For our belated return, the Full Irish is bringing the goods. In this instalment, Daniel Moriarity and Eimear McGovern speak to two of Ireland’s fastest rising bands, The Minutes and Fox Avenue, while Ciara Andrews offers an insight into the workings of one of Dublin’s biggest new music showcases, The King Kong Club. Enjoy!
How many Minutes does it take to do an interview? Just the one as it turns out. Mark Austin, lead singer from The Minutes, talks brief encounters with Noel Gallagher, rock and roll and Youtube trolls with Dan Moriarty
Traditional, no-frills-attached rock and roll has been left slightly muted by the electronic whirring and gaudy baubles of the X-Factor and its accomplices over the last few years. Where once upon a time the radio played Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac, today only stoners and disaffected youth are assumed to listen to ‘that sort of music’. Festivals are being decried for their line-ups or cancelled; there is a shortage of bands that can actually play instruments. In staunch opposition to this, The Minutes are a bona fide rock and roll band, touring extensively and living from hand to mouth to support it all. The trio of Mark Austin, Tom Cosgrave and Shane Kinsella formed in 2006. Having known each other since childhood (Austin and Cosgrave are cousins), Austin notes “We were all young lads playing (when we started), we’ve been playing together for about fifteen years now.’’
On the subject of the rarity of popular rock and roll in existence, Austin remarks ‘‘I don’t know, there are always rock and roll bands around, sometimes you have to search for them a little more. We find there’s a lot of different people all different ages and they’re just into it, because it’s rock and roll. It’s nothing new, but it’s exciting.” The live performance is of great importance to The Minutes, even in the studio, motivating Austin to highlight his desire for a natural sound when speaking about the recording process of their acclaimed debut album, Marcata. “It was pretty much all live we tracked most of it, then after that we did very few overdubs. It’s a very organic sound.”
Their frenetic bass lines, driving guitar and screaming vocals make for a great live show that the band are keen to take on the road. In the past six months they have supported Noel Gallagher, toured Europe with Flogging Molly, toured Germany themselves and put in a recent performance at the Eurosonic festival in The Netherlands. Having played in all sorts of venues, big and small, Austin was quick to select his favourite. “There was one place, La Bataclan in Paris, that was probably one of the coolest places we played. It’s got a lot of history; it’s been there since the 1700s or something mad like that.” Speaking of their experience touring with Noel Gallagher, he speaks succinctly. ‘’I think we saw him once” he admits. “I suppose when you’re that big, why would you be arsed with some lads from Dublin?’’.
In a stroke of luck, The Minutes have unintentionally reaped the benefits of dubbing a track of theirs ‘Black Keys’, leading to a surprising volume of traffic to its Youtube posting. “It’s a great coincidence that our song is called ‘Black Keys’ and the biggest rock and roll band in the world right now is called The Black Keys. If that brings people to us, it’s a good thing”. He is quick to have his say on the subject of keyboard warriors too. “There’s some mad shit that people put up. Some dude put up something saying ‘Oh my god I can’t believe this isn’t The Black Keys, you guys are fucking assholes, I’m going to go to your house and break your ankles’. Probably some geek arsehole in the States sitting down with a laptop on his belly going ‘Rah rah rah!’.”
The future is busy for The Minutes, with a tour of the UK, a jaunt across the pond to SXSW, a single release and their biggest headline show to date in the Academy all coming up. Austin reveals that there are also plans afoot for a second album. “Yeah, that’s going to happen in the summer, we’re sort of working on stuff at the moment. We’ve got a few weeks to put our heads down and start thinking’’. Having recorded the last album in New York, Otwo was curious as to the location for the next project. The answer was quick in coming; “LA, for a bit of sunshine”. Not too shabby for a bunch of honest rock and rollers.
The Minutes play The Academy on the 11th of February, tickets priced €12.50. Heartbreaker, their new single will be released on the 11th of February.
In advance of their February show in the Academy, Eimear McGovern speaks to Dara Quilty of Dublin band Fox Avenue about Paul McCartney, working in show business and glorious pop songs.
Some might initially associate the name Dara Quilty with radio rather than an up and coming pop-rock band, but since their formation in 2009, Fox Avenue have built a strong fan base through use of Facebook, Twitter and My Space. Otwo spoke to the vocalist, guitarist and Spin 1038 presenter about the formation of the band, how they have developed and their hopes for the future.
Having always aimed to work in show business, Quilty met drummer Sean Maxx when they were sixteen years of age, and met Patrick Rhatigan, vocalist and pianist, a while later. He admits that Fox Avenue was the only band any of them had ever been a part of that was successful in the slightest, although they all had an interest in music from a young age. Quilty stresses the importance of friendship and cooperation in the band as a whole, noting “we were just lucky that we met the right people”.
The radio presenter admits that he thinks his careers in radio and television opened doors for Fox Avenue as a whole. Quilty already had an audience from his time spent at Spin 1038. However, he also points out that other radio stations might see him as competition, and would be reluctant to play his songs. Two people in particular that he became acquainted with through radio and television helped Fox Avenue from a touring and publicity perspective. The band was assisted with song writing by Niall Breslin, formerly of The Blizzards, who has now achieved recognition as a solo artist. Quilty also became acquainted with Paul Walsh of Dublin band Royseven through their work in television, and Fox Avenue accompanied Royseven on a tour of Ireland before Christmas, something which they hope to do on their own in the months to come. Fox Avenue are open about their admiration for the song writing and musical talents of other artists. When asked, Quilty selected Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame as two artists that he would love to work with. “It’ll be that four-chord glorious pop song which will sound amazing”.
