With a big Euro­pean tour and a de­but al­bum go­ing live this week­end, JOHN MEAGHER finds Ir­ish band Otherkin on the cusp of the big time

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

It was the sum­mer of 2015 when Luke Reilly and Dave An­thony faced a sig­nif­i­cant dilemma. Hav­ing com­pleted their de­grees in medicine at the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons in Dublin, they could ei­ther ac­cept ju­nior doc­tor jobs in a hos­pi­tal — or sign a con­tract with a record la­bel. They had two weeks to de­cide.

The mu­sic won. They signed on the dot­ted light with lead­ing Dublin la­bel Ruby­works. The white coats were put away although, as Reilly quips, he was able to put his med­i­cal train­ing to prac­tice when a punter had a seizure at a Chem­i­cal Broth­ers con­cert.

Reilly is front­man of Otherkin, one of the most talked about Ir­ish bands of the past cou­ple of years. By any reck­on­ing, this Dublin-Kil­dare-Meath quar­tet is go­ing places fast. To­day, they em­bark on a mas­sive Euro­pean tour that will take them to 23 coun­tries, in­clud­ing such tour­ing out­liers as Kosovo and Ro­ma­nia. And this week­end, their ex­cel­lent de­but al­bum, OK, is re­leased.

The al­bum was com­pleted at the be­gin­ning of the year and Reilly, who is joined by drum­mer Rob Sum­mons for our chat, can’t wait for the songs to be heard. “It’s a back-to-ba­sics al­bum,” he says, en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

And he’s not wrong. OK is a rip-roar­ing col­lec­tion of garage rock songs built around the fun­da­men­tals of gui­tars, drums, bass and vo­cals. The qual­ity of the tunes and the ex­u­ber­ance of the play­ing en­sures its suc­cess and it’s hard not to imag­ine Otherkin be­ing on the lips of a large por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion this time next year.

They’ve come a long way in a short time. The record deal came around the same time one of their songs fea­tured in a high-pro­file TV ad cam­paign for the make-up brand Rim­mel Lon­don. Ge­or­gia May Jag­ger starred in the 30-sec­ond com­mer­cial sound­tracked by ‘Ay Ay’.

“It sort of helped fam­ily see that there might be some kind of fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity in what we were do­ing,” Sum­mons says. “Be­cause I don’t think there’s a par­ent in the world who would chosse to hear their son say to them, ‘I’m drop­ping out of col­lege for my rock band’.” He quit a course in graphic de­sign and is the only mem­ber not to com­plete col­lege. Bassist Conor Wynne has a de­gree in “dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing some­thing”, Sum­mons quips, that can be put to good use in the band, as well as his own ex­per­tise in de­sign.

Fam­ily mem­bers both­ered by tri­umph of the mu­sic over medicine and other dis­tin­guished ca­reers might have been heart­ened by Otherkin’s pres­ence on the Slane bill ear­lier this year. They played in front of an es­ti­mated 20,000 peo­ple when they opened for Guns n’ Roses.

For Reilly, that show had spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance: he’s a na­tive of the Boy­ne­side town.

“They tend to make an Ir­ish book­ing ev­ery year,” he says, “and I didn’t want any­one to feel that we were just the to­ken band on the bill. The show went re­ally well and we sensed that as we were com­ing off stage.”

They’ve played other big out­door shows, too, in­clud­ing, bizarrely, one in a Moscow park for Rus­sia’s St Pa­trick’s Day cel­e­bra­tions. Mus­covites can’t get enough of all things Ir­ish, it seems.

“There were thou­sands of Rus­sians there in green, white and or­ange,” Reilly says. “They wouldn’t have had a clue who we were but must have thought we were fa­mous if we’d come all the way to Rus­sia to play for them.”

Con­di­tions were tough. “It was snow­ing,” Reilly adds, “and this bliz­zard was com­ing on stage. We had to cut three songs from the set be­cause my fin­gers started to get num­ber and I couldn’t play gui­tar.”

Otherkin seem to have a wan­der­lust that’s not shared by many of their con­tem­po­raries. Sum­mons is es­pe­cially look­ing for­ward to play­ing two shows in Kosovo, where the en­trance fee will be €2. “You’d hope for that price peo­ple will show up,” he rea­sons. “And how many bands from abroad would play there?”

Reilly says he never wanted to be in an Ir­ish band that was con­tent to con­tinue play­ing in their back yard. “Lots of peo­ple do that, and good luck to them,” he says, not un­kindly. “We just want to get out there and tour and not play back home all the time.”

The al­bum was recorded with long- time friends Dave and Jay from, re­spec­tively, Over­head the Al­ba­tross and Ko­da­line.

“The la­bel of­fered us two choices,” Sum­mons says, “Go to a fancy stu­dio in Lon­don and work with a fa­mous pro­ducer for a week, or spend a month with the two guys we’ve worked with from the start. They’re en­gi­neers, but let us do our thing — and we went

I didn’t want any­one to feel we were the to­ken Ir­ish band on the bill at Slane. The show went re­ally well

As­pi­ra­tions: (From left) David An­thony, Luke Reilly, Rob Sum­mons and Conor Wynne sup­ported Guns n’ Roses this sum­mer at Slane Cas­tle.

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