- 13 May 19
As part of an extensive feature on the state of Irish music in 2019, we speak to some of the artists, insiders and experts across a range of genres. Here, Fontaines D.C. manager Trevor Dietz and Anna Marie Rooney of PowPig take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Irish rock scene.
The death of rock has been heralded countless times over the past 50 years – with icons like Jim Morrison, Roger Daltrey and Marilyn Manson all joining in the chorus at one stage or another.
But in Ireland, despite the ebb and flow of flash-in-the-pan trends and pop sensations, our penchant for rock music has never truly died out. Since the 1960s, this island has bred some of the world’s most revered rock musicians, and has served as a stomping ground for countless more overseas acts. From its beginnings, Irish rock radically rejected isolationism and social-conservatism, in favour of its own internationalist, youth-oriented, and hedonistic value system – based in both sound and image.
Fontaines D.C., PowPig, Just Mustard, Pillow Queens, The Murder Capital and Vulpynes are just some of the incredible artists extending and expanding this legacy. But, while there’s no question about the talent, what’s the Irish music scene really like for an up-and-coming rock band in 2019?
Anna Marie Rooney, of lo-fi alt-rock group PowPig, reckons that the scene is in good health – but it doesn’t come without its challenges.
“It’s quite a DIY scene,” she tells us. “We, and most of the bands we come into contact with, have to put so much work into it ourselves. We don’t have a manager. In Limerick, we have DIY LK, and they’re great for helping rock and alternative bands get gigs in the city. No one really has the budget to pay people to do that work for them.”
Trevor Dietz, the manager behind the neewly mega-successful Dublin punk outfit Fontaines D.C., also takes a positive outlook.
“There’s a lot of great bands coming through,” he says. “Since Girl Band, we’ve seen the likes of Fontaines D.C., Just Mustard and Melts, as well as some incredible crossover acts, such as Swedish Railway Orchestra. The quality of the bands that I’ve seen coming through my Bank Holiday Sunday gigs at the Workman’s Club is also getting better all the time.”
Like Anna, Trevor finds that self-sufficiency has become a central aspect of Irish rock music.
“The new bands coming up are working so hard to get themselves out there,” he says. “Between 2004 and 2008, there were incredible bands in Dublin, but they didn’t seem to have the drive to get themselves across to the UK, or to get their music out there. The thought process was that an A&R man would arrive and take you away. That’s all gone: there’s a great DIY ethos out there now.”
While venues like Workman’s Club are supporting a thriving Irish rock scene, Anna has noticed that getting the crowds remains a struggle for many emerging bands.
“God Alone – a post-metal five-piece from Cork – played Limerick recently, and I expected the place to be packed, but it wasn’t,” she says. “It’s crazy, because they’re phenomenal musicians. Sometimes there’ll only be 10 people at gigs – and they’re the regulars.”
While Ireland has a brilliant selection of festivals on offer this summer, many headliner slots have been usurped by hip-hop, electronic and pop acts.
“The charts are becoming less rock-orientated,” Anna argues. “And when there is a rock band charting, it’s usually a half-techno group – which isn’t always a bad thing! The festival headliners are reflecting that shift. But festivals like Body & Soul definitely make an effort to offer a decent variety of acts, from both Ireland and overseas.”
Trevor suggests that Irish radio has played a crucial role in nurturing the Irish rock scene in recent years.
“Dan Hegarty on RTE 2FM, John Barker on 98FM and Kelly-Anne Byrne on Today FM are some of the people who are constantly pushing good Irish rock bands,” says Trevor. “I think radio is really supportive in Ireland, and they jumped behind Fontaines D.C. from the get-go.”
From their appearances at Eurosonic in Groningen, Fontaines D.C. have gone on to enjoy major worldwide success. Last week they performed live on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, while their new album, Dogrel, shot straight to No.4 in the UK album charts. To Anna and the rest of PowPig, Fontaines D.C.’s success has been a powerful source of inspiration.
“We’re all so happy for them,” she says. “We played Seoda Shows’ Summer Party with them in Limerick back in August, so to see them go from there to playing KEXP is insane. It’s so cool to see an Irish artist succeeding in that way. It definitely gives us hope.”