Success at first bite
Fangclub frontman Steven King tells Tony-Clayton-Lea about how taking the DIY approach ‘shot-gunned us straight into being the band we are’
You don’t have to be a cunning strategist to make sure your plans work. Sometimes, having no scheme at all other than a blend of smarts, obsessiveness and obstinacy is all you need.
For proof, look at north Co Dublin band Fangclub. In three years, they’ve moved from complete obscurity signing to a major label and releasing their debut album.
Steven King is the band’s reserved, gentlemanly songwriter, guitarist and singer. He recalls compulsively cataloguing every single song idea he’s had. His escape, he says, “was to lock the door and record demos on to my laptop”.
Almost four years ago, he and his bandmates – bass player Kevin Keane and drummer Dara Coleman – scraped together enough money from their day jobs to rent out a small house in a Co Kerry town so that they could record the songs King had fine-tuned. With no distractions and a collective, committed mindset, the trio recorded 25 tracks. The experience, says King, “shot-gunned us straight into being the band we are”.
What kind of Fangclub does King see when he looks back? “We’re the same, with the exact same energy,” he says. “There’s just a bigger driving force behind us now. We had a lot of confidence back then; we already thought we were a great band, even though nobody knew us. Bruce Springsteen once said that groups should think of themselves as the best in the world but know that you’re probably the worst.”
DIY tours booked on a prom- ise if not a prayer, sleeping in a tour van crammed with musical instruments and the smell of stale sweat, while chowing down on tubs of instant noodles – it’s living the dream, isn’t it?
“We thought we were conquering the world,” laughs King. As the months passed, things started to pick up for Fangclub: better gig slots at venues and festivals, a song or two received airtime on specialist radio shows, and record labels started mooching around. “When we signed to Universal, we never felt we were changing; we felt we were evolving into whatever the next step was going to be.”
That next step is where Fangclub are right now. Several years after Steven King unlocked his bedroom door, the band are about to release their debut.
“It was a funny moment, actu- ally,” remembers King of when things really began to happen for Fangclub. “Someone in the record label had heard us on the radio, so we were asked to go into the office for a general first meeting.”
What record company personnel weren’t aware of was this: in his jacket pocket, King had a CD-R of the 25 songs the band had recorded during their time in Co Kerry. The songs had already been mixed, engineered and produced by the band.
“They played the song that had already made them interested in talking to us, and then they asked if we had any others. So I whipped out the CD-R, gave it to them. We also had other stuff such as artwork and logos completed, and they seemed a bit stunned by that.”
Several hours later, King received a text message from the record label. It said that what the A&R team had listened to “was just incredible, that it didn’t need anything to be done to it. We had thought we would be asked to re-record the songs, but they just loved how raw yet accessible the music was.”
What was that like for Fangclub? It felt, says King, as if they’d hit the jackpot with the record label. “They’ve brought a little more method to the madness in that there’s less naive spontaneity and more of a structure. And, frankly, that makes sense.”
There’s just a bigger driving force behind us now. We had a lot of confidence back then; we already thought we were a great band, even though nobody knew us
Fangclub’s self-titled debut album is out now and is reviewed on page 12. Fangclub play as part of Indiependence, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, on August 5th
Incisive Club Dara Coleman, Steven King and Kevin Keane from Fangclub