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’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

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

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