Fontaines D.C. Get Skinty Fia With The 13th Floor: Interview

Fontaines D.C. are about to release one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Its called Skinty Fia, and here are the two Conors to tell us about it.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Conor Curley (guitar) and Conor Deegan (bass) just as the band was about to perform in Sweden.

It can get a bit confusing talking to two Conors, but listen in here:

Or, reads the transcription here:

MD: The album is coming out on the 22nd, so that’s very exciting, and you’re on the road already playing tunes for folks. The title of the record, I’m going to mess up because of my Americanism, Skinty…how is it pronounced?

CD: Fia

MD: Okay, tell me what that means, because I know it has something to do with a deer, an Irish deer of some description, right?

Fontaines DC

CD: Yeah, it’s, it’s Irish for damnation of the deer, or damnation of the deers. And it’s kind of a curse word in Ireland. But like an archaic one that like your granny might use. Tom, our drummer heard first from his his great auntie, she used to say it when she’d bang her arm with a press or something. And basically, we just liked that, but also the way that it’s kind of a bit lost and forgotten. And, you know, the Irish Red Deer is a great symbol of Ireland. And it was just thought that that was a beautifully romantic thing that was lost and it just lines up with our idea of our songs and what we’re trying to do with this album. What is it that you let go? What is it that you commemorate? What is it that your mom decides? When in Ireland and where you’re from?

MD: Right, gotcha. And so you guys had quite a bit of success with the first two albums, how has that affected how you approach this record?

CC: I don’t think we really thought like, we didn’t really think about it when we were doing it. I think the kind of break of the pandemic really gave us a sort of clean slate, where we’d all we’d all gone off in our different directions. We haven’t, we haven’t, we didn’t see each other really as like a collective for maybe around five or five or six months. Whenever we started them working together really felt like we were just kind of coming together, like we did the first time we started writing music together, you know.

MD: I’m glad that we have the bass player with us because it seems that a lot of the tracks begin with a solid, very profound bass line. Is that how you build your tracks? Or is that just a coincidence?

CD: It’s just because bass is the most important thing.

MD: I agree!

CD: No it’s just handy. It’s handy way to like build up a song is to keep it set, like build it up, break it down. It’s just what works with for us you know.

MD: So when you’re in the studio, what is the working relationship like between you and…is it is it tense? Is it loose? Is it kind of working, you know, heads down? Or how do you guys feel when you’re in the studio together?

CC: Hmm, in the studio, like in the recording studio, it can be I think, the process we with Dan (producer Dan Carey) now is that we kind of try and get the live tracks done as quick as possible. So it can be quite tense, you know, you’re kind of like…because he kind of creates these like, like these processes that make it tense, you know, try to record songs and three gos or anything like that. But this time, we were working in a bigger studio and I think it was just kind of familiarity already for us to kind of just like trying to leather through as many takes of everything. And then we had it done in like two and a half days, all the live tracks. So that after that we had all the rest of the time just to like kind of chill out and really sort of hon, like craft the, the production side of everything.

MD: Well, maybe we’ll move on to Roman Holiday. It sounds more like this and more fun track. Yeah. Well, can you tell me about that? It’s very jangling very, it sounds like a sounds like something you’d hear on the radio? Is that what you’re thinking about?

CD: We’re thinking about, I’m just letting you know, letting go and being easy and free and all of those things about youth that are great for them. You know, the thing is you don’t appreciate at the time, but they’re so simple. And like, you know, almost, you know, your parents are telling you, this is a waste of time, you’re wasting your youth. And those things that you do when you’re wasting your time, or you’re used to things that you miss when you’re old, you know, sitting around with your friends by the lake, doing nothing, smoking a joint.  All that kind of thing. I think that’s a lot of what that song is about, really. But I think it might have some deeper levels as well I don’t know about.

MD: The last track on the album is called Nabokov, which obviously is about the author of Lolita. I say obviously, but maybe not. Maybe you can tell me or correct me or reinforce my understanding of the song.

