[INTERVIEW] with... Fangclub

Fangclub L-R Dara Coleman, Kevin Keane and Steven King - Photo: Alan McCarthy
It probably ought to be seen as a fact that the volume of talented guitar bands out there can seem overwhelming at times. It is hardly the worst situation to be in. But the raw nature of Fangclub's outstanding song material has proven to be really significant when it comes to making the alt-rock trio stand out from their contemporaries. 

Having established a reputation for delivering some of the tightest, most explosive and energetic live performances vocalist and guitarist Steven King, bassist Kevin Keane and drummer Dara Coleman have just kicked off their UK headline tour. Starting off in Edinburgh at the weekend, they are super-excited about being back on the road following a short break after touring with Nervus and Milk Teeth. 

Writing strong melodies continues to be a key objective for the Irish trio who does not see a contradiction in combining punk rock and DIY ethos with the effective use of a really good melody and a strong aptitude for good songwriting. 

Steven: The type of music that we make can be seen as rock or grunge or whatever but the bare bones of the songs are in fact quite pop, it is all about the melody and the songs. For us, it has always been about that really.

Their well-produced self-titled debut album released last year has been received well. The band have been writing songs with a view to releasing new material later this year.

It's All Indie caught up with the trio to find out more about what it is like to be isolated from most other bands and trends, what makes them tick and being from Dublin but not sounding particularly Irish. Taking inspiration from a wide range of American alternative rock bands and being signed to a major label but still being able to retain an autonomous creative identity. 

Dara: We all have our own pockets of music that we like, we have the processes of music in the middle with the core bands that we all adore. That is kind of like where our name comes from and then each of us bring a sprinkle of what we like and what we are into to give our music a unique sound.

Having played gigs and toured with some of the biggest names in guitar music today including the likes of Muse, The Pixies, Biffy Clyro, The Cribs and Nothing But Thieves, there is little doubt this has taken the band further and helped shape them as musicians. It is about getting to know other bands and musicians as people too. 

Steven: The Cribs were so cool to us and they were great to all of the support bands. They would open their dressing rooms to every one of us. At one show they moved their dressing room from a big one up at the back to a smaller one at the front so they could be closer to the all of the support bands. They are just the nicest guys in the world.

Dara: It was great because we were a bit nervous and were like, we don’t want to be in their way or anything and we are just happy to be here but then Gary came in and starting speaking to us.  

Kevin: I think by the second night we were all hanging out in their dressing room playing Nintendo, they are kind of Nintendo fans. We ended up having a tournament going on, it was like if you want to come in that is cool. It was a great ice breaker.

Steven: I remember them saying to us that they wanted to see what characters we picked on Street Fighter because it would tell a lot about who we are as people. 

The band also got to talking to Biffy Clyro. 

Dara: Biffy Clyro were totally incredible to us. We came off stage after one of our shows and James Johnston had watched it and he was just like ‘Hey I’m James from Biffy Clyro’ and we were like ‘Yes we know’. That was a big one for us and it made our afternoon. We had been big fans for years and have been going to see them for ages. I have seen them like so many times to suddenly hear them say your band’s name was amazing. Nice Scottish accents too.  

Being quite separated from the Dublin music scene about 30min from Dublin city, the band consider themselves as being isolated because of the infrequent train connections make it hard to get in and out easily when they want to get into town. 

Dara: There is an extra level of isolation so we are kind of like put off from trends and what other bands are doing when we are working on our music so we are just play what we want to play. When we started getting shows in Dublin city people were like ‘who is this band, where have you been playing? So it kind of feels like we have not had that influence of what the other bands are doing.

Though been described as "destined for mainstream success" by Punktastic it would seem to be isolation of the type that is worth maintaining. 

Steven: We always try to leave cities and go out somewhere. Our debut was recorded out of Dublin, like close to the Atlantic Ocean. It is kind of like where we have always found ourselves. In a position where we are kind of isolated in a small town. So we go and record in the most isolated place ever! Even recently we recorded in Wales on a mountain, it was very nice.

Yet despite making and recording most of their music in Ireland the band do not sound Irish, certainly not in a traditional way.

Steven: It is funny because after the first few shows we played people would come up to us and ask us where we are from and we are like ‘Dublin, like here’ and people would say ‘You don’t look or sound like it'.

There was certainly one band who were always going to influence Steven. As a young kid his dad took him to a record store and this would become one of the most significant moments in the young boy's life.

Steven: Somebody had said to my dad that Nirvana were a good band, he hadn't listened to them before but he knew the name so he got me the album. Little did he know that it would change my life, spark off an obsession, it was like there goes school. 

Steven: We are kind of from the outskirts of Dublin and we are very influenced by whatever cool creeps into Ireland so for instance, I’m completely influenced by a lot of American culture. 

Being signed to a major label (Vertigo/Universal) - to what extent has that changed things such as being able to maintain artistic freedom and control?

Steven; Universal have been so good to us because they have allowed us to do just that, to have our own bubble and kind of grow ourselves as a band. They have not forced anything on us, they just said ‘what do you want to do?’, that was it really. It has been amazing.

Dara: Our debut album is probably the most DIY album ever released on a major label because but we are still more punk than what you might imagine.

Dara: Yes we are with Universal but it is Universal Ireland, which by size is actually smaller than most indie labels in the UK, it is a small operation. But anything that we can continue to do ourselves we will do, so we have small little jobs that we assign ourselves to, so it is like we get paid to do that as a job and we are totally happy with that. If it benefits the band then that is great, we would like to keep things in our group as much as we can.

With things moving so quickly in the best way possible, how do they feel about their debut now? Are they happy about the way it has been received?

Steven: Yes absolutely! We recorded the album before we were even really had a band. It was just kind of like a time in our lives where we were just wanted to go and record music, have some fun and I wanted to get out of Dublin. We all just wanted to go and do this, just for us. We went down and recorded twenty five tracks, we had the best time ever, it was done over a summer and a winter.

Steven: It is really cool because we did it with our friend of ours, it was just kind of the four of us going into the studio and do every single track and mixing it all ourselves and stuff, it was a great experience.

Steven's girlfriend part funded the release and the artwork was done by his best friend from childhood, it could not be more personal or within the band for that matter.

Steven: A label then got their hands on our recording, they contacted us and it just all kind of started to snowball from then on, we thought maybe because it is a big label we would have to go and rerecord things but they loved it so much and so the initial recording is actually what is on the debut. 

Keeping things within the Fangclub seems to be a philosophy that is paying off. With brand-new material ready and written exiting times are definitely ahead. There is going to be a release 'sooner than people think' the band say reassuringly. But what can we expect in terms of the sound?

Kevin: We have recorded somewhere else and that has brought a new vibe to the songs, so there is a different sound. We are definitely developing and making progress. 

Steven: I think the people who are into our music are going to love the next thing, really love it. I think that it might surprise a lot of people who haven’t heard us yet. I’m really proud of it, we left the studio feeling invigorated and in the past we have left the studio feeling quite burnt out because you have put everything into it but this time I left the studio really excited. I was just like, I can’t wait to show people the next stuff.

Dara: I tend to reference Royal Blood, what they did with their second album, it is almost the ultimate evolution because if you look at the first album, it is perfect. You might think how can you possibly top that with only two people in the band but they managed that better than I would have been able to imagine. It is a similar thing for us, we want to put some extra stuff on top and not be afraid. We have established what we are with the first album and so now it is time to just mix in some new songs. 

What about further aspirations and plans for the coming years?

Dara: I keep looking at last year what we did and achieved, it is going to be hard to top but we have said that every year. Last year was a really great year but this one is definitely going be the busiest year we have had but we have just got to keep up and we will. 

Kevin: We want to keep building our fan base and play to as many people as we can and hopefully we will get into Europe at some point. It would just be cool to go to somewhere like France where we have some of the biggest Spotify listener numbers. After the UK, it is the second biggest country for our music.

Steven: We want to keep making good music and be excited about it, let’s not worry about getting huge as long as we can just do that I’m game.

Dara: It can be hard to gauge how things are going but people keep coming to our shows and they seem to be having a good time.

Current UK headline - All Fall Down Tour - and festival dates 

7 - Edinburgh - The Mash House
8 - Manchester - Jimmy's
9 - Birmingham - The Flapper
10 - London - The Garage
11 - Surrey - The Boileroom
12 - Southampton - Heartbreakers
13 - Sheffield - Record Junkee
15 - Oxford - The Cellar
16 - Leicester - The Cookie
17 - Newport - Le Pub
19 - Brighton - Great Escape Festival
20 - Leeds - Gold Sounds Festival

1 - Hulst, The Netherlands - Vestrock
2 - Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland - K-Fest

13 - Cheltenham, Gloucester - 2000 Trees Festival 
20 - Oxford - Truck Festival

27 - Lisburn, Northern Ireland - Sunflower Festival