KILDARE MAN David Geraghty began his musical journey in the mid-1990s when he joined Damien Rice, Paul Noonan, Dominic Phillips and Brian Crosby in the band Juniper for the recording of their second EP Manna. When Rice left the band in 1998 the remaining members continued to play together and formed the band Bell X1. To date Bell X1 have released four critically-acclaimed albums and have been gaining success in the United States in recent years, with Paste Magazine describing them as “one of Ireland’s greatest bands”. Geraghty released his debut solo album Kill Your Darlings in 2007 and earned himself a nomination for the Choice Music Prize alongside Roisin Murphy, Kila, and Delorentos. Next week sees the release of his second solo album The Victory Dance and as part of a nationwide promotional tour he plays Roisin Dubh on Friday September 11.
Normally when someone mentions the words ‘solo album’ it is the beginning of the end for a band. However, the individual members of Bell X1 have been moonlighting on various side projects for many years. Lead singer Paul Noonan has played drums for singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes, Dominic Phillips works as a model from time to time, and Geraghty has acted as producer with The Rotators, Tadhg Cooke, and Matt Lunson. Yet for David the creative itch had not been truly scratched. “At one stage I was really struggling to write songs and I was wondering what was wrong”, he says. “I’m constantly collecting little nuggets or little pieces of lyrics or singing bits of melodies down the phone. Just the collecting of ideas as they as happen is good for creating what might eventually become a song. Along the way with Bell X1 I tried to bring some of those ideas to the band but most of the time they didn’t work out. When I put the ideas I had up against the rest of the record it was at odds with the sound of the band. I suppose the Bell X1 sound - particularly on our latest album Blue Lights On The Runway - is pulling in a different direction to the stuff I do as a solo artist.”
The sound of Bell X1 has been compared to that of Talking Heads, Sigur Ros, and XTC, whereas the songs on Geraghty’s debut solo effort were influenced by roots and folk artists such as Wilco and Elvis Costello. David was keen that his solo work be judged on its own musical merits and not as a off-shoot or side project of his work with Bell X1. “When I started putting Kill Your Darlings together it sorted of dawned on me that the songs need to have an outlet and a place to live,” David says. “In order to continue being a writer I need to make records and to play the songs. The reaction I got to the album was everything I had hoped for and more with the Choice Music Prize nomination and the two Meteor Award nominations. It was nice to have the album recognized because it was a sort of acknowledgement of me as an artist in my own right rather than as part of a band. I didn’t want to hang off the coat tails of the success that the lads and I have built up with Bell X1. It was great that the album was seen as something completely separate and the fact that it was recognized in that way was rewarding”.
Many of the songs on The Victory Dance deal with the themes of love and loss, with the lyrics being of a very personal nature. “It has come up in a lot of interviews how personal the record is and I suppose I’ve always
used songs to sort out my feelings,” says Geraghty. “Some of the songs are about experiences that others have had that I have personalized, and some of the others are from personal experiences I’ve had. I’m hoping that the emotions and the experiences on this record are ones that people can relate to and that the listener can understand where some of the words are coming from. I’m taking this short window to promote the record before I head out to the States with Bell X1 and then I’d hope to have something new out towards the end of the year. I do want to see this new record released outside of Ireland and I’d like to gig it more than I did the last one. It’s nice to return to smaller rooms and to sort of re-connect with the intimate personal touches of the songs”.
Bell X1 begin their latest US tour in New Jersey on September 18 and then travel on to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. In October they will play alongside acts such as Pearl Jam, Kings Of Leon, and the Dave Matthews Band at the Austin City Limits Festival in Texas. Also on the bill is Irish songstress and Bell X1’s close friend Lisa Hannigan. “We’re over there for about a month,” says Geraghty. “It’s great that Lisa is playing the festival in Austin but I’m not actually sure if we’ll get to meet up. The thing about touring the States is that because it’s so vast it is actually a rare thing to cross paths with another Irish touring band. We bumped into The Swell Season in Columbus, Ohio, on our last trip and Paul[Noonan] and I did a few songs before they came on stage. They were playing in this beautiful big theatre and it was slightly different to the stinky rock ‘n’ roll bar we were booked to play in down the road!”
However, Bell X1 did get to play their own big stadium gig earlier this summer when they opened for U2 at Croke Park. “The actual gig itself went like a flash in the pan because we only had half an hour,” says Geraghty. “It was great being on stage and seeing the big claw and playing in front of something like 15, 000 people. For me the real moment was when U2 were on stage and the sun was going down and Bono sort of paused in the middle of their set to thank ourselves and The Script for playing support. It was when he said the words ‘Bell X1’ that it sort of brought it home to me that we had been part of the circus that is the whole U2 live experience. We were part of U2’s homecoming and it was pretty amazing.”
It truly has been a very busy year in the life of David Geraghty and it is about to get a lot busier as he makes plans for Bell X1’s fifth studio album and his third solo album.
Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.