How long have you been making music?
We’ve all been lifelong musicians. I started singing in vocal group at school, playing piano at age 7 and guitar at 13. Fintan had a band at uni that sort of mutated into something else around 2014. Matt was doing some engineering for them at the time. Their original guitarist left and I took his place. Shortly after, their original drummer also quit, and Matt joined. The music became very different from that point on and we didn’t really have a name for a while. It was a really difficult time for us all personally, which I don’t really feel like trying to romanticise. It sucked. There was a lot of double shifts, sore feet and having nothing to show for it at the end of the month. Not a unique story, I know, but it wasn’t fun and I think it did everyone a lot of damage. The one positive thing was that after our lengthy and stumblesome gestation period, we figured ourselves out in almost total isolation, and our first single came out in the summer of 2017.
Why do you make music?
Biological compulsion. I’ve attempted to give up songwriting in the past when things haven’t been going well, but it’s not possible. I always wind up drumming on the table or singing in the shower etc. I notice if I ever spend any time over at someone’s home where there isn’t something to pluck or a piano or whatever, I do get a little tense. I love singing, it never fails to cheer me up. I think music has always been the most powerful thing to me, and I guess maybe I like the idea of wielding something that potent. I loved Jeff Buckley’s notion of music being his first ‘plaything’ or something similar. It still fascinates me like a toy does a child. It has the ability to explain things that are profound, confusing, joyful or painful, that we may not even be able to articulate, even to ourselves. A good song is like having someone read your mind and put it into better words than you ever could. Some sort of clarity etc. Because if feels like someone understands you, it provides solidarity and a kind of communion, and ultimately can comfort or heal. It helps us all make sense of the brainwreck it can be to be human sometimes. Of course, it can also just be something fun and lighthearted like The Bee Gees, and that’s also cool too.
What are your biggest influences?
Individually, I’d say mine are probably Pink Floyd – David Gilmour is my favourite guitar player. I also love Jeff Buckley’s use of extensions and chord voicings. I think some of my more noise stuff comes from maybe Sonic Youth or Black Flag. Probably some early Queens Of The Stone Age too. Vocally, it’s probably Tracey Chapman, Chet Baker, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone and Thom Yorke. Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) is one of my all time favourite musicians. Tracy Chapman is one of my favourite songwriters. Same for Tom Waits. Same for Shane MacGowan. I used to love Ryan Adams and Damien Rice. My favourite Beatles album is ‘Abbey Road’. Sigur Rós are magnificent. We all adore Radiohead, so they’re a monolith for us. Their new project The Smile were great live, and I really enjoy Thom and Johnny’s film soundtrack stuff. Johnny is also an immense influence on me as a guitarist. Fintan is a big lover of The Strokes, Arcade Fire, The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals etc. I don’t think he’d mind me telling you that he’s also a huge fan The Darkness, but we’ve not given him 64 bar solo just yet. I think Matt enjoys similar indie / Pitchfork / KEXP type stuff but is also into a lot of grime.
The band generally has pretty self evident roots in Joy Division, The Smiths, later grunge stuff, maybe Hüsker Du, probably Blur or James in there somewhere, The Cranberries, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, possibly Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, then things like Interpol, The Strokes, Death Cab, Editors etc. We’ve got a huge Radiohead influence. I definitely think a lot of London music that came along on the back of The XX’s first album, that included, had a big impact – Daughter, London Grammar, Ben Howard, To Kill A King etc. We used to listen to a lot of DIIV, Beach House, Youth Lagoon, Laura Marling etc. I think a big part of our sound actually comes from dub reggae and that idea of using trailing reverbs and use of a space as an instrument. I used to run my guitar through the mixing desk when I didn’t have an amp and get this horrible digital clip reverb which was kind of formative – sounded like a cave-in and we all really liked that cacophonousness. Our most frequent comparison is The National, and whilst we do love them, I think it’s more just people noticing that band names share a word. I don’t feel we’re very similar aesthetically or musically, and the band name isn’t related to theirs. We have a huge amount of affection for Glasgow bands like Man Of Moon, Mogwai, The Twilight Sad, Arab Strap and Frightened Rabbit. Scott Hutchison was an immense talent and it’s awful that he’s gone. We need to make sure we keep playing his wonderful records nice and loud. More recently we love things like Bon Iver, The War On Drugs, Sufijian Stevens, Tame Impala, John Grant, Lisa Hannigan, S. Carey (Sean Carey from Bon Iver’s solo project), Protomartyr, Son Lux, Fontaines D.C., Loyle Carner, Cloth, Squid, Shame, IDLES, Sleaford Mods, SNAYX, Kathryn Joseph, Just Mustard etc.