To be frank, if you haven’t heard of Dublin based alt-rock quartet Otherkin by now I’ve really got to question what you’re doing with yourself. The group, comprising of frontman Luke Reilly, drummer Rob Summons, bassist David Anthony and guitarist Conor Wynne, burst to the fore of the alt-scene in Ireland following the release of their ‘The New Vice’ EP last year.
Otherkin recently released their debut album ‘OK’ following quite an organic recording process, as frontman Luke Reilly noted: “it was December of last year where we went to Clique (Studio) in Straffan and I think we did about 20 days recording and recorded about 16 songs with Jason Boland who’s one of the guys from Kodaline and David Prendergast who’s from Overhead, The Albatross. We pretty much recorded everything in the past with them anyways so it felt pretty natural to go back with them to do the album and yeah, it was just a blast. It was so easy to do it with them, we just knocked out the songs and kind of did the production on whatever needed to be done.”
“There was talks before we did the album about whether or not we’d go with a known producer. There was a few names that we kind of had in mind and then we kind of figured that there was no point in wasting a tonne of money and going to a big budget studio with a big, wealthy producer hoping that they can offer a different dimension to the sound when we already kind of have the sound that we’re looking to go for, with two of our really good friends. So we put it on ice and just said well let’s just go with the guys that we’ve done everything with because we’re happy with how everything is sounding so far. We’re delighted with the results.”
It’s probably an understatement to claim that the atmosphere concocted at an OK show isn’t far off fervent. A wild, aggressive energy inherently flows through the band and they’re determined to translate that effervescent dynamism to the crowd. I posed the question to Luke: ‘do you intentionally enter into the studio to write these fast and furious style tracks?’
“Yeah definitely,” he admits immediately, “ I suppose the first song that kind of kicked off things for Otherkin is a track called ‘Ay Ay’ and when we wrote that and when we saw the reaction we were getting for the live gigs, especially to that song it definitely reinforced in our minds that that was the way we wanted the sound to go. That kind of up-tempo, good time, foot to the floor, party songs in a way. Then we were going back to the rehearsal space and writing songs and, being in a very basic space where you can’t really hear much, all the noise colliding together, when singing melodies and what not you literally just had to shout in order to be heard and get the melody across. There wasn’t really too much premeditation about it. It was just a case of that’s what was coming out in the rehearsal room. Those kind of riffs really made us to want to strive for that kind of sound. It just seemed to kick off from when we wrote a certain kind of song and then what followed was definitely in that vein.”
After building such a dedicated following, the band were consciously aware not to alienate their already well established fan base with the release of ‘OK’.
“We always had in mind that even though we’d put out certain songs on the EP’s we’d still want to put them on the album. I feel an EP is a limited enough format in a sense that depending that the number of people who are listening to our debut album is far greater than those who would have ever listened to our EP’s so you kind of need a second shot to allow those songs to be heard. Yano, it was the case aswell that some of the singles we put out were the strongest songs, to not put them on the album would be annoying for the listener. I know when I was young finding new albums, what comes to mind is Antidotes by Foals; I remember picking up the album and it didn’t have Hummer on it and I was like ‘oh god why isn’t that on there’ and just being kind of annoyed” Reilly adds with a wry smile.
“There’s even a song on the album that’s really old and we’ve actually stopped playing it live for a really long time, ‘89’ so that’s actually the oldest song on the album and that came before any of the EPs. It came up to the recording of the album and we considered every song we’d done up until that point and that made the shortlist, we recorded it and didn’t think much of it but maybe about 2 days before we had to decide the album track listing we switched back onto it and said ‘this has to be on the album’. I guess that’s really the first song that represented the new sound that Otherkin were going for.”
It’s not simply a record comprised of older material though, bangers like ‘Come On, Hello’ and ‘Treat Me So Bad’ are probably as fresh as they could be:
“The first three singles were completely new and actually I think one of them was only written maybe 2 weeks before we recorded the album because we had the recording booked in and we had all the songs we had in mind but we said why don’t we get as many songs as we can together where possible. So what we did is we all went home to our parents homes for like a week, I set up a little mobile recording studio in my room and just started trying to fire down as many ideas as possible, and so did the lads, and we met up at the end of the week and we actually got the three singles within that week. Yeah, that was only about a month to two weeks before we recorded the album and they ended up being the three singles, it was bizarre.
“We put the four singles from the first two EP’s on there but we wanted to make sure that the full album wasn’t just older songs, we weren’t just giving people 2 or 3 new songs, we felt 7 was a pretty healthy number. Hopefully people won’t be too pissed off” he chuckles.
Reilly’s rasping vocals layered over a cacophony of distorted guitars and booming drums have created an absolutely ferocious sound for the Dublin based group, it’s rather surprising then that Reilly’s own influences are generally quite diverse.
