Thursday, September 09, 2021

MEET... Fontaines D.C.

Irish post-punk revival band Fontaines D.C. have been making big waves in the music scene the past couple of years so I think it’s about time we introduce them properly on Music Is To Blame. Formed in Dublin in 2017, the band consists of Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums). Lead-singer Chatten is half-English, born in Cumbria but raised in County Fingal, O’Connell grew up in Madrid before coming to Ireland and the rest of the members were born in counties spanning the country from County Mayo, to Conty Monaghan. The boys met while attending music college at BIMM in Dublin.

It was here where they bonded over their common love of poetry. It seems only fitting then that before releasing any music as a band they released two collections of poetry. ‘Vroom’ was inspired by the Beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg while ‘Winding’ was inspired by Irish poets Patrick Kavanagh, James Joyce and W. B. Yeats. None of the poems ended up as songs but their popular track ‘Television Screens’ on their debut album Dogrel started as a poem and found its way to the music. In 2015 they were set to release their debut album with music journalist John Robb’s Louder Than War label however held off from this to really solidify their direction as a band. Take a listen to ‘Television Screens’:

The band got their name from the character Johnny Fontane in The Godfather. Originally naming themselves the Fontaines, they later added the D.C. for Dublin City after it turned out a band in LA had the same name. Now that the band was formed, they started self-releasing singles. May 2017 they released their single ‘Liberty Belle’, which was followed by the split ‘Hurricane Laughter/Winter in the Sun’. ‘Liberty Belle’ pays homage to the Liberties, a neighbourhood in Dublin home to many of the band members at one point or another.

Following this they released their single split ‘Chequeless Reckless/Boys In The Better Land’ and ‘Too Real’. Stereogum described their sound as a ‘synthesis between post-punk, garage rock and a kind of gritty urban sense of rhythm and narrative’ and named them a Band To Watch. They began venturing into music videos, releasing ones directed by Hugh Mulhern. The video for 2018’s ‘Too Real’ was inspired by The Pogues’ ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, among other influences. Take a look at ‘Too Real’ here:

The band continued on their upward trajectory gaining high level exposure in the US after playing KEXP in Seattle in May of 2018. It was later that same year that they would sign with Partisan Records. About half a year later on April 12th 2019, Fontaines D.C. released their debut album Dogrel, paying homage to Doggerel. For those of you who don’t know (which included me until I was doing research for this article), Doggerel is working class Irish poetry also known as ‘poetry of the people’ and it dates all the way back to 1630. This particular form of poetry was popularized by William McGonagall and later by Ogden Nash. Dogrel was recorded live on tape and received all kinds of praise. It was nominated for a Mercury Prize, and came in swinging, taking its place in several Album of the Year spots.

Punk is often written off as music inspired by the desire for angry rebellion against the establishment. But post-punk bands were making a comeback in 2019 and this only carried through into 2020. Irish post-punk in particular ties together the poetry that flows through the artists’ veins with the passion of the genre. Fontaines D.C. embrace the Dublin accent and as The Times wrote, captures ‘the feeling of living in Dublin as it balances historical weight with financial upheaval’. Chatten makes his opener, ‘Big’ the stage for a statement of intent: “Dublin in the rain is mine, a pregnant city with a Catholic mind.’ Listen to ‘Big’ here:

The band toured 50 cities throughout Ireland, Europe and North America in 2019, touring with the likes of Shame and IDLES. They also played nine sets at SXSW over the course of five days. Really the band was set for an incredible year in 2020, their breakout matched only maybe by the breakthrough of IDLES, when 2020 happened.

Did that stop them however? Absolutely not. They released their second album on the 31st of July 2020. A Hero’s Death carried the band’s reputation of confrontational poetic intensity throughout the entirety of this second album. Releasing their title track on May 5th, Chatten describes the single as a ‘list of rules for the self’. And while we’re all listening to the so-generously provided album, they’re using this time to reassess and breath. When asked what lockdown will do to the band Chatten projects only more longevity. This lockdown gave them a reprieve from the nonstop schedule they had in 2019, arguably saving them from burning out.

So while we’re whiling the time away, you’ll find the band members listening to Joy Division, The Fall, Wire and looking out over the sea, coming up with new lyrical brilliance for us to listen to. Let’s leave them to it.


- Chloe Boehm



Image: The Independent

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