On the launch day for their first ever single, one of Ireland’s hottest unsigned acts The Fallen Drakes talk violent warm-ups, tips from The Commitments and an incredible 2011.
Music isn’t a competition but if it was The Fallen Drakes would be winning. Still very much in their infancy (a going concern since ’09), this year the Dublin-based band have already hit the kind of heights many others take decades to reach. They’ve managed to take to the stages of Vicar St., the O2 and the RDS without a full-length record under their collective belt.
Hot Press meets the quartet in Dublin’s Library Bar on another big day in a host of recent big days. First single ‘Girl From New York’ has launched that morning and sits pretty at the top of the iTunes Rock Chart. This evening, there will a celebration, as the boys headline Whelan’s. There is, it must be said, a notable absence of the usual back-slapping. Instead, you’re faced with four musicians projecting a mixture of disbelief, modesty and pure excitement. The way bassist Hyder tells it: “I’ve never won anything before in my life, y’know? If it’s a two horse race I’ll come third!”
Coupled with their propensity for the sort of pop rock that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Brandon Flowers’ solo effort and underlined with a desire to follow the career path of the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and The Script (their R&B musical cousins), The Fallen Drakes come across as The Lads Most Likely To. For now, all eyes are on tonight. “It’s looking like it’s gonna sell out,” grins fair-haired frontman Brian McGovern. “That’ll be the biggest achievement we’ve had so far. The nerves will kick in later on…” Hyder chimes in. “They’ve already started — the pre-nerves!”
Understandable for a new band on the verge but, hey, they’ve already played arenas. So, to paraphrase a Talking Head, how did they get here? A breeze through the very beginning. Boy (Brian) travels world, ends up in San Diego. Boy meets the Brothers Ali (Hyder and drummer Nabz). Boys indulge in “drinking and going out”, eventually deciding to jam together. Boys return to Dublin and add guitarist Michal Bartolen because, as Michal tells it, “they needed a proper musician.” And then the whirlwind of 2011.
It started at the sold-out Twisted Pepper launch of their first EP in January and went from there. That EP contained ‘Masquerade’, the track that got people talking, and was produced by Ger McDonnell, an industry stalwart with U2, Kasabian and Manic Street Preachers in his portfolio.
“The whole band changed at that moment,” says Hyder. “Ger gave us that ‘big sound’, which you can hear on his work with the Manics.”
Nabz continues. “Prior to that we’d never worked with a producer, it wasn’t even on our radar. He’s a really funny, cool guy because we’re absolute messers. We make video blogs… I mean, we have stuff you couldn’t release as videos! But Ger loves it.”
No-one quite foresaw what lay on the horizon. The next step came in the form of a Today FM competition, run by Tony Fenton, which offered an unsigned band the opportunity to play at The Commitments reunion gig in Dublin. Out of 20,000 votes, The Fallen Drakes walked away with 13,000. And so to the O2…
“You can quote me on this,” says Nabz. “I was shitting it!” Brian continues. “It was scary, especially that venue. But it was actually cool because Glen Hansard and Andrew Strong came up to us beforehand and gave us a few pointers. How to deal with big crowds, stuff like that.” Hyder describes taking to the stage as “the best and worst moment” of his life. A massive moment, too, for a band who adore The Frames and can reel off lines from The Commitments at will (“It’s like our Blues Brothers!” Hyder exclaims).
Nabz nods at his singer. “We joked that night after the O2, ‘What’s next lads, will we do the RDS?!’” Why not? Another radio competition (this time with Nova), another victory. A support slot with Bon Jovi at the RDS was theirs in June. “It sounds weird to say, but the O2 was a great warm up for the RDS!” laughs Brian. Knowing they were stepping out onto that vast stage with a short amount of time to make their impression, the lads proceeded to get a little… night before Normandy.
“We warm up by saying, ‘We’re going for a fight!’ and pushing each other around…” starts Brian. “We really had to get revved up for the RDS,” says Nabz. “We were only playing five tracks – we don’t start getting comfortable usually until we’ve played five tracks. We said, ‘This time we have to warm up’. So in the RDS dressing room we were jumping up and down, off ceilings, slapping each other… having sex (all laugh). Going mad. The main support band Vintage Trouble came knocking on our door all concerned, asking if everyone was alright!”
Perhaps it was lucky, then, that they never actually managed to meet Mr. Jon Bon Jovi himself. “We left early actually,” smiles Nabz. “We wanted to beat the traffic.” Brian elaborates: “It’s such a big operation that you’re never going to get to meet them. We didn’t realise. It’s not a band, it’s a brand. But you have to respect that, they’ve had 25 years at the top.” For The Fallen Drakes, that’s the ultimate long-term plan. More immediately? A full album release, of course, and… “Croke Park” smiles Hyder. His brother sounds a touch more serious. “Well, if there’s a competition or anything going” Nabz deadpans. “then… maybe!” Tomorrow Croker, Tuesday week – the world.