DISCONNECT 4 stand, alongside The Kanyu Tree, as the band with the most potential to break out of Galway and onto a wider stage, a fact the quartet intend to prove when they launch their debut EP Modern Love tonight in Strange Brew in the Róisín Dubh.
When Disconnect 4 - Leon Butler (vocals/synth ), Eoin Reilly (guitar ), Yvonne Ryan (bass ), and Keith McCafferty (drums ) - first appeared on the Galway music scene in late 2007, they polarised opinion.
Some, like Gugai in the Róisín Dubh, could see real potentiual. Others focussd on the band’s distinct whiff of attitude, Russell Brand haircuts, and terrifyingly tight trousers, exclaiming ‘Who the hell do they think they are?’
Yet, by autumn 2008 the band had noticeably matured and their live sets were beginning to catch the ears of the Galway indie crowd. Today, Disconnect 4 deliver committed, energetic live performances through excellent songs like ‘The Rise’, ‘Disco Never Changes’, and ‘Modern Love’, which combine the rhythms and atmosphere of new wave, with a smart, yet accessible, pop side.
The band retain their strong visual image but have silenced what few remaining detractors there are by never allowing it to supersede their music. The release of Modern Love is the next step in their evolution.
“It’s good to have the EP finally out there,” Keith tells me as I sit with the band on a Monday afternoon for the interview. “We released a single before but you have to have an EP to get noticed. It’s the best thing we have done to date and that’s another reason we are excited by it.”
Modern Love was produced by Martin Dubka, the bass player with London band Cazals. Disconnect 4 played support to Cazals in Cuba* last year and the Londoner was impressed with the Galwegians. “He liked our stuff,” says Leon. “So when we were banging around names for a producer his name kept coming up. We emailed him to see if he would do it. We didn’t expect him to, but to our surprise he said yes.”
The EP was recorded in The Forge Studios in Galway where Dubka proved to be just the right mentor and guide to the band - even if he had some unusual ways of getting results he wanted.
“It was the first time as a band that we had worked with someone and he brought fresh ears to the new songs,” says Keith. “He had our best interests at heart and he wanted it to be good as it’s his name on the CD.”
“He made Leon do 15 takes of the vocal on ‘Modern Love’,” recalls Eoin. “Each time he’d shout down the microphone ‘That’s s**t’. Meanwhile he’d be telling the rest of us that it was just to get Leon angrier and angrier so that he’d do a better vocal take. It worked!
“There was also this little red guitar, it was little more than a toy, lying around the studio, and Martin would be playing classic rock hits like ‘More Than A Feeling’ on it and we’d be wondering why. We eventually saw that he was trying to convince us of its sound and it has a really great sound. I’d say 80 per cent of the guitar on the EP is that red guitar. I played it topless with a sweatband on!”
Leon recalls a piece of late night generosity during a marathon recording session.
“We were recording and it was 12 midnight and Keith said ‘I could murder a pint’,” he says, “and Bernard at the Forge comes in with a cold pint for Keith. He was like an angel coming through the doors! Bernard has been awesome to us. He really helped us out and gave accommodation to Martin. Every day he would be in and ask us if we needed anything.”
The EP contains the songs ‘Disco Never Changes’, ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’, ‘Modern Love’, and ’Eighteen’. Keith says these songs were chosen as “they worked best together”.
“We were writing them right up to the time we were recording them so they were new to us,” he says. “We were not banging away on them for ages. ‘Modern Love’ we had just written and were debating if we should include it. Martin heard it and went ‘Put it on’.”
It proved a good call by the Englishman. The song has since been performed numerous times live and has always gone down well. Last weekend, a video for the song was shot with Galway photographer Sean McCormack, and the band hope to have it ready for viewing before the end of the month.
The last six to eight months have been exciting ones for Disconnect 4. They have received support and airplay from Alison Curtis of Today FM, Steve Lemacq of BBC Radio1, and BBC Radio Scotland. Hotpress and Jim Carroll of The Irish Times have praised them in print, and online music network CMU listed Disconnect 4 as Band of the Month in November 2008.
There is no doubt the band work hard and are determined to succeed - “We will play a gig anywhere,” says Leon - but it’s also a case that the offers have started to come in. “Steve Lemacq’s producer contacted us to ask us for songs,” says Leon. “BBC Radio Ulster asked us to do a session for them.”
So what are the band’s ambitions?
“We do it because we love it,” says Eoin. “We also want to be able to make a living on it. We want to do it all the time. This is a tough business to get into and it can be financially, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Things are starting to happen and it was Gugai in the Róisín Dubh who gave us our break and has always championed us.”