HE HAS been called “the baby faced DJ” and a “hair flicking bundle of energy” but never overlook that Daithí is a young man passionate about music, its creation, and in bending, twisting, and shaping sounds into exciting slabs of electro fused indie-pop.
Daithí (aka Clare born, Galway based, musician and composer Daithí Ó Dronaí ), who has already impressed with the Embrace EP and the track ‘Carraroe’, is set to take the next step with his new single ‘Chameleon Life’, which will be officially launched at a gig in the Róisín Dubh this Saturday at 9pm.
An unashamedly up-tempo electro/dance-pop number, with an anthemic feel, ‘Chameleon Life’ marks both a break with, yet also an evolution from, Daithí’s previous work.
“After Embrace came out I felt it was very limited as it was all based around the fiddle and nothing else,” Daithí tells me during our Monday afternoon interview. “After that I got more into electro and synthesisers, which added to the sound.
“Using the computer I started becoming more of a producer. It was all part of my aim to get more into the music and get a fuller sound. One of the first things I did in that vein was ‘Carraroe’. It felt like a full song, a full sound, and the vocals and lyrics from Elaine Mai added to that. Now I feel vocals are very important.”
All these elements contribute to ‘Chameleon Life’, but the track is also his most commercial work to date. “For sure!” Daithí declares. “Nobody is under any illusion it isn’t! But I’m a sucker for pop!”
‘Chameleon Life’ has the potential to be a summer anthem but its origin lies in the depths of a bitterly cold Irish winter.
“It was the middle of winter, January, in the freezing cold, and Ian Ring from Young Wonder and I are working in the studio,” Daithí recalls. “We were talking about how much we missed the summer and playing the festivals and we thought, let’s write a song about summer. We put together some chords we said ‘That feels a bit sunny’.”
Yet ‘Chameleon Life’ is no mere piece of ephemeral chart fodder, as it contains layers of meaning about both youth’s carefree side and the harsh choices facing young people in Ireland 2013.
A chance meeting led Daithí into contact with Raye, a Irish singer based in London. He sent her the tapes of ‘Chameleon Life’ and was impressed with her response.
“Raye’s voice is incredible, it’s very much a voice for dance-pop and suits the track,” he says. “We were telling her about the song and what we wanted. For Ian and me the song is about summer and hitting the road with your friends and going off somewhere, and Ireland is perfect for that kind of travelling, there are loads of random places to find, and it’s about being open to adapting to whatever the day throws up - hence the term ‘Chameleon Life’.”
“Raye understood all that, but she also adapted it to her situation of an Irish person going to London and adapting to life in a new city and country. That was a different side to it she brought. Loads of people my age are emigrating but not many regret it. For people a bit older it’s much harder, but for those my age, they see it as an adventure, a chance to explore and adapt to life and situations.”
‘Chameleon Life’ will be the first of a run of three singles before Daithí’s debut album emerges. Although still a work in progress, Daithí reveals it will be “about getting people moving, it will be a dancy, big sounding, energetic album, but with the fiddle frosted over the top.”
Daithí acknowledges that the violin is central to his sound. While he can use it in a traditional manner (eg, the trad air ‘hook’ of ‘Carraroe’ ), he also approaches it as a kind of mandolin, a bass, a rhythm instrument, and as a springboard for soundscapes.
“My live sets have evolved and changed and become more house music like,” he says. “I have come to the point where my thing is to perform with the fiddle. I try to keep the electronic stuff simple so that I can concentrate on the fiddle as it is my ‘unique selling point’. It is what sets me apart from other DJs and producers and it’s important for me to recognise that.”
Daithí details the role the fiddle plays in how he writes and sculpts his music.
“I use it more as a tool,” he says. “For example, when you have a dance track there is often a point where there is a big build up, before the drop, eg, Calvin Harris or David Guetta, and that starts under the melody and builds up, preparing the audience for when it hits. Instead of synths I use the violin to create that.
“When I’m writing a song, I come up with a set of chords and once I’m happy with that I leave them aside and then go on to the drums to work up a beat that can stand on its own regardless of music as the foundation of dance music is rhythm. Once we have that foundation I can go to work on the violin and work out a hook - that’s my big thing, hooks - for the song.”
Daithí is originally from Ballyvaughan in The Burren, County Clare, and comes from a family steeped in traditional Irish music. His grandfather is well known in traditional music circles while Daithí’s aunt-in-law taught him to play the fiddle. Although Daithí does not play trad the influence of trad is clearly detectable in his music and he has an immense respect for the form, as evidenced by his song ‘Aréir’ (which can be heard on YouTube and Soundcloud ).
“I remember when I heard Passion Pit’s ‘Sleepy Head’ which uses this sample of ‘Oró Mo Bháidín’ by Mary O’Hara,” he says. “She has this really clear voice that really impressed me. I use the fiddle to create ‘samples’ of Irish trad for my songs, but so many Irish DJs use samples of Indian or African singing, but they never use anything from sean nós.
“We have this massive library of sean nós song and singers that are completely untapped, it’s unique and amazing and I thought, ‘Why not sample that?’ I found ‘An Maidrín Rua’ and for me it has, what I think of, as an amazing pop hook in the middle where it just bounces up and down all over the place and I put that into a track I was working on. My manager Gugai heard it and said I should do more with it so from there I built the track and it’s become a really nice one.”
Support is from indie/alternative-rock trio Boyfights. Admission is free.