By Elle Kelleher, Contributor
University Express sat down with three-quarters of Belfast-based psych-tinged Krautrockers Junk Drawer to talk about new releases, the state of the live music scene and accidentally prophesying the pandemic.
University Express: So, can you talk me through how guys know each other? How did all this start?
Brian Coney [bass]: Well, I’d known Rory a long time, long before I knew Stevie or Jake. Stevie and Jake are brothers.
Steve Lennox [guitar/vocals]: I sort of knew Rory as well.
Brian: We were all playing music in different bands. Stevie was in a band called PigsAsPeople. I was in a band called Cross-Eyed Mary (they’re not very good — don’t look them up!), Rory was in a band called Chocolate Love Factory. We got friendly and it was a case of us all having a similar taste in music.
Rory Dee [drums]: It started as a Pixies tribute band, I think.
Steve: The four of us happened to be in a Pixies band that never gigged! Myself and Brian did a few bedroom recordings and gave Jake a shout, because he plays drums. Then we got Rory in as well. Incidentally, our first bassist was the brother of the fella from Idles! He’s a dentist now. Brian: The four of us as well are from mid-Ulster, and I think we subconsciously bonded over being culchies living in Belfast.
Express: What was the recording process like for your debut album, Ready For The House?
Steve: We had a few EPs out before, and this started off like another one. The songs were all very varied. Chris, the recording engineer, thought that because the songs were so different, they’d lend themselves well to an album. We held off for about six months, just kept writing, kept seeing where we were going, and it ended up being the best decision we ever made. Being told by an outside force to actually get the album done was a great driving factor. Brian: We valued Chris’ input a lot. He’s also in Robocobra Quartet, so he’s not just a producer, he’s an artist. He wanted us to evolve as artists as well. There’s also the friendship element as well. He had three different perspectives.
Express: A lot of the songs on that album deal with isolation and anxiety. Are ye a band that looks inward when it comes to writing music?
Steve: Certainly up to this point. Jake’s not here, but he is very inward looking in his song writing. I think I’ve only written one song that hasn’t been looking inwards.
Brian: Stevie and Jake write the lyrics. From an outsider’s perspective it seems like textbook, using music to vocalise things you can’t really get out in a normal conversation. Then when it’s out there, you can talk about it all the time, they’ve been legitimised through the music. Loads of bands do it, The Altered Hours are a great example
Steve: It’s kind of an in-joke that we use lyrics to talk about how we feel, men being men and all that!
Express: Have any of those songs taken on a new meaning for you, with the year everyone is after putting down?
Brian: I think the title of the album was a stroke of genius, the fact we called it Ready for the House. [Much, much laughter] It turned out to be more prophetic than we would have liked for it to have been!
Steve: It was the same with Year of the Sofa. These things end up being accidentally prescient. Express: So ye can’t confirm or deny that ye started the pandemic to sell albums?
Brian: Rory ate the bat!
Express: How did ye find the transition from live festivals to moving everything online?
Steve: On the one hand you had the Bandcamp Fridays, which really helped the DIY community in Ireland come together when we couldn’t actually hang out. We were very fortunate that a lot of people online were interested and wanted to help. I feel like we are a live band, though. A lot of our songs get fleshed out live. As the year went on, not being able to play live, that’s just been weird.
Rory: The big thing is we released the album, but haven’t played it live yet. Doing an album launch is a big deal. Recording the live session for Spilt Milk was fun though.
Brian: It was as fun as it looked! We had this google document of all these stupid videos, which we gave to Matty [who filmed the Spilt Milk video] and said put these all together! There’ll be a couple more videos from that coming out in the future.
Steve: We’ve got a lot of things happening soon, it’s all on paper. Hopefully, come April or May, we might be able to have more on that.
Brian: It’s sad though, thinking about the likes of The Kino. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, actually.
Steve: The last time we were in Cork, we played The Kino as part of the Quarter Block Party.
Brian: It’s an institution for you guys, but we’re at the other end of the island. The idea of getting back there and doing something, that’s what it’s all about.
Steve: It is frustrating to have gotten to this point in our little careers and be scuppered by acts of God. You have to remind yourself everyone is struggling, and things will come again.
Express: You’ve brought up The Kino there. Cork has seen a lot of its cultural spaces decimated in the last two or three years. What’s the situation like in Belfast?
Steve: It’s hard to maintain a venue. The Menagerie closed there, that was running tight at the best of times. The Music Venue Trust has actually done an insane amount in Northern Ireland though. A lot of that is the work of Stu Fletcher. He lobbied constantly, especially at the start of the Pandemic, to make sure there was an infrastructure for us to come back to. We’re lucky in Belfast though that rents are a lot lower than in the rest of the UK and Ireland.
Ready for the House is available on Bandcamp now, where you can also find the band on the compilation Bangers and Breakups. Stay tuned to their socials, as the album launch will be on the cards once it’s safe!