- 03 Aug 22
Irish-Italian duo Rónán Connolly and Matteo Poli (aka Big Sleep) return from their European jaunt of gallivanting to chat all things tour and debut EP-related.
It used to be a simple formula: perform gigs to build an audience who will buy your music. These days, especially post Covid, most independent artists rely on their recorded music to build their fanbase. The independent artist's workload is almost unmanageable. The pressures of prepping press releases, begging for radio plays and the lottery that is Spotify's playlist curation process upon the release of a track - while also remaining active online - is a formula many have not been able to nail down.
Smashing the formula to smithereens however are Irish-Italian duo Big Sleep, consisting of Rónán Connolly and Matteo Poli. Their debut EP Feel Something Someday came at the end of June while the band were driving from northern Italy across southern France on a DIY European tour. Flying to Rome the day after delivering a raucous set on the IMRO stage at Sea Sessions, the band played eight dates across Europe, accompanied by bassist Aidan Gray and guitarist Naiara Clarke Lafuente.
"We have quite a polyamorous relationship with our musicians," frontman Rónán Connolly jokes. The band have seen a few generations of guitarists and bassists since its origins as a backing band for Connolly's solo material.
The diplomatic agency of a band was more appealing to Connolly. "I just loved the idea of bands. Get into a room, throw enough shit at the wall until it sticks - something happens, something clicks."
The relationship he developed with Florentine drummer Matteo Poli in particular led him to move from his solo project to forming Big Sleep. The current line up of Connolly, Poli, Clarke Lafuente and Gray is consolidating itself as a very exciting presence on the live scene nationwide.
"We've developed a relationship with them that's more than just a band," Poli wholesomely revealed. Having completed a short tour of Ireland in May, their DIY European tour was the next test.
"We were working with Matteo's mum's Toyota Yaris, which was very cosy with four band members, a drum kit, amps and guitars," Connolly laughs. "I was stressed - are we going to stay together for three weeks without a break from each other?"
Poli's Italian roots brought the band to Florence in the summer of 2021 to play a rooftop gig. They had been keen to return since, however, Italian laws and attitudes towards live music made organising the tour a logistical nightmare.
"It's not necessarily the job we wanted to sign up for, but this was something we wanted to do, it was something we dreamed of since we were kids," frontman Rónán Connolly noted. "We didn't have a booker, we didn't have a manager, so we had to go and do this stuff all on our own."
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The challenge they had set themselves became clear to Connolly and Poli from the moment they set out to organise the tour.
"You have to be a politician to get a gig in Italy," Poli explained. "I started emailing venues on the first of January. I had to hound them, I only started getting replies in April."
Poli had to think outside the box to secure most of the Italian shows.
"There are these places called Casa del Popolo. They're social clubs; mainly places for syndicates or union's meetings. In Florence, it was a really cool place but it hasn't been used for years. We really took it back. After the gig, the President of the club said 'guys, you've just brought this place back to life'."
Most of these clubs had not seen live music since the Eighties. Having plied his trade on the live circuit in Ireland over the past few years, also drumming with noted Irish soul artist Toshín, the support Big Sleep were shown in Italy was emotional for Poli.
"For me, it was a homecoming. All my friends showed up, they had already bought the t-shirt!"
Given the DIY aspect of the tour, money was tight. Connolly had spent some time in Moliets before working in a surf camp. He was able to secure work for the band there for a week as entertainers. "We played two and a half hours of covers every evening before going off to play our own shows."
"It was the first time I ever felt my voice start to give in. I had heard of Fontaines D.C. and Sam Fender having to cancel dates on a tour because their voice was starting to go. But I powered through. If your voice ever starts to go, start eating ginger - it did me wonders!"
Showing no desire to stop, the boys insist that they are ready to go again. A UK tour is in the works and they’re returning to the recording studio in August to lay down another EP.
That kind of work ethic is exemplified in every part of the Big Sleep project. While their relentless gigging typifies their up and go attitude, getting dug into the necessary evils of admin work and social media management shows their commitment to the success of the project.
"The reality of it now is that every artist, anyone in any creative capacity, has to get involved in management, PR, marketing," explained frontman Rónán Connolly. "The thing that makes chasing music so hard is that you have to be great at everything."
Delegating work is certainly a lot easier for the pair given they live together. "It's easier in that I can just shout into the next room if I need him to do something," Poli laughs. Their digs in Crumlin have become Big Sleep HQ, acting as a rehearsal space, an office and a music video set - their landlord even featured in the very humorous ‘Tutti Frutti’ video.
“Big Sleep is our urgency to play music,” Poli insists. “Anything that we need to do that allows us to play music, we’ll do. It’s the nature of the job."
Big Sleep’s debut EP Feel Something Someday is out now.