Their dark ma­te­ri­als

How did a cou­ple of ar­chae­ol­o­gists from Gal­way in a ‘com­mon or gar­den grunge band’ make it all the way to this Texan mu­si­cal ex­tava­ganza? At a cost, Dark Room Notes tell Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

FOR Dark Room Notes, it’s time for the sec­ond chap­ter to be­gin. Last year, the band re­leased their de­but al­bum, We Love You Dark Mat­ter, which saw them re­ceive a healthy round of re­views, a rise in pro­file, more gig book­ings and a Choice Mu­sic Prize nom­i­na­tion. The al­bum’s sharp, melodic, sweep­ing elec­tropop has done its job on home turf and it’s time for them to look fur­ther afield.

That de­but al­bum, though, was a long time com­ing. The DRN story be­gan, as founder mem­ber Ruairi Ferrie re­calls, in Gal­way where he and fel­low ar­chae­ol­o­gist Ro­nan Gaughan were mem­bers of a “com­mon or gar­den grunge band who were lis­ten­ing to grunge and try­ing to play the same mu­sic and do­ing cov­ers”.

At the time, “there weren’t many orig­i­nal bands in Gal­way”, says Ferrie. “We were called Ob­scure back then, be­fore we threw in a K to make it seem more edgy.”

Things changed when the band started writ­ing their own songs and re­alised they wanted to gig more. Dublin was prov­ing to be more re­cep­tive, so they de­cided in 2002 to make a go of it in the big smoke. But the bass player and drum­mer had other ideas and both left, to be re­placed ini­tially by a lap­top be­fore key­board player Ar­ran Mur­phy and drum­mer Dar­ragh Shanahan joined the fold.

Shanahan de­scribes the band as be­ing “di­a­monds in the rough” when he first saw them play live. The new line-up then spent a year work­ing on songs, de­vel­op­ing the sound and es­tab­lish­ing the band’s vis­ual el­e­ment.

The at­ten­tion paid to their vis­ual iden­tity is some­thing which photography teacher Shanahan in­tro­duced. It’s not an as­pect which many Ir­ish bands bother with and, Ferrie ad­mits, he wasn’t so sure about it to be­gin with.

“I would say I was scep­ti­cal at first. I just wasn’t that in­ter­ested in it and wanted to con­cen­trate on the mu­sic. Now, I can see how im­por­tant it is as to how peo­ple view your band. The art­work and the vis­ual iden­tity has to match the band,” says Ferrie.

“Peo­ple here have been try­ing, but they haven’t stretched them­selves to be more vis­ually aware,” be­lieves Shanahan. “We’re lucky be­cause we’re work­ing with a de­signer [Peter Reddy] who is in­ter­ested in the his­tory of fonts and the photography side. You can take risks to try to in­vent some­thing new, but us­ing some­thing old and fine-tuning it with a lit­tle graphic here or there makes it fresh again.”

What’s clear is that the DRN en­ter­prise in­volves more than just the four peo­ple on­stage. Again and again, they re­fer to peo­ple who’ve helped with the graphic de­sign, vi­su­als and sound.

“There has been a lot good­will to­wards the band,” says Shanahan. “We’ve had a lot of peo­ple work­ing with us or do­ing things for us or loan­ing equip­ment as favours.”

“The more we do, the more con­fi­dence peo­ple have in us,” says Ferrie. “Peo­ple who’ve in­vested good­will in us know it’s go­ing some­where good, so they’re along for the ride. Ev­ery good thing that comes our way en­dorses their in­volve­ment to an ex­tent.”

Like the ma­jor­ity of Ir­ish acts, stay­ing in the game has meant DRN mem­bers in­cur­ring debts. “Every­one in the band is con­sid­er­ably in debt and those debts are not get­ting any smaller, they’re get­ting big­ger,” says Ferrie. aw­ful lot since then. Since record­ing the al­bum, we know a lot more about pro­duc­ing that kind of mu­sic and how to make it sound a lot bet­ter.

“One of the ma­jor things for us now is the sound qual­ity we need for shows and record­ings. I’m sure there are elec­tronic mu­sic boffins who could lis­ten to the al­bum and say that sound is from there and that sound is from there and they would know ex­actly what I’ve done in terms of pre­pro­gram­ming. What I’m try­ing to do now is get away from us­ing any ob­vi­ous sounds or sounds which you might be able to iden­tify.”

Be­fore they can crack on with a sec­ond al­bum, there’s the mat­ter of flog­ging that de­but al­bum to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence. It has re­ceived a new lease of life abroad thanks to Lon­don/Berlin la­bel BBE, who will be dis­tribut­ing it world­wide.

“Be­fore BBE came on­board, we were pretty much set on mov­ing on to the next al­bum and we’d a bit of writ­ing done for it,” ex­plains Shanahan. “But now, there’s more

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