- 21 Jun 19
The Coronas are about to embark on a series of gigs they’re calling the Long Way Home Festival, including a much anticipated appearance at Irish Independent Park in Cork. Danny O'Reilly fills Pat Carty in on the caper.
Home grown heroes The Coronas are in a pretty good place right now given the instant success of 'Find The Water', the first single from their forthcoming sixth studio album. Hard working, sound as a pound frontman Danny O'Reilly has pulled the car over to the side of the autobahn in order to take my call and tell me first of all what has him in Germany.
“We just arrived in, God, what city are we in, Frankfurt! We drove up from Luxembourg this morning for some radio stuff, and we're off to Cologne this evening for a couple more interviews, then home. We're doing a festival here - the Fêtê de la Musique in Diddle-langer-something - in a couple of weeks so we’re doing some promo. We've a one-off gig in Cologne in September, and then a proper German tour when the album comes out next year. It's all go and it's all good” says Danny, in obviously fine form.
I should point out at this stage that if talking every becomes an Olympic sport, Ireland should call Danny up if they want to be in the medals. I could have gone off for my dinner during the interview and our man would have kept going. He’d give Dave Fanning a run for his money. He carries on when asked about the kind of crowds they’re reaching abroad.
“It's different in every country, in Germany we do 500-600 seater venues. In Amsterdam we'll probably do a little bigger, maybe a thousand. In the UK it’s a bit bigger again, especially London. We've been over three times in the last two years to America and we can see it building up. Our last big show in New York, for example, was Irving Plaza. When we go to Australia, it’s 80% ex-pats and the Irish flags are out, but we maybe get a bigger kick out of it when, like last night in Luxembourg, there was maybe five Irish people at the gig and the rest were all locals, and they were singing the new single. Lovely vibe. It's the same in America, there's a lot more Americans coming. It's funny the way things have changed in the industry with Spotify and whatever, I have people coming up to me in America going 'I didn't realise you had five albums, I didn't realise you're an Irish band, I just heard you on a Spotify playlist.' That's one good thing about the way it's gone with streaming, people who follow you, they get a notification when you're in their town.”
Old fashioned radio play must still be a factor too?
“It's still a huge factor for us, especially at home,” Danny reckons. “It drives our live sales. We never made money from album sales despite platinum status, so radio drives the gigs. When we started out, people were burning CDs, now we've gone through the downloading phase and it's all really about streaming. Young bands message me, asking "what should we do?" and I literally don't know what advice to give them. All I do is concentrate on the things I'm in control of - write the best tunes and be the best band and try not to get too wrapped up in the other things. When we moved to London, and signed to Island Records, I got caught up in the business side of things. When they dropped us, it hit me hard. The Coronas always moved forward in baby steps, we built up through the venues in Ireland, getting a little bit of regional play and then national play. When we started to make some progress outside Ireland, it was always on our own terms. I don't regret signing to Island, we knew the stats, for every ten bands who sign to majors, only one makes it.”
I think things might be even worse than that.
“Probably is these days,” he concedes. “Thankfully, we had the following at home, and thanks to our manager, we got the masters back. Island paid for the The Long Way Back but it didn't quite happen as much as we would have liked, especially in the UK. We’ve decided to focus more on the States and Europe and it seems to be paying off. I get as much of a kick out of a small crowd in Luxembourg as playing to thousands in Shepherd's Bush when we had just signed to Island, and it was all about to happen, allegedly! We've come out of that whole experience with a bit more perspective."
Was there any point when you were dropped that you thought about giving up?
“To be honest, it knocked me. It was our first step backwards and I was like 'maybe we should just call a halt'," O’Reilly admits. “What snapped me out of it was playing the main stage of Electric Picnic on the Friday evening to 40,000 people. How could I even for a second consider stopping this? I have the best life in the world and I’m so grateful. Trust The Wire was about the heartbreak of getting dropped, and realising what's important to you. I'm just enjoying the journey, regardless of what happens. If you said to me I can have Chris Martin's life, I wouldn’t. Success doesn't equate to happiness, that's probably a bit philosophical."
That's ok, Hot Press is with you, go ahead.
“I have to remind myself we're very lucky to do what we love doing,” Danny continues with barely a pause. “we have a following, and we can do it our way on our own label and do the type of gigs we want to do. There's not many bands who are still going like we are, some amazing bands fell by the wayside."
The success of Trust The Wire, and selling out your headline show in Kilmainham must have been a great vindication.
