Fontaines DC ready to take next step with A Hero's Death

Fontaines DC release their new album A Hero's Death on Friday.

Fontaines DC release their new album A Hero's Death on Friday.

Making it in the world of music is never easy and random meetings of minds and lucky breaks along with hard work, are all key parts of what can make or break you.

Fontaines DC released their eagerly awaited new album A Hero's Death last Friday, the follow up to their debut Dogreal which was both critically and publicly acclaimed on its release last year.

Castlebar natives Tom Coll and Conor Deegan are the rhythm section of the band and a random meeting while both were studying in the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIM ) in The Liberties, Dublin, was the foundation of their friendship and what led to the formation of the band, as Coll told us.

"Conor was two years ahead of me in St Geralds, I would have known him to see, he had really long hair and I was the lad with purple hair walking around. We didn't really know each other in school.

"He went to college in Dublin and he dropped out and took a year out. Then I went to college in a place called BIM and I ran into him in the first week and went 'you're from town aren't yah' and he was there 'I am yah'; and it ended up that I was looking for a gaff and was living with my aunt for two months and a place in his house came up, and I moved in and that was kind of the start of that friendship and start of the band."

The five members of Fontaines DC were all studying in BIM and that's where it all came together for them for the first time. "They were all studying songwriting [the rest of the band] and I was doing drums and we were in the same classes and mates.

"Everyone was starting bands and us five were't great really, we were kinda crap at playing and everyone else was really good. We thought we better start a band and set up a kind of punky Beatles kind of band and that is where it started."

After a hectic few months of touring the world, getting back to work in the studio and putting together their sophomore release was an enjoyable process, according to Coll.

"I suppose the first album came out in April of last year and we were busy touring constantly for the year. But we found the time to put together a few tunes over the summer of 2019 and went in and did the album in January. It was a quick turnaround, but we wanted to get an album out as quickly as possible.

"I think we really had to push ourselves to get into the mindset of writing again, we had so long to write the first album and nobody really cared about us and we were just looking to do that, but it is much more pressured to have to do it in such a short space of time

"We all really enjoyed it though, we were all knackered from 2019, a bit burned out, it was nice to spend time writing and bring us together again."

Having hit on a sound that propelled them to to the top of the tree - including winning album of the year from Rough Trade and BBC Radio 6 along with being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and touring to sold-out venues across Europe and the US. it could have been easy for Fontaines DC to stick with what worked first time around - but A Hero's Death has seen the band change their sound a bit and grow as songwriters and musicians.

"I think it was a bit of an organic progression, but it was a bit of a conscious thing for us. We just didn't want to be pigeonholed into the whole post-punk scene - sometimes it can be a bit limiting.

"We were all listening to music that was a lot more chilled out and it was less punky, it was a conscious thing as to how it was heading.

"We spent a bit of time in America last year and got mad into the Beach Boys and country, like Lee Hazelwood and stuff like that, that kind of seeped in, and when we were playing gigs at the time it was all energetic music, so I think we needed a bit of time to chill out and hear more slow music; so it all seeped in, being in America and hearing a lot of that kind of music all influenced the album," says Coll.

Releasing their new album in the Covid-19 world comes with its own challenges, including a number of big shows they had been booked to play having to be cancelled, but they did get to showcase the album recently in a gig on the Other Voices: Courage gig, which took place in Kilmainham Gaol and which got rave reviews. It was great to get back to playing together live as a band for that show, Coll said: "It was great - it was so long since we played live, it was really nice, it felt normality was coming back, it felt good. It was a kind of a special place to play a show in.

"Everything has been cancelled up until next year, it is a weird thing putting out so many songs and not having a chance to play them live, so it was a great thing to do."

The Covid-19 lockdown saw Coll come home to Castlebar for a few months for an unexpected break, but one he really enjoyed, both from a personal and musically progressive point of view.

"It was great being at home, I had two and half months back in Mayo; it was amazing, it was something that was never on the cards for me up to this.

"I was a bit upset about it at the start because we had all these plans, but it was lovely to be back and spend time with the family and then spend time working on my own drum style, playing and learning a lot about jazz drums and different stuff like, that which I would have never really done.

"It is something that you don't get time to do if you are away on tour, you don't get time to work on your own style, you play the show as it is - it was a nice thing to spend a bit of time on me."

As for living up to the expectations of their debut album and following it up, Coll is relaxed about it all and just really enjoyed making it and what the band have created.

"I think we have all kind of made peace with it, we were very kind of susceptible to what other people thought of us on the debut album, some liked it, some didn't, that's a thing you have to get used to; some people aren't going to like your music - we all made peace with that and maybe it is not as much of a worry for the second album as it is for the first - and that might be a weird thing .

"But I think we have all battled that thing of 'what if people don't like it' and try to put our self-worth in the music and keep it in us and if the five of us like the album, that is all that really matters.

"It might sound cliched but that is what it is, you can't put your own self-worth on other people really, that has been a big learning curve for us. Obviously I hope people like it, but it is not the end of the world either."

Life on the road for a musician can be tough - but Coll has loved every minute of it so far and it's what he always wanted to do, he says, even if it can be stressful at times.

"A lot of touring can be stressful, I have to sleep for two hours then hop on a flight and get on a van for ten hours and you can get carried away with the stress of it all. But at it's core you are getting to see the world with your best mates and play music you have written; it is something so special and something that I really value. I am so grateful I have the opportunity to do it and it is so special to do it with your friends."

Do you want to know more about Fontaines D.C.'s new album?

Read Kernan Andrew's review of Fontaines D.C. album A Hero’s Death (Partisan Records )


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