This time last year, Fontaines DC were softly tipped as ones to keep a close eye on in preparation of debut album ‘Dogrel’. Fast forward 12 months and, with a UK Top 10, tours sold out worldwide and more huge dates already ahead of them, they now sit comfortably as the guitar band of the moment.
After such a whirlwind period, you’d probably forgive the Dubliners for taking a lengthy and well-earned rest. But, as guitarist Carlos O’Connell explains to us just weeks after rubbing-stamping Album Two, going straight back into the scrum was the quintet’s way of processing their frenetic, non-stop year. “Writing is how we find happiness,” he affirms. “No matter where you are, or what you have, if you weren’t still writing and creating, not much of it would make sense. It’s something that we just need to do.”
After penning nearly 30 songs in a slither of downtime at the end of last summer without the specifically-defined intention of writing an album, a handful of the new material “felt like it followed a theme and complemented each other,” Carlos tells us, and thus the idea of Fontaines’ as-yet-untitled second record was born. Streamlining and whipping the material into shape around near-constant touring, the band then hit ‘Dogrel’ producer Dan Carey’s South London studio (which also serves as the HQ for DIY label-du-jour Speedy Wunderground) at the very beginning of 2020.
“He’s got a very privileged position, you know,” Carlos explains of their decision to work with the producer again. “Having done the first album, he’s a very good judge of how the second one should develop in terms of sound and stuff. You know you can bring something new to the table but keep intangible qualities.”
"Writing is how we find happiness."
— Carlos O'Connell
‘Dogrel’ travelled through many states across its length, not tying the band down to one particular sound; raucous punk (‘Big’) and boozy Britpop-influenced bangers (‘Boys In The Better Land’) sat alongside widescreen soundscapes (‘Television Screen’) and drunken basement bar singalongs (‘Dublin City Sky’) in perfect harmony. Album Two, meanwhile, is set to see the band’s net cast even wider. “There’s a certain feeling of dreaminess and a reality that’s very confused, one that’s aggressive to your senses but not direct,” the guitarist explains of the new record. “That’s kind of how our last year has been - moving all the time and touring, and being flipped upside down and downside up.”
In the two songs the band previewed on their sold-out UK tour in November, this confusion and paranoia comes to the fore. ‘Televised Mind’, a track the band have been playing live for a good while now, is a creepy, cutting trip down darker paths, while the aptly-named ‘Lucid Dream’ is a shoegaze-influenced cut led by a melodic bassline: with an outro that stretches out with style, those dreamy qualities firmly establish themselves.
“Some of the songs are quite up-tempo and upbeat, but a lot of them are quite soft and slow,” he continues. “In the same way we did with ‘Dogrel’, we’ve allowed for any sound we thought was ours to make it onto the album. We don’t like to be defined by one sound only, because I think that’s quite unrealistic. Every person has so many dimensions to themselves and their lives, so to stick to one sound only as a band, I don’t see the point of it.”
“We’ve allowed for any sound we thought was ours to make it onto the album.”
— Carlos O'Connell
However, despite its musical diversity, ‘Dogrel’’s narrative could be pinned firmly to a time and a place - to Dublin. Nearly a year on from its release, it’s something Carlos retrospectively sees as having been both beneficial and detrimental to the record’s reception. Album Two is set not to repeat the trick. “I think anyone that bought ‘Dogrel’ is gonna love this album, but I also think a lot of people who didn’t ‘get’ ‘Dogrel’ are also gonna love this record as well,” he says. “‘Dogrel’ was a very specific record, and made a lot of sense to us when it was being made. It was a perfect mirror of our lives at the time, and I think universally it was a mirror of a lot of other people’s lives as well. People could relate to it even if they weren’t from Dublin.
“It’s a record that’s quite specific, and a record I understand that a lot of people rejected, but I think this new record is going to…” he pauses, before placing his flag firmly in the ground. “I know you can’t please the world, but I think we’re presenting something with this record that hasn’t really been presented before. The album, and the way it’s been constructed, just makes a lot of sense to us. The whole thing resonates with our [last] year, from start to finish.
“I’m obsessed with it, to be honest,” he concludes surely. “I’m proud of it, and it’s a record that I listen to as if it wasn’t mine. We’ve made a piece of music that excites me a lot.”
As featured in the March 2020 issue of DIY, out now.