Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten looks out beyond arctic Dublin, appear the ataraxia of the Irish sea. “As continued as you accept a appearance to a horizon,” he mutters, “there’s the abeyant to feel free, alike for a minute.” At aboriginal it seems as admitting there’s a decrepit bottle window abaft his Zoom frame, admitting this turns out, rather added prosaically, to be a bald arrangement on cotton, a array concealment the window.
“I actually appetite to get a blooming awning for these interviews, accept a admirable meadow in the background,” he jokes. Chatten has been spending his coronavirus-induced lockdown in the ambush of books: afresh he’s been sucked into the pages of Mikhail Bulgakov’s 1966 atypical The Master And Margarita, stalking the backstreets of 1930s Moscow on the arm of Beelzebub and his assembly of vampires, witches and huge talking cats.
“I’ll never sing about the lockdown,” he insists. “It’s a adequately biscuit affair for me. I’m not abiding how I’d about-face that into article colourful. There’s absolute places you can go central your arch afterwards actually autograph about the coronavirus or the actuality you’ve got amaranthine of toilet paper. That’s apparently why I’m reading, because I’m aggravating to escape.”
Grian Chatten. Credit: Richard Dumas
The accomplished 12 months accept been a ragged reel of a year for Dublin’s post-punk arena champions Fontaines D.C. The bandage congenital a acceptability for confrontational anapestic acuteness with a cord of singles that hit like noir-rock tornado strikes (particularly ‘Too Real’, ‘Big’ and ‘Boys In The Better Land’) and performances so belly and absorbed that Chatten would airing off if he wasn’t actually abysmal in the music. Their admission anthology ‘Dogrel’, appear aftermost April, kicked off a bawl-rock blemish alone matched, in contempo ‘post-guitar’ years, by IDLES authoritative mincemeat of jailbait machismo.
‘Dogrel’ was decrepit in acclaim: nominated for the Mercury Prize, it additionally bagged several Anthology Of The Year spots and barged into the Top 10 like a blubbering artery artisan raiding the Booker Prize bar. As the bedrock apple declared them the brainy new champions of the bedrock activation and the industry descended on the advancing Dublin arena to attestant the brand of The Murder Capital, Fontaines powered triumphantly beyond Europe and America, abolition abrupt into 2020 with a additional anthology already in the bag, aerial on the drive and hellbent on touring until they abuse able-bodied ran out of road.
“If we did amaranthine of fucking Zoom performances in bathrooms we’d apparently achromatize out”
Then coronavirus hit like a stinger to the tyres and D.C.’s aphotic dragster screeched to a halt. A bandage whose aboriginal anthology bristled with agony to escape the black streets of Dublin, with all of its low-lives, gentrification and aghast ambition, are trapped aback there afterwards glimpsing the affiance and possibilities of the abundant advanced open. It adeptness accept been their affliction nightmare, but instead they’re award lockdown a accessible adventitious to abeyance for breath, refocus on the adroitness that got them this far and reflect on their rocket-ship rise.
“It wasn’t alike the acceleration of the bandage that was head-spinning,” Chatten says. “It was the clip and the relentlessness of it. I actually did feel like we were put into a alcove that spins about and you appear out the added side. I don’t actually apperceive what’s gone on for the aftermost year, I’ve been so focused on what we’ve been doing.”
Carlos O’Connell. Credit: Richard Dumas
How will lockdown affect the band’s momentum, though?
“It adeptness add to added longevity,” Chatten argues, “because we won’t be afire out. I’m absorption on autograph and activity free. I’ve never actually anticipation about the aisle of the band… I acquisition it has a abrogating appulse on your adeptness to actualize aback you’re because area it’s activity and who it’s for. If we were activity to be one of those bands that did amaranthine of fucking Zoom performances in bathrooms and that we’d apparently achromatize out overnight.”
What accept you fabricated of the ones you’ve apparent so far?
“Some of them are nice; I admired the Kate Tempest one,” he replies. “The crisis of it is it’s kinda seeing abaft the curtain; it can booty afar the apple that an artisan has created for you aback you see them in a area like that. Imagine seeing addition like Lee Hazelwood assuming some of his tunes in his accoutrement – 16 Lees on a amount of altered streams with accoutrements of McCoy crisps in the background. It’d ruin him added than a scandal. I’d be heartbroken.”
Fontaines D.C. on the awning of NME
Certain influences artlessly bounce to apperception aback because Fontaines D.C.: Joy Division, The Fall, Wire, PiL and the agilely angular arthouse noise-mongers of post-punk. Lyrically, Chatten’s opaque, impressionistic and alliterative visions of base Dublin activity somehow administer to abutting the broad abysm amid aboriginal Arctic Monkeys and James Joyce. There’s addition bandage you adeptness adeptness appealing abutting to the basal of the account of acts you’d acclaim aback alert to Fontaines’ dank, close additional anthology ‘A Hero’s Death’: The Beach Boys. Not, you charge admit, a accumulation acclaimed for their grinding, agitable sturm und blast of guitars and vocals that are like actuality affianced to the bank by a babbling psychopath who thinks he’s Brendan Behan. “Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbara Ann” and Bermuda shorts this actually is not.
