- 13 Jun 14
Three years in the making, Daithí Ó Drónaí’s debut album In Flight is finally with us. He tells Craig Fitzpatrick about leaving his traditional roots behind for a dance-pop direction, his changing fanbase and unique position in the Irish music scene.
With his first album finally hitting shelves, Daithí Ó Drónaí knew things would get a little hectic. His June Bank Holiday weekend, however, was just plain ridiculous. We’re sitting alone on a Tuesday afternoon in The Bar With No Name and Daithí, tired but as cheery and gregarious as we’ve come to expect, is picking over the past few days.
“Sunday was intense,” the 24-year old says of a day that began at Primavera in Spain and ended in Kerry, taking in a set in Dublin along the way. “I factored in three hours to go from Barcelona, get from Dublin Airport to Forbidden Fruit, and play. I had 20 minutes to get from Dublin airport to Forbidden Fruit. I’d given my gear to my mate, who he's never set up before, and was just like, ‘you have to set up my gear for me!’
“My girlfriend drove like a demon down the M1, we met the Forbidden Fruit production manager at the gate and jumped in the car with a triple-A pass. We drove the car right up to the stage and I went – bam – straight on! The guy was like ‘wow, such a rockstar thing!’. As if I’d arrived in a helicopter or something!”
He maintains Primavera was worth it.
“I went with 12 guys from Galway: it was really, really hardcore. On Saturday night, Jamie xx played until the sun was coming up over Barcelona. Absolute dream stuff. I wasn’t even playing. I was just an idiot who booked it six months ago not thinking about the album.”
A small lapse in concentration. That record, In Flight, has generally been at the centre of his attention for some time now.
“Three years in the making,” he confirms. “That feels crazy now. It’s been about a month since it’s been finished and it’s been the weirdest month because I’ve just spent the last three years with a single song that I’m working on in my head as a constant thing. You’d always wake up in the morning and go: ‘What needs to be done?’ I woke up the day after finishing going, ‘What the hell... there’s literally nothing to do!’”
After the strangeness subsided, there must have been a sense of relief. Daithí has been close to completing the record before, but never reached the point where he was totally satisfied.
“All 10 tracks have been made in the last year and half. I basically replaced everything. Technically, I could have released an album a year and a half ago, but I wouldn’t have been as happy with it as I am now.”
In Flight is a record of primary-coloured dance-pop, unashamedly custom-built to have people moving, and get on the radio. It’s a far cry from the Clare-born, Galway-based artist’s more traditional roots. His debut release, the Embrace EP, was “basically just fiddle sounds with drums on it.” While he enjoyed the creativity that can arise from limiting yourself – following pop formulae is turning him on in a similar fashion now. He soon felt merely constrained. He found a new direction in electronica.
“I got out of the whole idiotic thing that a lot of musicians have of ‘pop music? No way, man’. There’s something to be said for a really good pop tune. So I just said 'fuck it!' I got a buzz out of getting songs stuck in people’s heads. And the more I played live, the more I just wanted to get people going. Dance music was the natural progression of that. It’s what gets people moving the most.”
The final sound he found for In Flight is one he reckons is quite unique in Ireland right now.
“It’s interesting, we have a really big culture of singer-songwriters but we don’t have a huge amount of ‘pop’ writers making electronic stuff. We have plenty of really good electronic acts like Le Galaxie. The UK seems to have it tied up a little bit when it comes to pop. Which is interesting, because you’d imagine that it would be something that a lot a people would go for. Without sounding like some business person there’s a ‘gap in the market’ there! This album is one of the first that does that really dancey, pop stuff.”
Not that Daithí is isolated in the music scene. On In Flight, he’s enlisted the help of plenty of friends. Ian Ring of Young Wonder is on production and “digital stuff” duties, whilst some of Ireland’s finest vocal talents crop up throughout, including Elaine Mai and Raye. Album aside, however, perhaps his biggest ally over the years has been Galway’s Roisin Dubh venue.
“It’s my base, it’s more than a local. I wouldn’t have been in the Irish music scene if it wasn’t for the Roisin Dubh, that’s where my manager Gugai saw me. They’ve supported me so much and I definitely got my start there. It’s such a nucleus of Galway. All the acts start out there. It’s such an important place for everybody. It’s funny, because I wouldn’t be considered a ‘Roisin’ style act, like all the Richter Collective guys. One good thing about the Roisin crowd is that they’re open to anything.”
As his career and music has evolved, Daithí has noticed his audience changing along with it.
“It’s strange,” he concludes. “There’s a very set crowd in the Irish music scene who go to a lot of Irish acts and that have been there for ages. You see a lot of familiar faces, always see the same guys. But then in the last while – since I’ve gotten into dance music – you see dudes who I’d cross the street to avoid getting into it! Which is actually one of the best things. You realise they’re not going to beat you up. They’re going, ‘yeah, that’s awesome!’”
In Flight is out now on Sony Music