Irish post-punk saviours Fontaines D.C embrace the darkness on hyped second album

RISING: Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C were supposed to make their maiden trip to Australia in December to support their second album A Hero's Death.
RISING: Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C were supposed to make their maiden trip to Australia in December to support their second album A Hero's Death.

THE historic streets of Dublin have always breathed to the rhythm of words. The Irish capital inspired James Joyce's modernist masterpiece Ulysses, and other literary giants like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw developed their craft in the staunchly-Catholic city.

Dublin's latest flag-bearers for post-punk, Fontaines D.C, are heavily inspired by their hometown's literary traditions, mixed with a dose of late '70s Manchester and early 2000s New York.

In 2017 Carlos O'Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan (bass), Grian Chatten (vocals), and Tom Coll (drums) bonded over poetry while studying music at university.

"It's a very typical thing for a band to bond over music, but stuff like poetry and literature is something different and it maybe set us apart from other bands," Curley says from Dublin.

"We came up with our own identity from reading Sean O'Casey and Brendan Brehan. It gave us our own voice which was inherently Irish as well. It made us feel different, but also made us quite Irish."

Unlike Bono whose Irishness became increasingly absent as U2 chased global domination, Fontaines D.C's frontman Grian Chatten's almost spoken-word delivery is dripping with Irish brogue.

There's also an intensity and piecing stare which have drawn obvious comparisons with Joy Division's tragic frontman Ian Curtis.

Last year Fontaines D.C, who take their name from The Godfather character Johnny Fontane and the D.C from Dublin City, released their debut album Dogrel. It was met with universal acclaim on either side of the Atlantic and propelled the band into a whirlwind touring schedule.

Fontaines D.C - Big

Album No.2 A Hero's Death is the comedown. All five members felt mentally and physically exhausted and the influence weighs heavily on the music. The songs are darker and moodier and more isolated.

Whereas Dogrel's opening track Big sets out Chatten's ambitions with, "My childhood was small/ But I'm gonna be big!", the lead track from A Hero's Death, I Don't Belong, has Chatten singing figuratively, and then in the video clip, literally drowning under a rising tide.

"We took on too much work that any sane person couldn't follow through on and come out the other end alright because it was just flight upon flight," Curley says.

"Have you ever watched the movie Fight Club? You know the scene where it's a montage of airports and there's queues upon queues. People start looking insane.

"Whenever you don't sleep enough you start losing your mind and you have four other people, it's a really hard thing to do. I really hope we don't burst the bubble for young people who want to be in bands, but in saying that, touring is really hard.

WEARY: A hectic schedule of touring almost broke Fontaines D.C in 2019.

WEARY: A hectic schedule of touring almost broke Fontaines D.C in 2019.

"That was reality of the experience we had, but we've also learned and the way we're gonna operate from now on is very conscious of our own mental health and operating more efficiently."

COVID-19 and the global lockdown, in some respects, has come at a beneficial time for Fontaines D.C. It's been a chance reconnect and refocus on writing.

Despite COVID-19, the hype has continued to build. New singles Televised Mind, I Don't Belong and A Hero's Death, driven by a Strokes riff and Chatten's mantra "life ain't always empty", have stoked anticipation. Irish magazine Hot Press even dedicated an eight-page spread to celebrate the album's release.

"I think we're doing something a bit different to other bands who are around right now," Curley says of the hype. "I'm glad people are giving us attention and are interested in what we're doing because we put a lot of work into what we do. It's only matching how highly I think of our songs."

Fontaines D.C - Televised Mind

There's been a resurgence of post-punk in Europe led by Fontaines D.C and the likes of Bristol's Idles and London's Shame. Curley agrees the political division created by Brexit and Trump has created a fertile environment for meaningful art.

"There's always post-punk music being name, but in the last five years it just seems like the right people are keeping it relevant," he says. "The style of music is definitely conducive to everything going on now and to say something.

"I think guitar music in general and drums and bass are very mystical instruments. You can have a techno DJ produce a song, but someone who picks up a guitar and kicks the shit of it for two hours, the wonderful music that can come out of it is a very magical thing."

Fontaines D.C's A Hero's Death is out on July 31.

This story Fontaines D.C are new Irish heroes for dark times first appeared on Newcastle Herald.