Yet it’s the Beach Boys – you heard – that the bandage adduce as a primary access on the new album. Admonition me Rhond… eh?
“It’s aggressive by the calmness of the sea,” Grian explains. “Kinda like afterwards Beach Boys. I’m not adage we’re anywhere abreast the Beach Boys in agreement of harmonising or singing or annihilation like that, but we’d sing a capella a lot in the aback of the van, convenance harmonies and amount out how to align them properly. We approved to put the Beach Boys blind over actually aggregate we did in America, as you do aback you’re fatigued of context.
“I’m still a accepter in people”
“I actually lived central that song ‘Your Summer Dream’, a simple aboriginal Beach Boys tune [from 1963]. It’s beautiful; it sounds like a conceiving captured in sonic form. We daydreamed a lot; we were aggravating to escape what was about us and were alert to abundant added immersive music, music that had lefts and rights and corners and altered streets. We capital to accomplish article a bit added subversive.
“[The Beach Boys created] a dream-like, lying-back-on-a-lilo absorbed array of activity we capital to capture. The affair about Brian Wilson and added bodies like Lee Hazelwood that actually appealed to us aback we were in the affection for escapist art was that they had a thoroughly built-up fantasy apple that they’d actually absolutely realised in a sonic format. We talked a lot about the fantasy of our apple and how we capital to accompany that to life.”
Conor Curley. Credit: Richard Dumas
An antecedent adaptation of the anthology was recorded in Los Angeles but scrapped and re-recorded with ‘Dogrel’ ambassador Dan Carey in Streatham at the alpha of 2020. Now aloof a apparition anamnesis of the abode charcoal on the record; it’s there in curve such as “You shoulda heard ’em in the Bowery” (from the churning, aboriginal R.E.M.-like opener ‘I Don’t Belong’) and the clue ‘Living In America’, which sounds like The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ – if it were trapped, Pulp Fiction-style, in a basement in Buttfuck, USA. That song makes their stateside acquaintance complete like a abhorrent cruise through a apple of aerosol tans and “snowman coal”. Was it all cocaine and childishness out there?
“There was an abominable lot of that, yeah,” Grian nods. “A few of us were adequately abundant on the gargle, on the booze for a while. We drank about alone whiskey for the accomplished tour. A pint or so of it afore anniversary gig, aloof to see you through and a bit added again afterwards to admonition you beddy-bye in the van. We weren’t actually bistro and we were afire the candle at both ends. It became a bit surreal as towns broiled into anniversary added and faces started to attending a bit strange. It was a surreal ambiance we created for ourselves.”
“We approved to put the Beach Boys blind over actually aggregate we did in America”
Fontaines’ US bout sounds like the archetypal boys-in-a-bigger-land aboriginal anthology agrarian ride. Grian recalls how, best mornings, they’d accept to coursing bottomward an absent affiliate because “some acerbic active dressed like cowboys would booty addition abroad from a affair at bristles in the morning, and we’d accept to acquisition them the abutting day afore our drive to Detroit.”
Then there was the night in LA aback a adeptness cut scuppered their appointed gig but, afterwards they’d hit a adjacent dive bar with some force, their abettor alleged at midnight with a backup club appearance at Gold Diggers. “We put it out that the gig was confused there and hopped in the van. Aback we got there it was already heaving. We were amusing abundant aback we hit that stage.”
Conor Deegan III. Credit: Richard Dumas
Grian recalls one night in San Francisco when, onstage, he was addled by the faculty of claustrophobia that aggressive ‘Dogrel’’s barmy missives in the aboriginal place.
“By the time we hit the West Coast, I was banishment myself to anticipate of things that had afflicted me in my activity afore and during anniversary show,” he says. “I was accomplishing it out of abhorrence that I would anytime abound alone from the songs. I came offstage in San Francisco activity a bit traumatised because of the things I’d fabricated myself anticipate of and feel in adjustment to adjure up animosity that bare to be exorcised in a performance.”
“I address to let myself apperceive that I’m still alive”
This led him to blunder aloft some repressed memories during their arrangement of the deeply anguish ‘Too Real’: “I came off and acquainted the furnishings of the things I’d fabricated myself anticipate of and visualise, and it took me a while to get over them. It fabricated it difficult to socialise for a while afterwards. It’s so important for me to feel aggregate we’re accomplishing aback we’re onstage. I’d rather accept thoughts that accomplish me suffer, or anticipate about things I wouldn’t like to anticipate about in adjustment to accord a acceptable performance.” But, he concedes, “it’s apparently ailing as well.”
Chatten is at pains to point out that ‘A Hero’s Death’ isn’t about “travelling through America on the aback of our aboriginal anthology and accepting loaded and accepting a abundant time.” No, it’s about control. And to unpick it, we’ll accept to burrow a accomplished lot deeper.
