Dark Room Notes
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Exploding on to the Irish music scene in 2007 with the infectious Love Like Nicotine, Dark Room Notes have become famous for their energetic live shows. Here, Steve O'Rourke sits down with Ruairi Ferrie to talk about capturing that energy on record, the bands unique approach to recording and what the recession means for Irish bands.
For those of us who cover Irish music it feels like Dark Room Notes have been around for ages now; how does it feel to finally release your debut album We Love You Dark Matter?
For some of us in Dark Room Notes there is a similar feeling, but we also feel that it took a necessary amount of time to get all the conditions right to produce this album. It was only when we hooked up with the right people that it all came together. We had originally hoped to release it last year, but didn't consider it ready, so we did more work. Listening to it now, we feel that that decision has been justified. We've lived with these songs for a long time now, but we can each still sit down and listen to the album without being tired of them. We hope to get the opportunity to play them live so often that we can't stand them!
You took an interesting approach to recording the album in London last year, recording one song per day, how did that idea come about?
That's mostly down to Ciaran (Bradshaw). He felt (and he was right) that we needed to instill the energy from our live shows into the album. So we set up in the studio as closely as we could to our live setup, and played as live. We use quite a lot of programming, and we wanted to avoid the sterility that comes from playing along with machines. Ronan (lead vocalist) was in the control room with Ciaran, but the rest of us played in the same room. Some songs were recorded quite quickly, others spilled over into the following day. It was a real challenge for Ciaran, but a revelation for us.
You looked to Ciaran Bradshaw to produce We Love You Dark Matter. Ciaran, of course, worked on your earlier releases like 'Love Like Nicotine' and has worked with a number of up-and-coming Irish bands recently (Evil Harrisons, Subplots). What does Ciaran bring to the DRN party that other producers might not?
As we've worked with him since the beginning, as both a producer and as a live engineer, Ciaran knows our music as well as anyone in the band. We could have gone for someone with a higher profile or with more experience of electronic music, but the decision really made itself. His workrate and attention to detail are extraordinary, and he's not afraid to try new things. Despite his youth he has a tremendous amount of experience. He first entered the studio when he was 17, and I believe he has yet to leave!
Having been fortunate enough to listen to We Love You Dark Matter it does appear to be a more arresting and intelligent collection of songs than some of your electro contemporaries have released over the past couple of years. Do you have a set writing process to achieve this or have your songs evolved organically over time?
That's very kind. A lot of the songs on the album came from one of us working on our own and bringing a skeletal version to the rest of the band on a laptop or sequencer, and then hammering out the finished article in the rehearsal studio. But when we went into pre-production early last year the newer songs began to be conceived in the studio and develop with pretty much equal input from each member. We now have our own full-time rehearsal space, so this process is continuing with the songs for album No. 2.
What, to you, will make We Love You Dark Matter a success?
If it puts us in a position where can continue doing what we're doing comfortably, and facilitates and encourages the recording of its follow-up, then it will have done its job. Obviously the more comfortable, the more facilities, and the more encouragement the better. And just like every other band, we want as many people as possible to hear our music.
Is the current popularity of electro-indie a help or a hindrance to band like Dark Room Notes? What I mean is that it used to be every 18-15 year old with a guitar was in a band, now they all seem to be playing keys. Does this make it harder to stand out?
It's all a cycle, and we've been around long enough to know that these cycles are generally short and fickle. We had synths and beats in our band long before it was fashionable, and they'll remain there. It might help us in the short-term, but it doesn't really matter what instruments you have, it's the quality of the sounds you make.
Of the current crop of Irish music is there anything that is really catching your attention at the moment?
Villagers blew me away when I saw them recently. They hit me with the same force as any of my favourite international bands that I've seen play live. I'm looking forward to hearing David Kitt's new album, and the Spilly Walker stuff - I'm interested in the direction that he's taking.
Irish music in general seems to struggle to make an impact overseas (for example, in the same way as Canadian or Swedish bands do) do you have any theories as to why this may be and what do DRN plan to do to break the trend?
Canada may be an unfair comparison as they seem to have a support system for homegrown music that is head and shoulders above any other in the world. I feel that even in this day and age the fact that Ireland is an island, and still seen by some to be a musical province of Britain causes huge problems. In the same way that bands often skip Ireland on their European tours, often so does the attention of the music world. Having said that though, music should stand on its own merits, and not depend on, or blame, its country of origin.
How do you feel the recession will affect Irish bands in general and Dark Room Notes in particular?
It could be that the recession will spark a golden age of Irish music. Myself and Ronan lost our jobs the day before we travelled to London to record We Love You Dark Matter, and haven't looked back! As more and more part-time musicians find themselves without gainful employment, they may turn to music to fill their days, and in the next few years we could have multitudinous great muscial projects spilling out of bedrooms and garages all over the country. That's my hope anyway.
Finally, what plans have you got to tour We Love You Dark Matter?
We play The Academy 2 in Dublin on April 9th and then a short Irish tour in May (22 in Belfast, 23 in Galway, and 24 in Cork), and hope to follow this up on the festival circuit in the summer. Then, the world...
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