Dublin quintet Fontaines DC have already seen huge success with their debut album ‘Dogrel’, which charted at number 8 in the UK back in April, and has seen the band spending every single weekend touring in a different city since.
We spoke with the band’s guitarist Carlos O’Connell at the end of their huge festival touring cycle to see how being shortlisted for the Hyundai Mercury Prize fared up too.
What was the initial process for writing ‘Dogrel’?
Half of it was written the year before we signed to Partisan. We’d released a few of the singles on our own. ‘Liberty Bell’ was the first single and then ‘Hurricane Laughter’, then ‘Chequeless Reckless’ and ‘Boys In the Better Land’, so we did all of that kind of stuff. We just wrote those songs when we were still working odd jobs. We just released 7” of each one of them. Then when we signed to Partisan we quit our jobs and just went into a room for two or three months last summer and wrote the rest of the album there. We recorded it with Dan Kerry in London. That was a really cool experience. Most of the album was played live from start to finish, we didn’t really focus on the songs, we mostly focussed on the whole album.
It’s funny looking back on it and seeing how easily it came together. We had so much spare time, it’s not like it is now where we’re constantly on the road and don’t really have much time to think about anything at all. We’re just constantly, like, dead. It was really relaxed pace doing that and it’s something we really treasure looking back on now.
What were some of the things that you wanted to explore?
I mean it’s really just trying to give each song the best arrangement and service we can get with production, and not trying to limit ourselves to one sound. It was trying to explore whatever we thought was necessary. That’s the main thing really. And to try and subvert and cliches that came up as much as possible and just to talk about our lives and experiences in Dublin as honestly as we could. Without any bullsh*t, I suppose.
It’s been received so well! How has that felt?
Good and bad. It’s really great obviously, it’s hard to make it feel real. It kind of feels like this information that’s actually separate to your personal life. It’s not so much about how well it’s been received, people might expect for you to be over the moon but especially when it happened so sudden like it did for us, it all exploded, and that’s the point where you lose track of feeling what’s what. You’re expected to feel over the moon about everything but you don’t really have time to process everything. Sometimes it’s just realising that you can’t feel those feelings sometimes because they make you feel down and empty, but I think that’s to do with not stopping. We haven’t really had time to stop and take it all in.
“We didn’t approach this album as something that would get us success.”
Why do you think people love it and have connected with it so much?
I just think it’s an honest album. Musically, we didn’t try to do anything that was being done. We didn’t approach this album as something that would get us success, which I think happens a lot. I think the fact we didn’t do that is refreshing. And it’s honest, it’s sincere. People identify with certain lyrics for different reasons. I think the live performances - we’re not really about performing, we just play how we feel on the day - I think that’s something that’s good about it. We’re always going to play an honest show, we’re not going to pretend. I think that honesty, you can’t ignore it, and a lot of people need that nowadays.
How does it feel being shortlisted for the Hyundai Mercury Prize compare?
We heard about it and then got time to process it about 12 hours later. It’s one of those things that none of us set out to form a band to get an award, we all just wanted to write tunes with our mates. All this extra stuff is really nice and heartwarming and you can justify it to your parents and your family! The thing that really makes it worth while is the same that it always was which is going into a room and writing with the lads. It’s really great to be shortlisted but it’s not our main thing in life.
I don’t think any of us knew that much about the Hyundai Mercury Prize before. It’s from a different generation! And an Irish band has never won it, so it’s not really hugely talked about. I was excited last year when Dan Carey said “This album is going to be shortlisted for the Mercury. 100%.” I got really excited then but that was September last year, so I kind of feel like it wasn’t really that much of a surprise! I already thought that we were gonna get it because Dan Carey said it!
For more information on this year’s Hyundai Mercury Prize, head to mercuryprize.hyundai.co.uk.
The 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize Awards Show is on Thursday 19th September at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith. It will feature live performances from many of the shortlisted artists.
Watch live on BBC Four at 9pm on 19th September.
Brought to you as part of our media partnership with Hyundai.
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