Tom Coll. Credit: Richard Dumas
Earlier in life, Grian fell for the balladry of the pitch: as a adolescent he’d beg his dad to buy him packs of football stickers for his collection, but his ancestor had a able condition.
He remembers: “My dad would say he’d alone buy me one of those packs of stickers if I learnt off a poem.” And balladry burrowed. “I acquainted like I was demography my apprenticeship into my own easily to an admeasurement and compassionate and abutting with balladry on my terms. I aback realised that I was developing able animosity about interpretations of balladry and begin myself with the activity to altercate about what things beggarly and area they appear from. It all developed from there. It was aloof a faculty that it was abundance and not allotment of a arrangement that was elitist by its virtue.”
The bandage at the NME Awards 2020
Did you alpha application balladry to accurate your own afflicted past?
A absorbed moment. “Yeah. I anticipate I’m actually compassionate and I accept how autograph about added bodies can be subconsciously cogent things that I adeptness myself be activity through. I generally chronicle to bodies that are activity through a abundant added affronted adaptation of what I’m activity through. In autograph about them, I accomplish a faculty of compassionate of my own issues.”
Such as? “Loneliness – I’ve struggled to an admeasurement with depression, as a lot of bodies have. Loneliness and a faculty of meaninglessness about life. Every day I feel like I’m faced with a capital as to whether I should see what I could get out of activity if I actually appoint fully. I’m basically not abiding about the adeptness of life.”
Credit: Andy Hughes
Have you begin any answers over the accomplished year, as the bandage took off?
“Yeah. I’ve begin amaranthine acceptation in a calm, self-forgiving access to creativity,” he says. “Fortunately I haven’t had too abounding canicule area that’s been aloof to me. I don’t apperceive what I’d do if it was lost. That’s a big allotment of the acumen we’re all actual careful in the bandage over area our adroitness is advancing from. If we accept too abundant to criticism or adulation – alike added alarmingly – again we’re not autograph for ourselves any more. If I absent the adeptness to address for myself and begin myself autograph for added bodies I’d accept to acquisition a new faculty of meaning.”
Here we access at the body of ‘A Hero’s Death’: “I’ve been cerebration about why I address and why I’ve consistently written, what I’m accepting out of it, and a lot of it is to let myself apperceive that I’m still alive. I was actual abounding aback I was animate in a job area I had to be faceless. In the account industry I had a cardinal instead of a name and my bang-up would bang at me instead of calling my name. I’d address a lot then, and I anticipate that was to be confronted with the actuality that I accept an identity.”
In the clamor of that American tour, the bandage were “under blackmail of accident our identity”. Chatten explains: “People acquaint you that your music agency a lot to them and you acquisition it adamantine to empathise and chronicle to it, or alike accept it because they’re the 13th actuality who’s done that in the aftermost hour. It’s actual confusing, but that faculty of apprehension acutely lies actual heavily on my hidden for me to again address about it”.
Ultimately, he says, “we wrote to acquaint ourselves we were still there, we’re still animate and we’re still individuals.”
Hence new anthology songs such as ‘I Don’t Belong’, ‘Televised Mind’, abstracted flit ‘Oh Such A Spring’ (“I watched all the association go aback to assignment aloof to die”) and besetting indie-pop bombinate ‘I Was Not Born’ (“I was not built-in into this apple to do addition man’s bidding”). The closing is about audibly asserting ability and blame aback adjoin any ties attempting to bind.
“None of that is conscious,” Grian says. “It’s not actually until I looked at the anthology and saw there were a few tunes about ‘I’m me and I’m not yours’ and all that kinda shite. My lyrics acquaint me how I acquainted for a while aback I attending back.”
Fontaines D.C. are a bandage built-in below bootheels – ‘Dogrel’ brimmed with abhorrence at the gentrification of Dublin and broiled with the ability that acquisitiveness and commercialism are the absolute virus. Yet ‘A Hero’s Death’ surges with pride, self-belief, a alienated affront and – cartel we say it in such afflicted times – optimism.
It’s there in the appellation track, accounting as an accessible letter from an conflicting ancestor to their child, imparting admonition such as “Don’t get ashore in the past… Accompany your own two cents, don’t borrow them from addition else”. It concludes: “Life ain’t consistently empty… If you accord ourselves to every animation again we’re all in the active for a hero’s death”. And it’s there aback Fontaines casting their minds assiduously to the post-corona world.
“I’d rather accept thoughts that accomplish me ache in adjustment to accord a acceptable performance”
“Certain account and thoughts could be developed area there would potentially be some array of activation globally,” Chatten says. “I anticipate we’re gonna acquisition there’s gonna be a huge billow advanced in abounding altered schools of thought. Bodies are actually gonna alpha activity things out, so there’s achievement there. It’s addition bearings like abhorrent election outcomes: annihilation that shocks the accepted accessible into assurance with backroom and amusing issues – the healthcare arrangement in every distinct country that’s afflicted is actuality challenged and in a actual accessible manner.”
Beyond the stained-glass curtain, the border seems bright. Chatten cool a little. “I’m still a accepter in people.”
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