Since their formation, Fox Avenue have evolved as a band, both in terms of audience and material. Their initial audience was young and female, and Quilty thinks that their own young age at time of formation was a factor in this. “When you’re eighteen you’ve spiky hair and you’re playing pop songs so … girls kind of get attracted to that thing. And we weren’t like an emo band. Every other band was trying to be like Fall Out Boy.” As Fox Avenue themselves have grown older, they have come to attract a more mature audience, and Quilty claims that this is because their music has improved as group. Fox Avenue believe in the power of radio, and the necessity to become an expert at writing songs in whatever style you choose, and specifies that “once you know what you’re doing, your song has to be up on par.”
Fox Avenue were particularly successful in 2011, after playing at Oxegen and going on tour with Scouting for Girls in the UK. However, they are unsure of their plans for the coming summer, as the biggest music event which has been successful on a yearly basis will not be taking place. Quilty says that it is important that they have something to work towards and that they would like to perform at an event similar to a small scale Oxegen and was specific to their older target audience. Fans of Fox Avenue will be excited to hear that they will be releasing a new song, ‘Let It Go’, that has been very popular at live shows. It is also their intention to release a further five tracks over the coming year, although a full album will not be released anytime in the near future. While Fox Avenue are not affiliated with any record label, Quilty mentions that they are open to being signed. Fox Avenue are currently forward planning to the year 2013, provided that “the world doesn’t end this year. I would say it will, but hopefully it doesn’t.”
Fox Avenue play The Academy on February 18th, tickets priced €14.50
THE KING KONG CLUB
As Dublin’s music scene continues to develop at an immense rate, Ciara Andrews talks to Keiron Campbell Black, founder and manager of The King Kong Club, one of Dublin’s biggest Battle of the Bands and new music showcases
From the beginning, the King Kong Club was like no other competition for musicians in Ireland. Black explains; “The concept behind it was that it was traditionally a battle of the bands but it wasn’t going to be treated like a battle of the bands, more like a game show where everyone is a winner, no one loses.” The King Kong Club has withheld this ethos throughout its five-year run. Every band that enters the competition gains something, whether that is a slot at one of Ireland’s festivals or simply the support of those involved with the competition. “The difference between us and other battle of the bands is love for what they’re doing. Every band that we get in we take under our wing and help them to the best we can”. Each band is interviewed and their performance is recorded for the Kong’s radio show; they also get a live video recording of their performance for YouTube as well as being signed up with IMRO, providing bands with the exposure necessary to build a strong fan base.
Each week up to six bands perform three songs at the Village on Camden Street. At the end of the night the audience take part in the legendary clap-off, deciding which act makes it through to the semi-final. At this point an eight foot replica of the empire state building is brought to the front of the stage. The audience cheers for their favourite act and the band to light up the most lights on the clap-o-meter goes through. “Lots of times bands will come and they’ll bring loads of people and they’ll lose and then a band who brought nobody will win because they won everybody over”, Black explained to Otwo, adding that many other competitions across the county have tried to replicate this idea, without success. “They want my clap-o-meter but that’s top secret, I’ll never tell anybody.”
Aside from exposure and support, bands that do well in the King Kong Club win some pretty impressive prizes. “Every semi-final is a prize; it could be a trip to England to play a gig or to Irish festivals like No place like Dome, Vantastival and Knockanstockan. We sent the Cujo Family to New York for six gigs, and we’ve sent five bands to play gigs in London and Brighton.” Dublin band Raglans recently jetted off to Portugal for seven days to record with legendary producer and Morrissey’s right-hand man Boz Boorer as part of last season’s grand final prize.
Other bands to gain success that have entered the King Kong Club include Dirty Epics, The Maladies, The Urges, the Cujo Family, Hot Sprockets and Mojo Gogo, with each of them going from strength to strength in the Irish music scene. However, Black remains confident that the King Kong Club will continue to grow and evolve; giving bands an even wider circuit for their music. “We haven’t had an international success but the time will come.”
Black discussed their plans to expand the King Kong Club to greater heights. “We’re going to a different level now. We’ve had videos, a photographer every night, the radio show for the bands and the next level now is a record label.” Bands that will be featured on the label must fit in with the label concept: fun. “It’s only starting out and we’re looking at one band to sign. We’re going to release a couple of singles from them and then we’re going to go to the next band and we’re going to do the same thing. We’re planning on releasing three singles by the end of the year and one full length album.”
It has never been easier for bands to get involved and it is free for anyone to enter. “If bands want to come in and be part of the King Kong Club it costs them zero. We’ve got all the gear, Music Maker sponsors everything”. Black added that any band that gets involved will benefit from it “Everyone is a winner because they all get treated amazingly. If bands have questions about the business or to do with anything concerning music, we’re here to embrace and encourage musicians and bands and our doors are always open.”
To find out more or get involved visit thekingkongclub.com