“After three-and-a-half years living in London, I was a bit down. I was struggling a bit with Trust The Wire until I realised what I could write about was right there in front of me so a lot of the songs are about disappointment and not feeling good enough. ‘Good Feeling’, and ‘Give Me A Minute’ to a lesser extent, are about how it's ok to have self-doubt. We're really proud of that album. Kilmainham is hard to describe. It was probably the best night ever. It was one of those gigs we will always remember, right up there in the top two or three moments of our existence as a band. To play to that number of people, to walk out on stage and see that, and the fact that it was sold out probably a month in advance, a proper arena show sell out. Incredible.”
The new album seems to be going well if the single is anything to go by. You're working with Rob Kirwin, what prompted that?
“The new stuff is coming easy, we've written about 90% of it, we recorded four songs in L.A. with Rob, and he was great” is the delighted response. “I love the album he did with Bell X1, and the Hozier stuff obviously, and the way he talked about working suited us. With Trust The Wire, though they're still three and a half minute pop songs with my annoying voice on top, we pushed the production a little bit, so we’re going for a live sound this time. We might try working with a few young producers as well, and hopefully get Rob to finish off a few more songs. He really got the best out of us.”
Where does the Reprise E.P. from last year fall into things?
“We had another American tour planned and we wanted something new to release alongside it. They were unfinished songs from Trust The Wire and The Long Way Back that we liked, but we didn't feel we should save them for the next album. It was more for our fans rather than something we promoted the hell out of.”
You’ve said the thinking behind this Long Way Home Festival series of show is that people travelled from all over the country to Kilmainham and now you're going to them.
"We wanted to tour around the country, not just do a big Dublin show - although we're planning Dublin shows at Christmas, a world tour of Dublin! There are more gigs to be announced, like Kilkenny, and couple in October as well. You can’t always expect people to travel, it becomes expensive between accommodation and everything else. We met with MCD and picked all the bands, and organised it in our own way. We're lucky that we're at a stage where we're in control of stuff like that.”
With regards to the Cork series of gigs in Irish Independent Park, Liam Gallagher and Lauryn Hill are there but half of the headliners are Irish, it reflects very well on where the industry is at the moment.
“I think it's never been healthier, it's amazing now to see people like Walking on Cars doing that sort of business, there's a whole new wave of bands coming through, you look at the amount of tickets that Picture This have shifted, Gavin James, Wild Youth, and The Academic doing things like the Marquee. Really good bands with really good tunes, and why not? The music stands up beside anything that's out there. I think people are open to new music. The last few years - Hozier, Kodaline - the list is endless, and there's the likes of Glen Hansard, a big hero of mine, still packing them in. We're happy to be part of it.”
How important was it that you got to pick the support acts, All Tvvins and True Tides are with you in Cork.
“We always do pick our supports” O’Reilly reminds me. “With this tour it’s like a day-long festival, with different tiered bands, True Tides are a new band with a couple of singles, and All Tvvins have had a really successful album and a few big gigs of their own. We were told that Sigrid was in town so we were like sure, why not! The rest of the shows are Irish acts too, Brian McMullan is doing Limerick. Thanks Brother are a band we love and of course my sister is the singer. The supports we got were such a big deal for us, we toured Europe with The Script and it gave us a little foothold, a little club following. So it was a no-brainer for us to make it a real strong Irish bill. There's other plans as well, I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to be telling you! There’s a residency in New York In September, in the Mercury Lounge, and then smaller venues in Germany and London just to keep us ticking over. When the album comes out, we plan to get on the road for a couple of years.”
Is it the confidence from having the large audience in Ireland that allows that planning ahead?
“Of course, and it also gives us the financial foundation. Going to L.A. to record, that all comes out of the band's pocket, spending the money that we've earned from the big shows at home, investing it to keep things going. It's actually made us work harder, there's no one else to blame, there's no label paying for it anymore.”
Nothing’s easy, you got to work for it.
“That's definitely true, it's a tough industry. Work on your own thing, do it for the right reasons.”
I presume at the end of it all, it’s still driven by the four of you having confidence in what you're at?
“It's what we love doing” O’Reilly says, with obvious passion. “It's better than any drug, we love getting to do it, we're blessed.”
The Long Way Home gigs are the reward for all the hard work.
“We were just talking about how much we're looking forward to them. The rehearsals are good, we’re adding backing singers and horns, and the single is getting played, so we're excited for the big match!” O’Reilly enthuses. “I tend not to get too nervous before these big shows, I get excited. I know the crowd are rooting for us and I know we’re a decent live band. Even if things do go wrong, we can handle it. I just try to enjoy every second of it, it’s great to be welcomed home by the Irish audiences. We promise a fun day out!”