest hit, almost didn’t make last year’s debut album ‘Everything This Way’, as singer Sheehy was less than sure about the track.

“We always knew it had something,” he recalls, “but it was much slower, and I was kind of sick of it. I did suggest leaving it out, but the producer disagreed – it was his favourite track, in fact – and that was that. The rest of the band liked it, too. It turned out it was the one. It didn’t really come together until we were in the studio, basically, the guitar went through this big evolution in the studio, and then it came together.”

The studio, in fact, was never easy. “The songs kind of evolve like that, almost like a warzone, with each of us pulling backwards and forwards. But if someone feels really strongly about something we’ll always give it a chance. By the time we go out on stage all that’s done, and we just go out and enjoy.”

“We heard a really great one about how Oasis slow their songs down, because of how long they take to get to the back of their crowds, which I thought was great,” Sheehy recalls. “But we don’t really think like that. We just do our thing and hope people like it.”

The opportunities will keep coming, undoubtedly, with a major label backing the five-piece, and a sizeable fanbase building. “We weren’t really looking for a label when Virgin came along,” Sheehy recalls. “We were only willing to get involved with someone who would accentuate what we were doing. There’s not really the same need for labels that there was in the old days, you can do a lot yourself.”

“But Virgin liked what we were doing, and we’ve only had good experiences with them. They believed in what we were doing, and just told us to keep on doing it, so they’ve been really supportive. I suppose it was easier because we were getting radio play and selling out tours across Ireland before they came along, and so they could see that it was working.”

It certainly has worked: ‘Everything This Way’ went to number one in Ireland, and has now gone platinum. It also sold close to 100,000 copies in Germany. The Dingle act’s 2017 tour schedule has included – on top of our encounter in the Czech Republic – stop offs in Dubai, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, and Holland, as well as extensive trips around the UK and Ireland.

As for the future? “We’re in the middle of writing our new album,” Durham reveals. “We do festivals at the weekend and work on the album during the week, and we really can’t wait to get it out there. We’re already playing a few new songs, so it’s coming.” So, we suspect, is a whole lot more.

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, so at times, some columns may be slightly out of date. The Gazette is a freesheet paper available across Dublin, published on a Thursday. Pick up copies at these locations

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