MHD – I know that the members from Fontaines D.C. they all met at Liberties College and bonded over their love for poetry. But how did that happen exactly?
Conor Curley – We were all attending musical college, we were all in the same class and just started going out together, becoming friends, going to bars and came up with the idea of starting a band. I suppose we were all on the same wavelength, going into punk music and that kind of style at the time.
MHD – What did you find fascinating about poetry? When you discussed it, what kind of things did you find yourselves talking about?
I think the main thing we wanted was freedom. Especially for myself, I had never really explored discussion of poetry. At that period of my life, when I was nineteen years old, I got a real sense of freedom. We got to know each other primarily by reading poetry, that was kind of the main spark. One of the first books that I have ever read was The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac, and then On the Road. I think it just appealed to us at that time, with leaving our home and going to Dublin to pursue this life of music, the idea of the Beat poets being this group of characters that inspired each other to travel, of your work being based upon the lights that lead you and your own that you reflect, this worldview where everything is beautiful as you see it. That you can put these feelings you have in front of yourselves and really free yourself from a world where it seems like you have to go to college to get a job, make enough money to live. So there was this sense of liberty that we’ve got from reading books like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which was a really big one for me and the lads. Just the idea of looking at the rest of the world and having this grand vision: “These are the things that are wrong, but us as young thinkers and young musicians we could try and effect change through our music”.
MHD – Besides Joyce and Yeats, I’ve heard you mentioning some great modern American writers, such as Walt Whitman or, precisely, the Beat Generation. What is it that attracts you in those particular American writers?
Whitman is obviously a master and his style of writing was an influence on us. I suppose he is a lot more considerate, his poetry is a lot more beautiful the way that it reads and, whenever we were touring in America, I was actually reading a lot of his work there, it seemed like the perfect backdrop for his style of writing. But then, after that, I suppose we all kind of went off and started reading different poets and stuff that maybe might have reflected our own lens a lot more. We tried to look for things that we wouldn’t get from Beat poetry. I myself started reading a lot of Patrick Kavanagh, because a lot of his early poems are depicting where I actually grew up in Ireland, in Monaghan. They are very grand descriptions of really simple rural life and they are also things that have to do with my ancestry, which is something that reconnected me as a young Irish person, as I feel like a lot of people in Ireland today don’t have a connection with that because modernization and the gentrification of our culture has kind of made it untrue to really think about your own heritage.
MHD – About the connection Fontaines D.C. so closely establish between the music and the city, do the kind of musical sounds you veer to have anything to do with the urban landscape you talk so much about?
I think that is a very interesting idea and one we definitely had in certain songs like “Hurricane Laughter”, where there is this sense of hysteric guitars resembling bustling traffic and your viewpoint being pulled in a lot of different directions, which is a really beautiful thing when you mix out with really exact and focused lyrics, because it is kind of disorientated for a moment before focusing in on a different viewpoint. Things like that in songwriting is something that we look constantly to develop on and whenever you start trying to get into those frames of mind, that is, when arranging music and putting together the two worlds of music work and lyrics, it becomes incredibly enjoyable and incredibly vast and rounded. Also it is like five people. Dogrel is so based on the urban landscape because that is where we all were, that was our common ground as it was where we were all living, and the Liberties is in Dublin, so that was our black canvas on the easel sort of thing.
MHD – How do you feel about Dublin, because what comes across Fontaines D.C. music and interviews sounds pretty ambivalent. What do you love about it and what do you dislike in it?
I suppose we all look at Dublin through a lot of different lenses depending on the situation. Naturally if someone would ask us about our definition of Dublin, we could look at it through the lens of the things that are wrong – the housing crisis and all that stuff – but there is also an inheritance that we carry. There is such a romantic element to the city. We all had the best times of our young adulthood lives there, it lives in our cells, in the various alleyways and arches, sitting around by the Liffey and drinking. Just for us as people, as dreamers those kinds of experiences are what we really want to reflect in our music, because if we didn’t reflect it in our music we would be lost, dispersed in things like social media. That’s your kind of newer generation where people don’t have memories anymore.
FONTAINES D.C. | “DUBLIN CITY SKY” AO VIVO
MHD – You’re obviously channeling a lot of different musical influences. It is normal to brand Fontaines D.C. as a post-punk band but I know you dislike this label in particular. Why so?