CC: Yeah, the song is not about the author at all. I just named when we were demoing a lot, like before we started writing the album together, I just wanted to whenever I was writing the music for that song, I just wanted to get the lads excited about it. You know, almost when you’re like bringing a demo to the lads, you’re almost like a salesman, you’re like kind of coming in with your wares being like, look at this idea, you know? I thought if I called it Nabokov…because I was reading the Patti Smith book at the time and she was talking about how much he loves Nabokov, so it was just in my head and it sounded like a Primal Scream song. So that’s why I called it Nabokov.

MD: Was it the Just Kids book that you’re reading?

Patti Smith

CC: Yeah, it’s a beauty.

MD: Are you a Patti fan?

CC: Yeah, definitely, I am, more so in recent years, Deego has been a fan for a longer time.

MD: I want to go back to Nabokov, because it starts out with your bass thing happening again. And then it gets very noisy. And I’m wondering, was that a performance? How was that put together? How was that arranged?

CD: What, the song Nabokov?

MD: Yeah.

CD: Well Curly arranged that song, you know. He worked very hard on that song. He showed us an early version of it in 2020, when we still lived in Dublin, and there was a lot of cool ideas in it. But it was kind of unfeasible for us to play it, you know, because it was something made by a man in his room with, you know, different tools at his disposal. He could put on whatever synth he liked and whatever piano he likes. And then it was just trying to make it practical to get that song across, in what we’re limited to a two guitars and bass, drums and vocals, you know. And so he worked on a lot more and came back to us with something that we could do. And then we worked on it with the five of us…threw on some extra vocal ideas and different guitar ideas and built it back up in the studio. And, you know, I know that sounds very simplistic, but that’s really how it was, you know.

Primal ScreamCC: I think that’s sort of like the when, like we said, like, there when I think of like, there being a Primal Scream, like influence, like from the album XTRMNTR, like, when I watched, I watched them play that, like most of the songs on that album Live at Glastonbury. Now this sort of like that kind of like distillation from like, the album of it being like, you know, a lot of like, since like synths and all this kind of stuff. But when you watch it live, the actual elements of it are actually quite simple. Just you have to make all the parts really effective. Like if it’s going to be something…hat was this, like the kind of that’s what, like, I was trying to do it as Deego was saying…it was a lot more kind of like, just putting in random noises here and there, but like actually trying to get the most important sounds. And it’d be just mainly just be two guitars. Yeah, that was kind of…

MD: I see you’ve released a few videos over the course of the last few months as well, which seem to be something that you guys are putting a lot of effort into. One called Jackie Down The Line, I think there’s even a behind the scenes video, video of that one. So maybe you can tell me how much input and influence you have on the visual presentation of the songs.

CD:  Yeah, well, um, a lot of our videos over the years were made with myself and Hugh Mulhern, an Irish director, you know. And often give him a very simple idea of what we’d want to do like Sha Sha Sha, for example. I said, let’s do a video of the circus with a blue camel, like camel blue cigarettes. And then I said, Well, we can’t get a camel so let’s just paint you all blue.

MD: That seems reasonable.

CD: Fair enough. Right. Right. And so we did for a good few years. And now this is where we’re up to now. Really, you know, we’ve done a couple of more videos with some other directors. But yeah, we got that. That’s how we’ve gotten to so far. So it’s been a really nice experience working with him because he gets to bring in…he’s a kind of a he’s kind of a goofy guy. You know, he has a little bit of a dark goofiness to him is a bit twisted, childishness, you know, and he likes to express that whenever he can. I think he bring that in, in our videos. Wherever, wherever.

MD: How many roses did you go through? Were those actual roses in the video?

CD: They were fake actually!

CC: Smoke and mirrors

CD: Yeah, they were Yeah, we didn’t get to keep…yeah (mutters).

MD: So this being your third album, and as you’ve had a lot of success with the first two, did you…what kind of thought and conversations did you guys have as a band to think about how you’re going to proceed with what you’re doing? Was it something that you guys talk about? Or do you just say let’s play some songs and see what happens.

