Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with Fangclub’s Steven King about the band’s upcoming Cork shows.
It was a busy 2016 for Dublin rock revivalists Fangclub – their Bullet Head E.P. released through Universal Music Ireland after signing a rare domestic deal with the major-label office in May, the Coma Happy E.P. following shortly in September of last year. Frontman/songwriter Steven King hasn’t had much time to make sense of it all quite yet. “No (laughs), there’s been no time to take it in, or for rest, but the hindsight of what we’ve done so far, has been mind-blowing, so far. We were only talking about it yesterday, actually. Looking at this tour and then looking at the touring we’ve been doing the last few months, it’s such a crazy jump for us, man. There’s been no time to process it.”
The creative process for Fangclub is relatively uncomplicated, perhaps a given considering the band’s raw, garage-rock feel. “I guess it all starts with me, with a guitar, in my apartment, from there I’ll bring a full song or an idea to the practice room, and we’ll just bash it out. Really quick, really organic. From there, then, we don’t have a producer, we have a friend who knows how to work ProTools. We don’t really want a “producer” because we don’t want to meddle with the sound. We’ve always been sticking to our own guns, and we mixed the album ourselves, with our friend, because we don’t want to go away from that raw, natural sound.”
For such a loud and noisy band, coming from Dublin’s DIY scene, has signing for Universal Records presented any challenges or creative differences? What would be the advantages over staying DIY, for example? “It was a worry, signing up to a major label, that they’d throw producers at you and stuff, but for us, we kinda have that golden ticket of just doing what we want and being left alone in our bubble. We definitely hit a wall, doing the DIY thing. Not creatively, or anything, just that there was no real challenges left, and a major label opens up a bigger platform, and you surround yourself with the best people possible.” Is there a fear of staffers in big entertainment not necessarily “getting” what a band like Fangclub might be after? “Nah, I think they get it. Think that was another thing, where you think you’re going to be made do things, being pushed into whatever mould or structure. But we’ve just been left alone, just being shown these doors opening.”
The press’ response to the EPs has been huge, with a lot of UK publications getting behind the trio. King has been careful not to assign a whole bunch of grá to critics, however. “It’s really cool, but I don’t go after that kind of stuff, but it’s kinda flattering when you get it, as well. It opens you up to different audiences and it helps for quotes, in terms of booking gigs, and all that. We don’t really get into all that stuff, though, it kinda freaks us out a little too much. We stay away from the positive stuff as well as the negative, it’s all the same. You don’t wanna build yourself up in your own head. We just wanna do the work, really.”
Being on a label and so forth also affects releases – as Spotify and the like have affected musicians’ bottom lines, downloads have begun swirling the mainstream drain, and vinyl has effectively become the utilitarian physical format of choice for a generation, surmounting CD for that cultural throne in recent years. King is circumspect about it all, when quizzed on where they fit on the big-label schedule. “We haven’t seen any trouble yet. We have a pocket of diehards that go for everything we put out, and it’s steady growth. The best thing we’ve had so far is vinyl. We’ve been surviving on vinyl, we sell out of it all the time on tour. As far as digital stuff… Spotify is cool, you can go into the analytics and track where people are listening, you can see a thousand people in Dublin are listening or five thousand people in London are listening. That helps with us, putting on shows, planning out a tour. Money-wise, everyone knows there’s no money in that sort of stuff, but for an upcoming band that’s not making that much money anyway, Spotify is a pretty cool tool.”
It’s a ridiculously fertile scene Ireland has at present, with new bands and artists emerging everywhere. The conversation turns quickly to who’s making a difference for King at present. “Otherkin are really cool, Bitch Falcon are incredible, we’re really good mates with the Shaker Hymn, they’re from Cork. We’re really good mates with those guys. The Academic. We’re just really good mates with all these bands, it’s such a good time to be in a band right now, ’cause we all meet each other on the same circuit and support each other.”
Fangclub are playing DeBarra’s on April 7th and Cyprus Avenue on April 8th. King is enthusiastic about the prospect. “Every time we go to Cork, it’s just the best, y’know? We did a launch for Indiependence there a few weeks ago, that was excellent. That’s why we’ve booked a Clonakilty show, and a Cork show: it’s the end of the tour, our new single comes out on the night of the Cork show, so we’re staying on extra just to hang out in Cork. We always have a good time.”
The band has a busy schedule ahead with intensive UK/IE touring throughout the summer. What is the mindset heading into it all? “We’re pretty focused, we have our album coming out in August, we’re confirming some UK tours, got some festivals coming up, we’re supporting the Pixies in Dublin in July. Big stuff coming up this year. The whole mindset is bewilderment, really. We probably won’t realise until it’s behind us”
Fangclub play DeBarra’s on April 7th and Cyprus Avenue on April 8th. Tickets available at venue websites and box offices.