OK - let’s get the boring stuff out of the way.
How did you all meet and form the band ? Please don’t tell me you
posted an ad in ‘Melody Maker’.
D: Kathryn and I met in Dublin, we were working on a summer course
together. We both played in different bands at the time, I was
fronting my own band, Coyote Blue, and Kathryn was playing keys and
singing backing vocals with some friends of hers. We’d been staying
up late at night with the other counsellors, a few of whom were
musicians too, and there were guitars floating around, but Kathryn
kept refusing any chance to accept the guitar and play a song.
I knew that she was musical through some conversations we’d had
before, so eventually I persuaded her to sneak away to a different
room. After playing several songs at her, and relentless asking, she
eventually surrendered and played me a song. I was blown away, and
just knew right then that she should be playing her own music.
We played with a couple of different line-ups in Dublin together,
before parting for a while. Kathryn went to California and I moved to
London. I was working in the Camden Barfly with Benji. We used to do
every Friday night, I was doing sound, he was stage managing. With
six bands a night, doing 13-hour shifts, it was pretty much life in
the trenches - after a couple of years when Kathryn came over to
London, Benji was the only choice for a drummer, we’ve never regretted
it for a moment.
The Irish are well known for their love of music. Did music play a
big part in your childhood ? Were you dragged into the pub every
Saturday night to play the bodhrán by your Father’s side ?
K: Not so much with the bodhrán on Saturday nights, but one of my
earliest memories was after Mass on Sunday mornings, we used to go to
a pub on the river, just down the road from the church. This great
band played there every weekend, everything from soul to country. They
had a full brass section and this amazing guitarist with the fastest
Later on, we got a piano in the house and dad used to sit beside me,
playing songs I still don’t know the names of, and saying the chords
so I could play along. So I seem to have inherited my dad’s knack for
playing by ear, but am completely rubbish at reading sheet music.
D: I think Kathryn had a more authentic Irish childhood. I was raised
in Belfast, before moving to Dublin, and even then my family were of a
Church of Ireland background rather than the traditional Irish
Catholic. So I was actually raised with classical music, playing the
viola in youth orchestras and such. My father might not know a
Bodhrán if he saw one…
You announced that you all ‘quit your jobs’ in August 2010 to focus
solely on the band. What did you both do before you were rock stars
K: We did quit our jobs last August to go on tour in the US. I worked
in film production, which means I spend most of my work day secretly
coming up with ideas for our next video, and stealing ideas as to how
we can make them on a low budget.
D: I worked as a touring sound engineer, with bands like the Young
Knives, The Rumble Strips and Blood Red Shoes. It’s not an easy
business making money just from music these days, so we still do a bit
of work on the side to make sure we still have a roof over our heads
while we’re finishing the album.
K: I think the balance used to be about two thirds of our time
working, one third being in a band and now it’s reversed. Hopefully
as the band grows, we’ll be able to drop that last third completely.
And what did your Mummies say when they heard your decision ?
K: Mum was supportive. Lots of comments about how I’d been working too
hard, and wouldn’t this be a good time to write a book while we were
on the road. I suspect if they ever made a movie of the band’s
adventures, it would be more of a feel-good comedy and less of a
D: I’m the middle of three boys, and have a very awesome older brother
who works for the International Red Cross, really fulfilling most
everything my parents could want from a son. I think they resigned
themselves a long while ago to the fact that I’m going to do what I’m
going to do. They’re just happy I’m not in jail or on the streets…
I’ve never been in a band, I can’t play a note and I can’t
sing. However, none of this stops me from being acutely interested in
the song writing process.
A couple of my favourite bands, R.E.M. and Nirvana, appear to write
the music and then overlay random snippets of scribbled lyrics from
I get the impression you don’t operate this way and you write short
stories - poems almost - that are then set to music.
Could you describe how the band produces music ?
D: In the early days, it used to be more the case that one or the
other of us would write a song alone, mainly Kathryn, and then it
would be brought to the band for development of the music. Nowadays
most of our songwriting comes out of the two of us playing together.
K: We’ll just get a spark of something - the guitar and bass at the
start of ‘Boats’ is a good example, we were just playing those chords
and they sounded… right, I guess is the best description.
D: Then when we have something we like, Kathryn’ll work out a vocal
melody, and then we bring it to Benji. He’s our representation of the
world - if it works for him, if he can play something awesome with it,
it’s a good song. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Finalised
lyrics tend to come at the very end.
K: We’re not one of those bands who write songs in twelve minutes. It
can take anything up to a year of having a few bars of something
before it’s ready to be turned into a full song.
Why are the videos from the early Camden sessions ‘Private’
D: I think, earlier this year we wanted to clean-up our YouTube stream
- we wanted to just present the best material we have.
K: We can get a bit nitpicky over our own performances. They were
recordings we did quite fast for our Thing A Week last year, they were
fun to do at the time, but we didn’t always think we were doing
ourselves justice in the long-term.
Robbie Williams never managed to ‘break’ American despite being
successful in Europe and having the multi-million pound backing of
EMI. Yet you have already toured America !
Why is that ? Is it because Daniel’s view of the band’s music as
‘American Indie’ means your music is well received there ? Or did you
just fancy a trip to DisneyLand ?
D: A large part of it is that I think we don’t resonate so well in the
UK. We do have several lovely supporters here, but we don’t fit into
the standard UK indie scene, so it’s been a struggle trying to find
our own way. We just kept getting a lot of requests from people to
come playing in the US, and we always like to go where we’re invited.
K: At the moment, we’re thinking about moving to San Francisco for a
while to see how being based in the US would work for us. It’s so
great that With the internet these days, location becomes less
relevant - we can still keep up with everyone online and spread our
music, no matter where we are in the world.
