This week here at Soundsphere HQ, we got the chance to interview one of the most exciting rock bands around, Fontaines D.C. During the interview, we talk about the Jim Beam: Live Sessions, what the guys miss about touring, releasing A Hero’s Death during the lockdown, and what lies in store for their upcoming third record.
What happens when one of the best live bands in Europe (maybe even the world) are stopped dead in their tracks for one of the strangest years on record? The post-punk giants were forced to cancel all touring plans, release their album in a pandemic and try and survive as a band in this strange new world that musicians have tried to adapt to. That time is now drawing to a close; with the big re-opening for live music on the horizon, we’re almost out of the storm. But Fontaines have teamed up with Jim Beam for some exclusive live music sessions that are bound to whet your appetite for the return of gigs.
And there will be a lot that musicians miss about touring, even the little things. “Do you know what I really miss? It’s being in a van instead of a bus and picking music everybody has to listen to at the same time,” says enigmatic frontman Grian Chatten, who seems very at ease during the interview, thoughtful and calm as always. Even with one or two tech mishaps (all on my end) we managed to get the interview rolling.
The reason we’re speaking to the band today is because of the Jim Beam Live Sessions. Of which Fontaines D.C. and Jack Garrett are taking part. Carlos O’Connell (guitarist) expressed that the sessions like Jim Bean have been providing are the only sources of being able to perform during the onslaught of various lockdowns. I asked why the band wanted to work with Jim Bean specifically. “Because it was not really about the brand itself, you know, it had nothing really to do with demos, it was just kind of giving us the space to go back in time for a second, and get in touch with what the venue that was,” says Carlos. Jim Bean tailored the live sessions to Fontaines liking, never dictating their vision and letting the band put out the live version they want.
The band have done various online performances since the release of the critically acclaimed second album A Hero’s Death in July of last year. The album showed the band’s nihilistic side. But still drew vivid pictures for the listener and showing a great deal of versatility instrumentally too. When asked a question they have probably heard about a million times, Grian replied, “you know, we haven’t seen people singing lyrics back to those songs. You know, we haven’t ever seen people kind of like, go crazy.” The album went to No.2 in the UK charts, its singles gained frequent Radio 1 airplay, was nominated for Best Rock Album at The Grammys, all along with setting up Fontaines up for a huge tour. He also contemplates being in a band that can’t tour and how conceptual music feels as a result. “It feels kind of… really ethereal. And it reminds you of how abstract and music is.”
The band are looking forward to live touring again, especially playing songs such as Televised Mind and I Don’t Belong in front of a festival crowd. “I can’t wait to do I Don’t Belong at a festival; that’s one I want to do the most,” says Grian. The next album is also in the works as well, with it scheduled to release at some point this year.
When asking the lads about the third record, they seemed happy to share a few details about the next project. The third record is set to have an overall more communal vibe. And after a year being stuck indoors, people will really need that. “during the writing process, it certainly felt a lot more inclined towards, like a livelier, more kind of communal feeling. Kind of just a lust for that kind of sense of excitement, of sort of going out and sort of socialising,” says Grian.
Carlos as well felt that the upcoming third record was very much informed by the band themselves and no one else. “I feel like we managed to make a piece of work that’s very much, you know, around uninformed by anyone but ourselves and no reactions, turning point by no reactions, you know, so I think it’s great to start all over again.”
The performance itself for the live sessions is available over on the Jim Beam YouTube channel, where the band release a new take on the track ‘I Was Not Born,’ which was filmed in the iconic venue The Lexington, in North London. While not being available for the interview, guitarist Conor Curley said that the venue offered so much more than your larger venues out there, “there’s a more natural, authentic feel offered to you by the smaller independent gigs. It’s refreshing to be back at The Lexington, which has a particular romance that reminds us of when we started out.”
You can now watch the Jim Beam: Welcome Sessions on the official Jim Beam YouTube channel from today (15th July).
Words and interview: Brett Herlingshaw