The Coronas left fame and a loyal fan base behind in Ireland to move to London. With a new record deal and album, Hanna Duggal meets a band growing in confidence…
THE smaller venues The Coronas recently played in Britain — such as Soup Kitchen in Manchester, King Tut’s in Glasgow and Scala in London — are unlike the arenas they are used to playing at home (their biggest headline to date was at Dublin’s 3Arena, with a 14,000-strong crowd). However the intimacy of playing to small crowds is perhaps what they need to create a stir in Britain.
Island Records recently signed the band on the merit of their upcoming album, and lead singer Danny O’Reilly, the son of Mary Black, revealed the impact it has had.
“We can tell the difference straight away. I suppose the proof will be in the pudding when the album comes out. We’ve had a great relationship with them while we were finishing off the album. We’re excited about the future, it doesn’t guarantee any success of course but we’re hoping it will take us to the next level, fingers crossed.”
While a deal with Island Records may not guarantee The Coronas spring to international stardom, it is an opportune step in the right direction. And surely major label record backing can’t hurt their chances of breaking other territories?
“There are a lot of examples of bands that have done it themselves. To a certain extent we did quite well in Ireland without a major label — it was always about the music first, we were never really too fussed about being a hyped band, we always took that stuff with a pinch of salt,” Danny explains.
“Even if you look at people like Hozier, he has a big deal and he’s on Island as well but when he started out it was just success of word of mouth really that took him to the next level. I didn’t think it was all industry hype, everyone knew Take me to Church and everyone was like ‘that’s just a great song’. I think Island really helped him and now he has gone global. But I think people will relate to a good song and that’s the most important thing.”
The four-piece band from Dublin rose to fame via word of mouth around their home city after they released their debut EP in 2005 and gained a steady student following. A few years later, The Coronas’ infectious pop-rock sound saw them beat off U2 and Snow Patrol at the 2010 Meteor Awards for their third album, Tony was an Ex-Con. Their singles Grace Don’t Wait and San Diego Song spent 16 weeks in the Irish top 40 charts.
Earlier this year the release of the single All the Others was a prelude to the foot-stomping percussion the band promises on the next album.
The second single, Just Like That, notably featuring some iconic Henry hoovers in a quirky love story music video, defines the lyrical motifs the band were trying to achieve.
Danny describes the new album as “very much a breakup album. It’s just a lot of songs about relationships — not just breakups but relationships in general amongst friends, not just love. As a band we always try to write about ourselves and what we want to do and our ambitions. I suppose the main theme is that there are a few ‘slap-you-on-the-head’ breakup songs.” (This may well be a reference to Danny’s relationship with Irish TV presenter Laura Whitmore, which ended in 2012, even though the pair were pictured together again last year.)
But discussing Laura is strictly off limits, so back to the music. Guitarist Dave McPhillips adds that it’s not all about heartbreak. “Get Loose is kind of a party song. It’s about not being aware of your surroundings when you’re having a party and your house gets wrecked.”
The Coronas’ previous albums have integrated a variety of styles; with earlier albums incorporating synth sounds. Are we to expect a complete reinvention on this album?
Not quite. Danny describes it as “a bit more drum heavy, it is still piano and synth-led but I think the songs are different. This is the first time we’ve started working with other people with songwriting. It’s definitely big sounding; I would say there are probably more piano and synth songs than acoustic-led.
“We always go with whatever sounds best for a song. It’s not like, ‘We can’t put acoustic guitar on that song because this album isn’t meant to be acoustic-y — that’s so first album’. The last song, My Fault, is totally acoustic-driven whereas Get Loose barely has an acoustic on the track at all.”
Danny also emphasised the trust between each member of the band regarding the songwriting process. “With this album especially, Dave and I would sit down and one of us would have a bit of an idea for a song or I would come up with the guts of a bit of a chorus. It is definitely a collaborative thing, more so with the first record there would have been songs that I almost had finished and I would bring it to the boys and we would finish it together. That’s the way we like it, we’re very lucky that we have that trust between us and we are comfortable writing together because it’s not an easy thing to do.”
With regards to disagreements within the band, it’s clear that The Coronas are like any other group. “We definitely have arguments, and we are very close so we can be very at each other. We can say ‘I don’t like this song very much’ and another person will say ‘I would really like this song to make the album’. But it never gets too heated, we are lucky that we just get on.”
For The Long Way the band worked with talented and pragmatic British producer Eliot James — known for his collaboration with bands such as The Kaiser Chiefs. How different was this collaboration compared to working with previous producer Tony Hopper?
“When we had Tony Hopper we had moved to LA for six weeks to do the album,” says Dave. “But here we moved over to London a couple of years ago so it felt like we were kind of coming home every time we finished in the studio. It was a nice headspace to be in. Eliot was really cool. You can picture yourself being mates with him.”
Danny adds: “Eliot is the first producer that has really got stuck into each individual part. He has literally gone… not anal about it, but questioning us a little bit, whereas the producers we have worked with in the past have let us at it, as in ‘you are the band — do whatever you do live.’ Eliot was getting stuck into parts and that really suited us, especially at this junction that we’re at with these group of songs.”
The Coronas are accustomed to having a huge fan base at home. The tall, dark and handsome quartet recently toured in Australia, charming new supporters Down Under. They are steadily gathering support here, but home crowds are still the best.
“We always look forward to coming home and playing in Dublin. We love travelling, we love playing everywhere and getting to see the world, it’s great, but there’s something special about playing a big gig at home in Dublin. It’s always a good night.”
Still, with the recent move to London, it’s clear The Coronas have their sights set on bigger things. “We have ambition to be as big as we can,” Danny says. “Whether that happens or not you never know but we are going to give it our all. It took us a while to get there in Ireland — it wasn’t an overnight thing, we built up right through the venues and eventually ended up playing an arena and that was amazing.”
They are not afraid to go big, with ambition to achieve the level of success Oasis once had in their heyday. “It’s definitely not about fame,” Danny says, with Dave adding: “We have a big sound and Danny’s voice can definitely travel around the world so that’s what we’re aiming for. I’m not really going to be disappointed if we’re not as big as Oasis but we’ll have fun trying anyway.”
For now, playing smaller venues in Britain feels like progress for the band. Before we finish Danny (who speaks Irish and has recorded with the band in Irish) tells me about a tattoo he is planning to get, which sums up their philosophy of how things will play out. It will say something along the lines of ‘Tá cuis le gach ní a tharlaíonn’ — everything for a reason.
The Long Way is available on iTunes now