CC: And I think it was definitely talked about. Originally with this album, we thought we were going to do a double album. Because we had a lot of ideas and a lot of them were kind of we’re kind of centered towards trying to do songs that we’d like, you know, really like to play at festivals like bangers as we call them, you know?

MD: Right right, sure.

CD: And then we also had a lot more kind of Irish influence like traditional Irish influence, the ballads and just kind of ballads in general. So we were going to do a double album but like, so the conversation was trying to make those two sides better. And then it just kinda ended up with the end were like we had all these good songs. But like the best album that was there was just the 10 with a dash of like balladry. If that’s a word.

MD: I think it is. Anything to add Connor?

CC: Yeah, I think that we did have a bit of reaction as well to their second album, you know, of the way that it was kind of expansive, and sounds, we wanted to make something a bit more concise, right. And that you can, you know, recognize it as, maybe not recognize it, because we were just putting it out. But, you know, for people to go, That’s the sound of that band, we really want to have an album that was like that.

MD: Okay, well, so with this album, if you had to tell somebody to listen to just one track to be kind of representative of who you guys are now, which one would you pick to choose?

CD: Personally, I pick probably Jackie Down The Line, because I think that’s quite a clever song, you know, and the way that it’s arranged, the way the things come in and out in the lyric is good. And the bv’s are a nice kind of Motown reference connects back to the drum. I think it’s kind of clever and simple and catchy. And I like that.

MD: And what about you, Curly?

CC: Ahhh. It represents us now. And it’s hard thing to say this because every time we try and do something, or like we just move on from it, but, ah, it says, can’t you hear it from the album, just because like, it is just the most like trying to push the boat out in terms of like, where we came from.

MD: Do you think in terms of how your fans are going to react to stuff when you’re when you’re out on the road, especially and you presenting these songs newly to them? What’s going through your heads? I

CD: I think some of them, for me, anyway are pretty tricky to play. Like, probably the most complicated songs me to what I’m doing that between the beat, backing vocals and the bass. So largely what I’m doing, what I’m thinking at the start is like, I really hope I don’t mess this up. And that I can play it property, you know. But once I get past that, it’ll heal, I’m just really enjoying it. And I’m just, I’m loving seeing the thing of winning the crowd over. When they don’t know the song at first, and then you get a bit of a look of like, hmmm, and then by the end of the song, they’re like their buzzing and they’re enjoying it. Seeing that is a very satisfying thing.

MD: And I’m assuming that over the course of the last three or four years, you guys, the five of you have changed personally. And so how has the group dynamic changed at all? Does it feel like the same band as it was when it started?

CC: I think so I don’t know. We’re still really good friends.

MD: Well, that’s good.

CC: Yeah. And we’re still doing this separately. So maybe, maybe back in the day I would have went into Deego’s room and…

CD: We don’t speak normally. This is the most we’ve spoken in years.

MD:  Well, maybe that’s the secret. So what do you got planned for the 22nd when the record actually comes out? Anything exciting?

CC: We’ll be in Philadelphia, so do some Philadelphia stuff. Go see the Liberty Bell?

MD: There you go.  And do you do alter your show for an American audience as opposed to European?

CD: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah.

MD: Do you find the crowds are different? Or they react similarly?

CD: Oh, they change so much over the course in Europe, much more than in America I think.

CC: You know, because there’s some countries like Switzerland that are just so cut off.  And then Sweden, well Sweden is maybe okay, but I remember some gigs we’ve played up here where the people have very different practices at gigs than you expect.

MD: Like what?

 CC: Like to just stand there not move.

MD: That’s gotta be fun for you guys. Oh, boy.

CC:  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow when we play here. I’d like to be proven very wrong.

CD: Yeah, hopefully when we do Australia next year…

MD: Yeah, Australian dates but no New Zealand dates at the moment.

CD: That’s a shame.

MD: You can fix it, something to work on. Thank you very much for taking time to talk to me. I appreciate it immensely.

Fontaines D.C. album, Skinty Fia is due out Friday, April 22nd.

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