Quilty Pleasures: Stuart Clark meets pop duo Apella

It’s a trick that’s previously been pulled off by the likes of The Troggs, The Undertones and Therapy? Make your insanely catchy single 45 seconds too short, so that people are forced to immediately play it again.

Inescapable last summer on Irish radio, ‘We Met At A Party’ was the perfect calling card for Dublin duo Apella who’d spent two years honing it, and the other songs that will soon grace their debut album. There was a viral video, too, which found singer Dara Quilty (avove right) and drummer Ronan Nolan dressing up as Boyzone, The Cure, and Green Day to parody instant Britain’s Got X-Voice celebrity culture.

“Louis Walsh has probably put a hit out on us,” deadpans Quilty before adding with a smile: “It’s a gentle leg-pull so I don’t think he’ll be too upset! We didn’t want a literal video that was set at a party, so Ronan and I dressed up as punks, goths, hip hoppers and boy band members and performed the song in front of a decidedly unimpressed panel of judges. I’m a massive Cure fan – I love the juxtaposition of the dark imagery and blatant pop songs – and was only too happy to slap a bit of guyliner on.”

“I had to get a train home to Tullamore because I had a gig that night and didn’t have time to take my goth make-up off, so, yeah, I got a few funny looks as I was trying to remove it in the carriage with babywipes,” his bandmate laughs. “Dara has the cheekbones to get away with it, I don’t!”

Quilty was formerly a member of Fox Avenue, a boy-ish Dublin band that came tantalisingly close to cracking it commercially a few years ago, while Nolan has drummed his way around the world with Ryan Sheridan.

“We have ‘shared a stage with Bon Jovi’ in our press release, which is down to Ronan being part of Bressie’s band when he opened for them in Slane,” Dara laughs.

“They’d brought ridiculous amounts of gear with them, so we were forced out onto the lip of the stage, which was uncovered,” Ronan reminisces none too fondly. “I had a laptop beside me with tracks running, which was fine until it started pissing rain and I was there between songs drying the computer with a towel and trying not to get electrocuted. I’ve never been so relieved to get to the end of a gig!”

Following respective April 13 and 30 visits to Whelan’s and the Kick Music Laois bash in Portarlington, Apella will be hitting the summer festival circuit with BARE In The Woods, Sea Sessions and Indiependence all in their sights.

“We can perform as a two-piece or a seven-piece, which was how the record was conceived,” Dara explains. “It means we can play our own headline show here one day in a big room, and then go off and gig in a bar in Berlin where we’re nobodies as a duo. The aim has always been to do this internationally, but financially you can’t just say, ‘Right, we’re taking an army of people with us to the States.’ Actually, we’ve been picking up airplay on a New York radio station, so we’ll have to get over there.”

Just how potent a live force Apella are was evident last year when they opened in Ireland for fellow twosome, Twenty One Pilots.

“They had 250 people in Dublin – if they came back now they’d play 3Arena – who had no idea who we were but nevertheless danced their way through our entire set, which made us realise that, ‘Yeah, we’re doing something right!’” Quilty recalls. “A few weeks later their ‘Stressed Out’ single broke, and suddenly they became this huge international act. One song can turn your whole career around, which is why from concept to recording we’ve spent so much time getting ours 100% right.”

As you will have gleaned by now Dara, who also happens to be the FM104 drive-time man, is something of a perfectionist.

“There are aspects of this that are petrifying!” he admits. “Our new single, ‘Graceful Dancer’, came out four days ago and I can’t stop looking at the online reaction or the video to see if there are faults in it, even though it’s out there and there’s nothing we can do about it. On the other hand, we’re about to play Whelan’s, this world famous venue where I’ve seen some of my all-time favourite bands. How great is that?”

Apella headline Whelan’s, Dublin on April 13.

 

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