- 10 Aug 20
Fontaines D.C. originally tried to record A Hero's Death in Los Angeles, but ended up reuniting with Dogrel producer Dan Carey in Streatham. He talks to Stuart Clark about rock 'n' roll lightning striking twice.
London-based producer Dan Carey almost had his heart broken by Fontaines D.C. last September at the Mercury Music Prize in London.
“They were up for Best Album with Dogrel,” recalls the man who oversaw the making of that record in his small but perfectly formed Streatham studio. “Over the course of the night they told me they were going to try recording in this famous studio in Los Angeles, Sunset Sound. I was a bit crestfallen because I’d just assumed we’d be doing the second record together.”
No wonder he wasn’t overly upset in November when he got an SOS from the lads in La La Land saying basically, “This isn’t working, can we come back to Streatham and do it really quickly with you?”
“They didn’t want me to hear those sessions so I don’t know what the problem was,” Dan says, “but a major change of environment like that sometimes works – and sometimes it doesn’t. Trouble is, you don’t know until you’re there trying it. I’d heard all the original demos, which were great, so immediately I was, ‘Yeah, let’s get started’.”
Dan noticed a change in the lads when they began recording A Hero’s Death at his place on January 3 this year.
“When it came to breaking for lunch they all drifted off in slightly different directions whereas before everybody was really stuck together as a group,” he explains. “Maybe that’s to do with being together for such a long time and going through some quite difficult stuff. Clearly they were exhausted from all the touring, which had taken the fun out of it a bit.
“I’m sure it happens to all bands who do really well, really quickly on their first record, but I noticed a bit more caution. ‘Are we doing the right thing or should we go in a different direction?’ None of this affected how they played, though, because they’re all fucking incredible musicians.”
Realising that Grian, especially, seemed a bit adrift Dan decided to indulge in some sonic chicanery.
“Normally I’d set everything up around the room so there’s a bit of distance between the various guitar amps and the drums, but this time I built a sort of castle of amps around the drum-kit,” he resumes. “It sounded like the best gig you’ve ever been at because everything’s pointing at you. I remember Grian sat in the midst of this, while the other four were doing the instrumental tracking, nodding and smiling as if to say, ‘This is fucking cool!’ ‘Televised Mind’ was a big one in terms of him really getting into it. You could tell he couldn’t wait to do his vocals. By the end of the second week it felt just like it had the first time round with Dogrel. Everyone was on this crazy mission and it was such a beautiful thing to see.”
Dan first saw Fontaines D.C. in June 2018, at The Five Bells in New Cross, a tiny pub venue just down the road from Milwall FC.
“It was summer and loads of light was coming in from the street,” he recalls. “Most times it’s hard to be captivated by a band in that kind of setting, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off them. I was completely transfixed. When it got to ‘Hurricane Laughter’, I thought, ‘Fuck, this is really serious!’ and decided, right, I’m going to record them.”
Fast-forward two years and Dan’s passion for Fontaines D.C. remains undiminished.
“They’re so eager to keep working,” he concludes. “If they’re stuck on a tour bus for weeks they’ll sit there and write songs. I’ve always been attracted to bands who have something real and important to say – and Fontaines D.C. do.”
Read our eight-page Fontaines D.C. special in the current issue of Hot Press: