When Fontaines D.C. first released Dogrel in 2019, they seemed to tap into some lost voice of youthfulness in rock ‘n’ roll. The timeless influences on their style were well documented, but they were mere wisps in the welter of what was otherwise a frenzy of passion oozing from the grip of youth’s ungrateful hands. There’s no denying that the term ‘literary’ fits the bill, but their sound was a million miles away from a dog-eared poetry anthology—it was, in fact, a vital resurgence and that propelled their poetic songs to the level of a figurative punch-up.
A Hero’s Death followed in 2020, and the pertinent points of their debut’s ruckus remained, but this time they were tempered with the comedown of some isolated feeling. It was a feeling that many of us faced, and the slight undercurrent of hope and a means to take dominion over what you can control, screamed loudly amid the swelling sounds of a band embracing musical development. Now, with Skinty Fia rapidly approaching, that same development asks: Where are we now?
The record seemingly asks that question rather than answers it, and, once more, that seems an almost spookily prescient perch for a creative muse to be ushered towards. “I think we always write inwardly,” Tom Coll tells me, “But whatever way things have worked out over the last two records, they just kind of came at the right time. The whole idea of the second album was it being quite isolated, and then it just happened to come at one of the most isolating times ever.”
While happenstance may have helped A Hero’s Death find its place, the vigour of Dogrel shouldered itself towards being a vital voice. “We were all a lot younger and a lot more fresh-faced, so that’s true,” Coll continues when musing on how they shook up the industry then sat down and gazed about it. Once more, the notion of their sound running alongside the intent of the album like postmodern prose comes to the fore. If Dogrel was a wham-bam thank you ma’am and A Hero’s Death was a sonic mix of a hangover and the hair of the dog, then where will Skinty Fia wander.
Once more, their musical progression is in line with their muse. “I think that one influence that I can put my finger on the most clearly is Primal Scream, especially the XTRMNTR album,” guitarist Conor Curley opines. “Maybe from some of my guitar work, I was kind of trying to go down like a shoegaze-y Kevin Shields thing which kind of ties in with that because he produced that album.” Shields also seems a fitting influence beyond the sonic side of things, given that My Bloody Valentine also dealt with the creative upheaval of leaving their Irish homeland for other shores.
“Maybe some of these songs are just layered and a bit more lush kind of sounds instead of it being like Dogrel, which was so kind of choppy and one-dimensional,” Curley continues. “I think for this album, the kind of development was – well, especially because we had quite a lot of time to write it – when we were demoing it, we were kind of really trying to build more layers and really work between the bass and the drums to make it as banging as possible for those songs.”
This, ultimately, is how he defines the sound of the album: “It’ll be a little more shoegaze-y and a little bit more banger-y.” It might not be a tagline that the marketing team will go for, but it will certainly titillate fans. In fact, it is a measure of the band and where they find themselves that they can take an ethereal sidestep from their buttered bread sound and still do it with the same inherent gusto that gives them the guts to punch out shoegaze bangers like the sound of pillow-propped dreaminess on an adrenalised rock ‘n’ rollercoaster.
It is also this progression and continued (rather prolific by modern standards) quality that has not only made them an important band – perhaps the most important for that matter – but also a headline act. However, that success has far from changed them as Coll jokes, “It’s kind of nice being in London like that. I kind of feel like London doesn’t let you get too big for your boots. No one cares too much.”
And, in short, albeit in pithy conversational tones, that statement is the crux of what the album poetically addresses. The band are happy to be big fish in a suitably sized pond, but, as Curley asserts, “Irishness will always be kind of the key theme.” Adding: “Whether that be Dublin, or I suppose this new album looks at Ireland more as a whole and a sense of Irishness as a whole. Those key foundations of Dublin in the band will always kind of be there wherever we go and will probably, in some ways, get stronger the further we get away from it.”
But even Dublin itself now holds a near-mystic quality for the band. “We all live in London now, and [Dublin’s] a hard place to keep up with,” Coll considers, before Curley confirms, “it’s changing a lot. There is definitely a different feel.” While that might be hugely multifaceted, Coll does, indeed, mention the rentier capitalism beleaguering the city. “I mean, rent is like a grand for a shared room now, so it’s pretty intense over there,” he says.
However, part of the reason the band have risen to such lofty heights is that they don’t just capture the zeitgeist in their sound and silver-tongued sermons; they also have an incredible ability to relate it. In other words, the feelings of being Irish in London might be the core of Skinty Fia, but a Peruvian fan won’t be left scratching their chin even over something as seemingly distant as a Gaelic reference to the extinction of the Irish deer. “Grian’s [Chatten] lyrics are quite special because they kind of capture that universality, but they’re also very personal to him,” Coll opines.
Continuing: “I think it’s really interesting that his style of character studies really does lend itself to the more universal side of things, but also, especially in the first albums, they were all based around Dublin, so that kind of grounded it into a very specific thing as well. Grian has a great knack for that kind of thing.” After all, all of our lives are grounded somewhere, so even that specificity can be spiritually relatable when the right sound helps it along, hence why they’re a band and not a brethren of poets even if they have the lyrical chops.
Their output has an ability to connect, and in a meta way, music, in general, can do that too. Central to their forthcoming collaboration with Jameson for a St. Patrick’s Day gig and global livestream is a sense of collectivism. They’ll even be teaming up with fellow Dublin acts Biig Piig and Monjola.
“They’re amazing,” Coll proclaims. “I feel like Jess [Smyth of Biig Piig] is just one of those talents that is next level. I got turned onto her music during the first lockdown and it was just class. She had a song called ‘Switch’, and I was living with my brother at the time, and it was the only song that we could both agree on being good—so that’s a pretty good sign.”
This sense of collectivism is not only wrought out in Chatten’s lyrics and the projects that they are engaged with but also the way they conduct themselves as a band. There is a collaborative spirit in music currently, and Fontaines D.C. are undoubtedly a band that helped to galvanise this.
“There’s 100% a collective spirit,” Coll continues. “I was in New York last week, and I kind of felt like I got transported into a little scene of bands that I was sort of hanging out with and coming back to London I feel like that is a very clear thing here too. You’ve got loads of bands here like Shame and Black Midi and that whole like South London crew. I think there is a real tangible thing here.”
That tangibility has vitalised their own performances at festivals and live shows at recent times and the collective spirit of a progressive party will no doubt be right at the forefront of their Jameson’s St. Patrick’s Day gig and livestream on March 17th. “We’ll definitely be playing the new tunes that are out, and we might throw in a few more surprise ones. We’ll see.” And after that? “We’ll just be touring. Hunkering down into the prospect of being on the road for a year which is both kind of like really daunting and really exciting too.”
If a sense of Irishness is at the core of their new record then nothing seems more apt than the collective performance they have planned. As Jameson’s opine themselves: “It’s high time we finally get together again. Sparking up those connections. By pulling up a chair, raising a glass, and raising the collective roof together too. All ahead of Fontaines DC’s Global Tour and new album Skinty Fia.”
You can find out more about the Jameson’s Connects x Fontaines D.C. Livestream by clicking here. After two years without being able to toast to St. Patrick’s Day we’re chomping at the bit to peek at Skinty Fia in the most fitting fashion. What a party and what an album it promises to be as the band look to affirm their forever felicitously wavering voice and capture a hattrick of masterpieces to date.
Fontaines D.C. will be taking part in Jameson’s Connects incredible St. Patrick’s Day Global Livestream on March 17th for which you register for free tickets here.