“I guess what I was listening to was a real product of what people in my school were listening to at the time and you had that wave of kids that were really into Eminem, Jay-Z, and Dr Dre. I was very involved in that,especially in my younger years in school, it was only when I got a bit further on, and I wasn’t playing guitar at this point, but a friend of mine showed me The Strokes and I couldn’t get over it and that just kick-started the lot of it. I started playing guitar and started diving further back, I’ve been listening to a lot of, I suppose, alternative indie stuff before that, and obviously when I started playing guitar I began learning a lot more towards that stuff. Yeah so I think the bands I was getting into were Blur, The Strokes, Interpol – those noughties, guitar based bands. I listened to everything from that point on, friends would show me Pixies, The Smiths, all the classic bands and see how they were doing it.”
For many, Otherkin were brought to mainstream attention in a fairly unique way. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich casually gushed about the quartet on his Beats 1 Radio show back in May
“Yeah that was just… mad. Two of the lads are massive Metallica fans. I wouldn’t necessarily myself be a huge fan, but I was always very aware of their music and Lars Ulrich himself. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of what they do it was just a massive validation anyway. I remember being in bed because, I think we were due to get a ferry the next morning at stupid O’clock but my phone kept going off and I was thinking ‘Ugh, what is this’ and I just looked at it and the lads were going mad in our group chat because it was Lars and I thought it just had to be someone taking the piss. Went onto Twitter and yano, his blue tick was there and it registered with me, it was insane. The recording of it is actually nuts, it’s bizarre. We were listening to it the next morning on the radio in our kitchen and were looking at each other like ‘what is this’ and he was just waffling on about us for around five minutes, it was deadly. We still don’t know how he got around to finding us, I think he just said he was doing research for the program and he came across us but it was pretty cool that someone like him can discover an unknown band from Ireland and yano, play our song to god knows how many people.”
The month of May was an all-around wild month as the up-and-coming act supported Guns N’Roses at the legendary Slane castle, the village of which Luke is actually a native of.
“It was just surreal, cause I’m from Slane itself and one of the first ever concerts I went to was Slane in 1999 I think, it was The Verve or something? I went to so many bands there throughout the years, it’s always been a massive event for me every year because it was only down the road, this huge thing. It was great in terms of getting exposure to bands and understanding people’s reaction to music on that large of a scale. It was always a dream of mine to play it, and when we finally got to do it it was everything I thought it would be and I can’t wait to do it again.”
However, the boys didn’t actually get to rub shoulders with Axl, Slash and Co – ”I know Duff (McKagan) was down on site quite early because I think he did some production on Mark Lanegan’s album (who was also playing) so he popped down to see him, but I didn’t actually see him, I just was told he was about. Guns themselves flew to the site via helicopter about half an hour before they were scheduled to play. So I didn’t get to see them, we got to hang around with the Royal Blood guys a bit, who are sweethearts, even Mark Lanegan was really nice: he was talking to Rob, our drummer, and complimenting us on our set which was another surreal moment. Unfortunately, didn’t get to meet Guns but you know, we’ll give it a year.”
Otherkin are showing no signs of slowing down either, following the album launch the band are embarking on an absolutely mammoth tour, travelling throughout the UK and Europe before finishing up in Galway and Dublin just before Christmas. Despite just unleashing their debut LP on the world, new music is already in the works.
“We want to stay ahead of ourselves in a way, we don’t know how the album is going to be received In terms of us touring into the new year, you know the way some bands their album blows up and next thing they’re on the road for a year and a half and don’t write or record or anything due to touring. So we made a conscious decision to write as early as we could after recording the album, we’ve done a few weekends where we’ve stayed in the rehearsal space and played until stupid o’clock, woken up and written more in an attempt to stay ahead. There is a few new songs knocking around and I’m always writing away in my own time too just so that whatever happens with the album we’ve a few songs to go back on to test out live, and eventually record and put out, as opposed to being one of those bands that has to wait four years to put out another album.”
Arguably, the Slane native and his band of merry men, alongside other luminaries such as Fangclub, Bitch Falcon et al, are leading the charge in this alt-rock revolution taking place in Ireland, yet Reilly acknowledges there’s still obstacles to overcome.
“I think the rock scene is really healthy, the only thing I’d be kind of dismayed at a bit is the lack of mainstream acceptance of those kind of bands, and I think I’d even include ourselves in that a bit. The broader population of Ireland tends to gravitate towards a certain style of music which I don’t think necessarily includes our music, it’s acoustic, soft rock and soft pop. Which is very unfortunate because there’s a lot of great bands here putting out amazing music and putting on great live shows but they’re still doing shows in the upstairs of Whelans to like 20 people or they’re playing Cyprus Avenue to an even smaller amount.”
“It’s a bit unfortunate when you look at Irish acts who do really well and manage to bring in a lot of money into the economy, like look at Hozier, he made it happen and he’s phenomenally successful, and I’m not sure outside of his record label was there a huge amount of support from the likes of Government agencies to help him and set the foundations, but he did it anyways didn’t he?”
Although there are no current plans for a Cork date, keep your eyes peeled as there may be an announcement sooner rather than later. Otherkin’s debut record ‘OK’ is out now in all good record shops and streaming/downloading platforms.