Sometimes you love a band, and then they simply disappear. When you’re inclined to an affection towards a local act who even founded their own little scene through a label (Trout Records), and stoked it with their own boisterous, guitar-mashing live shows, these kind of ‘fade aways’ seems to happen all too often. Sometimes, likes with Spies in 2018, they band later returns in a blaze of glory.
The return of this particular fiery band whose early EPs set tongues wagging could hardly be more well-timed. Dublin’s rock scene is on quite a high, recently prompting a feature in NME which waxed lyrical about the strength of the city’s output, hyping the likes of Girl Band, Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital and Silverbacks.
With the return of Spies accompanied by a long overdue debut album in ‘Constancy’ (the band formed way back in 2011), there’s a marked change in style and substance. There are still plenty of those guitars, but gone are their overpowering domination, with elements of synth work and even a mellow album-closing ballad adding depth to Spies’ palette.
“We wanted to work on an album properly, so we took a step back from gigging. When the album was complete, we couldn’t see the wood for the trees,” vocalist Michael Broderick explains. “We weren’t really sure how good it was, so we decided to let it rest.” When the band finally returned to the stage with a new single in April of this year, it had been nearly two years since their last show.
“We started thinking about the keyboards and stuff when we finished producing our last EP, at The Meadow,” Broderick says of the stylistic change prevalent on the release, which follows three earlier short-form records. “We saw what we could do with all the equipment they had down there.”
“The new album is about coping with change. It’s about the inevitability of it in life, about how you can’t control your environment, so you have a really limited amount of control about how things change around you.”
“I was writing it when I was going through a lot of change in a relationship that goes all the way back to my adolescence. It wasn’t actually about the flux in the band, but I guess it could be seen that way, too. I hope people can listen to it and form their own thoughts on what it means to them.”
“One of closest friends is Morgan from [fellow breakthrough Irish act] Saint Sister, and we spent a lot of time talking about what our new music meant to us, and how to present it. The scene is really phenomenal at the moment. Some of the albums out this year in Ireland are incredible.”
The next big step for Spies, who are already well established in Ireland, is to look further afield. That’s challenging, especially for what’s still an independent band. “It definitely spreads the word, doing shows abroad,” Broderick says of the challenge. “It’s difficult to fund, though.”
“At the moment, we track our plays and most are in Ireland. When you travel, you have to play those shows to six people, and let things build over time, generate some talk. It’s very pricey when you don’t have any backing. A support tour would be the ideal.”
For their growing local fan base, though, the key thing is Spies are back on stage after a long, contemplative delay. They’re different, but the change is also a sign of growth, resulting in some soulful depth.