Ten years is a long time. The world has changed inconceivably from that which we lived in in 2007. One of biggest and most ground-breaking events of 2007 was the announcement of the development of Apple’s very first iPhone. No one could have predicted the effect it would on all corners of the globe, as social media and news stations were accessible with a mere swipe of a finger. The iPhone has played a significant role in the way in which we now view the world. For example, it’s made it a lot harder, if you’re successful, to stay out of the spotlight, as everyone was suddenly equipped with a high-quality camera. The invention of the iPhone also changed the way in which music was accessed. It gave users a simple way in which to access platforms such as Spotify and later Apple music, which combined contains almost the entire catalog of recorded music. With its high-quality microphone and voice recorder, it also allowed artists to record snippets of ideas and lyrics when inspiration strikes outside of a recording studio. This is before we consider the hundreds and thousands of apps that give musicians the power to take control of their content and develop their own fan base. Since the development of streaming services such as SoundCloud and Pandora, Independent record labels are going from strength to strength, leading bands to the fore of genres and scenes the world over. In 2007 in the UK the Arctic Monkeys were quickly making a name for themselves, releasing their sophomore LP “Favourite Worst Nightmare” independent from any major record label. Here in Ireland, two future ‘Goliaths’ of Irish music were preparing themselves for the release of their debut albums, and their very first steps into the cold, lonely light that is success. The name of these two acts? James Vincent McMorrow and The Coronas.
Fast forward ten years and both acts have just released their newest works, McMorrow with his fourth album “True Care” and The Coronas with their fifth “Trust The Wire.” Of The Coronas previous work, all four albums have been certified Double Platinum in Ireland. The journey, however, was not as easy as it may seem at first glance. The members of the band first met in Terenure College and quickly discovered each other’s passion for music. They first came together in a band known as Kiros in 2003, playing sets that largely consisted of covers, with the odd original thrown in for good measure. While they received very little attention, it gave all members the chance to experience gigging and develop a knack to decipher which songs would go down well in front of an audience, and which would flop. By the time they had reached university, the band had a wealth of experience in playing live and gave them an edge over newly formed university bands. While in college, Dave McPhilips joined and the band changed their name to The Coronas. Almost as soon as the band had learned to perform together they released two EPs back to back, the first “Live in The Voodoo Lounge” and then the eponymous “The Coronas EP,” both released in 2005. This was a time prior to the boom of downloadable music, so CD’s were burned and handed out at gigs. Thinking back, Danny O’Reilly, lead singer of the band, says:
“At the start of that summer we burned “Live at the Vodoo Lounge EP” and just gave it out to as many people as we could”. “It was sort of just a word of mouth thing pretty much, through university and stuff. I think one of our first gigs once Dave had joined the band was sold out and there were crowds outside and we couldn’t believe that the word had spread and that those EPs had gotten around and that people knew some of the songs.”
Following the release and success of “The Coronas EP”, the band were signed to the independent Irish label 3ú and were sent out to record their debut album, “Heroes or Ghosts”. Going into recording, there was very little pressure on the band and, what with expectation being so low, it allowed the band to take risk. “We had a batch of songs,” Danny recalls, “and we thought ‘sure we might as well go in and record them and see what happens’, and so we went into a studio in Dublin and just lashed the songs down.” The majority of the album’s tracks were songs that the band had been touring heavily around Dublin for the previous year, so they knew what songs went down well; “we were very proud of the song ‘Heroes or Ghosts’ itself, and we knew ‘San Diego Song’ had been going down well live but no one expected it to take off like it did,” Danny admits. “When ‘San Diego Song’ came out it just a crazy amount of radio play and it just propelled us to another level where we could sell out gigs”.
As the single “Heroes or Ghosts” started to gather some airplay, producers from RTÉ approached Danny to record a version of the song in Irish. Danny, a fluent Irish speaker growing up, was happy to help from the off. “The reason for that song’s success in Irish was its translation, which was so close and true to the lyrics but also had its own sound and own rhythm and poetry within the translation… The next thing we heard they were teaching it in Irish colleges and it was all over the place, and to this day we still sing it ‘As Gaelige’ now at the gigs, it goes down really well. We actually played it in Cork the other night, and I started it in English and the crowd started shouting at me to do it as Gaelige”.
As the years and the albums rolled by the band found themselves seeking a new challenge. In 2013, following the release of their third album “Closer To You”, the band moved to London in search of a new adventure, and in the hopes of securing a deal with a major record label. Soon after arriving, the band were being eyed up by several labels, but were soon scooped-up by Island Records, the British-American division of the Universal Music Group, and home to the likes of U2, Ariana Grande and Ben Howard. The band chose Island because they “…wanted to sign us off the back of new songs, with nothing to do with the back catalogue.” The band wrote their fourth album, “The Long Way”, in Dublin and recorded it in the U.K. with producer Eliot James. However, following the release of the album, the band began to have second thoughts and doubts emerged that the label did not give them the support they deserved. The band quickly broke off the agreement, only one album into a five-album deal. Speaking about the time, Danny concedes that “When they signed us they made promises as to what they were going to do and we said ‘Yeah that sounds great’ and we put in the contract that if they didn’t meet certain criteria that we would get our album back, our masters back, and we’d be free to do whatever we want. Unfortunately, that’s the way it panned out”. Thankfully, Danny follows by noting that “I don’t regret that time at all, signing to a major and giving it a go, it was something that we needed to try and do and we learnt a lot from it”.
Following the jarring experience in London, the band, once the touring cycle of “The Long Way” had been completed, took a break and returned to Dingle to reset and re-write. “We love Dingle, that’s where we work best, where we can lock ourselves away and we wrote the guts of it over there and we began working on it in Dublin and in the studio”. The album was recorded in the same studio as the previous album, with Eliot James remaining at the helm, as the band felt it was important to have some familiar surroundings. When quizzed about the recording of the album, O’Reilly said that “We wrote a lot of songs together from scratch, especially myself and Dave just sitting round a piano or an acoustic guitar and just working on songs that way, and everyone was comfortable to bring ideas to the table”. O’Reilly feels that this collaborative effort and the resultant record sets itself apart from all previous Coronas outings, noting that “We could have played it safe and done the same as albums we’ve recorded in the past but we felt like it was time to try something and it felt right”. With the year that The Coronas have just had, feeling just right must feel rare.
The Coronas new album, “Trust The Wire” is out now. You can find @TheCoronas on Twitter for more.