WHEN HALF your moderately successful, edgy rock band relocate to another country, that would, more often than not, mean the end of things. But not for Bouts.
The Dublin grunge-pop act have made distance a virtue, meeting sporadically for fierce bursts of musical activity, and building new song concepts via a busy WhatsApp group and a sheer drive to continue. Five years after finding themselves split across borders, the four-piece return with their best work yet, second album ‘Flow’.
“Barry [Bracken, vocalist] had moved to London in 2014, and then Niall followed over there not long after. That kind of meant we weren’t in a position to do any gigs,” drummer Daniel Flynn remembers. “We recorded some songs before they left.”
“It’s been about five years since we last toured. We released an EP [titled ‘Unlearn’] on cassette in 2016, but didn’t play any shows. Barry lives in Amsterdam now. Niall is still in London, but was in Laos for a while. There was a pretty major break on at that stage.”
“We officially decided to do another record a couple of years ago” guitarist Colin Boylan explains. “There were four really quite intense sessions to make ‘Flow’. The first was in London. Then we got a cottage for a few days in Connemara, and wrote about 15 demos, some electronic, some not. Then the last two sessions were done in Dublin over quick weekends.”
“We had the stuff from the London sessions that myself and Barry and Niall had done, rough sketches of ideas,” Flynn says. “We sent them around, and they floated around in our brain for a while. Barry had worked out a few other songs in Amsterdam, and he sent them up. When we all got back together, we had the starting points.”
“There were times when we played the same chorus for an hour, just for Barry to get a melody,” Boylan laughs. “One we played for a solid hour, ‘Love’s Lost Landing’, and we knew it was a single. We were really proud of our last album, but it’s really overwritten, and we can’t really listen to it now. This worked for us.”
The result is subtle yet accessible. Bouts have always been open about abundant pop-rock influences – Weezer, in particular, but also the likes of Ash and Pavement – but ‘Flow’ sees them add subtle electronic undertones for the first time. The band had long insisted that electronic tinges were completely off limits, but time has changed their approach, and while the synth-melodies still sit around the fringes of their tracks, they add a depth the band previously lacked.
“A lot of it’s about remembering why we wanted to be in a band, what we liked about it,” Flynn says of the new record. “It was ‘let’s enjoy spending time together and see what comes out of it’. It’s called ‘Flow’ in part because it’s about letting things take their natural course.”
“We’ve generally done things all ourselves, so it came naturally. It would be nice to have some support sometimes, but we had some delays and product damage and stuff in the past working with a label, and decided to go for our own record label. It’s a bit more work, but we’re happy to do it this way. It’s definitely going to be a big month ahead.”
“We kind of know what we want now, with regards to tones,” Flynn says, circling back to the record. “It’s a good time to come back. There are some people we know from years ago still doing what we’re doing, and loads of really great bands around we haven’t had time to see. It’s been a bit of a revival in Dublin. We’re still flying that flag.”