I was very interested to read that you manged to raise
$11,000 funding using crowd sourcing on slicethepie.com as opposed to
a lucrative record deal. How did that come about ?
K: The great thing with SliceThePie, is that it’s one site where you
could put up the music and get it listened to and reviewed completely
anonymously by strangers. The people they select for their showcase
are the people who get ranked the highest in this blind reviewing. So
when we were put into the showcase last January, we knew that we’d
earned our place, purely because of the music. It was a great
affirmation for ourselves, as much as anything. Of course when we
were in the showcase we had to work our asses off and hustle and try
and encourage people to invest - which they did! We hit our total in
September and since then we’ve been writing, rehearsing, setting up
the studio and recording. We’re coming into the final stretch now,
just want to make sure everything’s as strong as it can be. It’s been
a slow process this year, we’ve been learning a lot about how to
record an album as much as writing one.
D: The SliceThePie thing came about in a really nice way actually. The
whole industry’s pretty confused at the moment, record labels really
are not investing in young bands at all - you need to prove you’re
having decent success on your own before they’ll touch you. At the
same time, there are a million different websites, promising you
everything from songwriting competitions, to festival slots, to gear
and cash prizes. The problem with most of these, and one thing we
hate with a passion, is that they all involve getting bands to tell
their friends to sign-up and vote for them. They’re basically just
using bands to advertise their websites or products. Music for us is
not a popularity contest, it’s all about the one-on-one connection
that you make with a song. Just because you might like our music, the
last thing we want you to do is sign up for something and get
subjected to spam and advertising. The only thing we ask from our
fans is that if they like the music, then share it with their friends.
You use Tumblr for your blog. You use Feedburner. You use Google
Analytics. You use Twitter. You have created your own Web site. Come
on, own up - who’s the geeky one in the band ?
K: We… probably both slightly geeky, though we’ve never thought of
ourselves that way. It just makes sense to use the best tools
available, and we have been doing this a while, so we’ve tried a lot
of things over the years.
And does this individual torture themselves monitoring downloads,
page views, sales and tweets on an hourly basis ?
D: Sales are always nice to know about… The rest is useful,
particularly when you have information about where in the world people
are coming from etc. It’s not worth obsessing over, but it is really
nice positive feedback when you put up a song or a video and you can
see that people are watching it or downloading it.
As a followup, do you have any idea which social network is most
effective for the band ?
D: I think you’ve got to use what you’re comfortable with.
K: Exactly. I mean, I feel like Facebook’s pretty good for us, because
that’s where we’d all post anyway. It feels quite natural.
D: Myspace was never really our thing, I’m actually quite pleased to
see it fading away. For twitter, I think I’m a bit more the businessy
side of the band, gig updates etc, whereas Kathryn just likes to chat
with people - I’m always jealous of how interesting and authentic her
Twitter feed is, I worry that mine is a bit cold… Kathryn has
joined Google+ tho, which I’m resisting for the moment. I’m trying to
minimise distractions of all kinds and go upstairs and do some mixing!
The band has a presence on every social network in the universe. When
will you get a flipping account on identi.ca so all the freedom
lovers can follow your antics ?
K: It’s funny. Identi.ca is something that’s been popping up lot
D: We go through phases of things, so once the album’s put to bed,
we’ll probably be reviewing our social networks and internet presence
- identi.ca will be top of the list, we promise.
I’ve read that collectively, the band is quite ‘impatient’. My
personal gut feeling is that you are also perfectionists - the type of
people who might argue for hours about the precise placement and
duration of a triangle being sounded.
Is this the case ? If so, how do you marry these two conflicting
personality traits ?
K: This is a chillingly accurate gut feeling. We clearly aren’t
playing with our cards too close to our chests.
D: We do do everything ourselves, and we can get lost in tiny
recording details, or graphics for the website for far too long. I
think the more we do, and the better musicians we feel we’re becoming,
the happier we are to just let the music do what it wants to do. We’ve
definitely tried to beat songs into shape, but when they’re working by
themselves, that’s the best way.
This is an awfully cliched interview question but then again I am an
awful cliche - what bands were you all influenced by ?
I am aware Kathryn admires Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) and
likes Weezer and Clutch. What about Daniel ?
D: I think those are the bands that we all like together pretty
much. My early influences were bands like REM and Nirvana, as well as
more esoteric ones like They Might Be Giants and a fantastic German
punk band called Die Arzte. We do divide duties a bit in the band,
where Kathryn is ultimately responsible for lyrics, though I do
occasionally throw words at her to freak her out, I’m the one who has
more responsibility for production. It took me quite a long time to
work out where we wanted to be going, with our hard edged drums at one
end, and Kathryn’s subtle, elegant melodies at the other. I found it
difficult to find bands that were doing what we wanted to be
doing. When I first got into Death Cab, back when Transatlanticism was
coming out, it was something that I just felt they were doing so well
- he’s an amazing lyricist, and Chris Walla’s production on those
albums is fantastic.
You are a band with strong principles and a sense of independence. I
read with interest your post about being torn about having your music
broadcast on a TV advert.
Can you elaborate about how that came about and the dilemma it
presented to the band ?
What was the consensus amongst fans who gave you feedback ?
K: Everyone has been hands down positive. I think we were more
conflicted than anyone else. I think everyone knows that the music
industry’s in pretty poor state and this gives us the freedom to spend
more time on music. The company had actually used the same piece of
music for a much smaller ad in Spain, and they just really liked it,
so their Italian ad agency approached us when they had this new
campaign. It wasn’t the worst dilemma. I mean it wasn’t for an ad for
cigarettes, or a puppy-strangling machine, we just wanted to make sure
we thought long and hard about the implications before we committed to
Read part 2 of this interview with ‘I Am Not Lefthanded’ -
’This Is Now.