When you start making music your biggest enemy is becoming too caught up in how you come across in your music, what are people going to think about this, what are people going to get in meeting this. It can strict you from just letting go and not being overtly precious of letting a genuine feeling be the thing. I don’t mind the term post-punk for people who listen to the music, for radio DJs if they are talking about us, saying that we are a post-punk band, saying that we are like Idles. I understand, that is the way it is because that is them doing their job, they are trying to get people who listen to one band to listen to another band and, in those terms, that kind of general category is important.
We just don’t look at it as artists or musicians, because if you try and put us into a box and we start thinking “oh, we’re a post-punk band”, our writing fundamentally will change. Whenever we go into the room, if we take on all of these things people are saying about us, we will be writing music for other people instead of ourselves. So that is why we don’t like the label, because it is going to box us off into “oh, we want the next punk album from these guys sometime next year”, as if to fit in this category, and we want to talk about it and be like “this is how it is”. That is why we rejected it and have songs like “Roy’s Tune” and “Dublin’s Sky” on Dogrel. So then, for us, there are no walls. We could come out now and have an album that has maybe more of the same, more energetic, distorted kind of sounds, but also still have a song with string arrangements and heavily go down that route because we haven’t allowed them to box us into that.
MHD – I am not saying I agree with that. In fact, when I listen to Dogrel the feeling I have is not that those sounds are saying who you are, as much as you are using those sounds to say who you are.
The way we write now is that we service the song, whether it is Grian’s song, mine or Deegan’s. Whoever writes the song, we service that sound, we don’t let our band dictate how is it going to sound. We act as five songwriters to determine what is the best way for it to sound, and that is why the sounds get so eclectic. I mean, we could have put the fast drumbeat on “Roy’s Tune”, but we would be doing a disservice to the song, because we realized that the emotions the lyrics are trying to convey would sound better if we took it down a bit, make it a bit kind of looser and a bit more of a ballad, I suppose.
DOGREL | “ROY’S TUNE”
MHD – I know you have written the lyrics to “Roy’s Tune”. Do you feel like there is no place for you personally in nowadays Dublin?
That character was probably ultimately a lot of myself at the time, because I was working in Dublin where I would be thinking that “yeah, there doesn’t seem to be any future for the kind of person working and living off minimum wage in the city”, it just seems like it isn’t going to exist anymore, there is already nowhere to live for a good price. The idea of there being no future can be a really sad thing but also a really positive thing. If you can accept that there is going be no future for you in a certain place, that also gives you the freedom to move on and go somewhere else. The idea of there being no future doesn’t have to be a detrimental, sad thing, it can be positive as well.
MHD – Would you say Fontaines D.C. music is political and, if so, in what sense?
I think that, as individuals, we are not really looking to give people this grand explanation for why they should believe in certain politics. People sitting at the front of the crowd, and telling how it is, is the wrong use of the platform of music, you shouldn’t be so overbearing. The way we approach it in our music is more through charactered stuff. It is not coming from us as people, that isn’t our mantra, that’s just the way one person could see it, so I think by showing people these different rues and these different characters they can then form their own opinions based upon that. It is not as much as the literal of us standing there with these ideas of ourselves because we are 24 years old, maybe 23 when we finished this album, I just don’t think that we are in a place now to stand up there and have people know how it is.
MHD – Now that Dogrel is out there, just how close or distanced from it do you feel? How is it like to have something of you now existing outside of you?
It is weird. At a personal, artistic level, I have never felt more distanced from it because that is just what time does. My life is completely different now from when we were working on that album, so emotionally and artistically, I feel a million miles away from it. But, at the same time, I play those songs pretty much everyday, so my attachment to them is a lot more physical. I just imagine the gigs that we play, the amazing crowds that we have seen, whenever I hear “Boys In a Better Land”, and that is the more emotive feeling that I have towards it now. Still, it is kind of nice now that, it being released, the emotions that maybe we wanted to convey are available to people to discover everywhere. And that is the beautiful thing about touring, to go somewhere like Kansas, in America, and some guy saying that he heard of us a few days ago and he then got the album. That kind of stuff feels incredible, and I’m glad our music has been given the chance to travel so far away from where it was made.
MHD – I know you’re already working on the next one. When can we expect it?
We’ve been trying our best over the last tour. We have a collection of ideas, but nothing is written. We have one song that is maybe kind of finished. But it is pretty much obvious it is going to be done during the summer, we are going to try lock ourselves as much as possible and put the second album together.
FONTAINES D.C. | “THE LOTTS” AO VIVO