As my lovely music editor here at tn2 wrote in one of his previous articles, “most people have the impression that the majority of Irish bands are crap” – and quite frankly I have to say that’s the view I’ve always had, too. Sure, there are, as with everything in life, some exceptions to the rule. There are the obvious examples – the perennially popular U2 whose consistent string of hits over the last two decades put them at the number one spot for Irish bands, the glorious pub-anthems of Thin Lizzy and, let’s face it, who could live without Sir Bob himself blabbering on about why he doesn’t like Mondays? The sad thing about all these examples of fine Irish talent is that none of them are new. None of them are the “next big thing.” They aren’t doing anything different. They aren’t changing the face of Irish music. What about the next generation? In 2008, what Irish bands are out there that can really stand on stage and compete with the barrage of international acts that invade our television sets and our radio waves?
In an attempt to find the answers to these questions, I spoke to Dane McMahon bassist and backing vocalist in up-and-coming Irish indie group The Flaws to find out just what state the Irish music scene is in.
The Flaws are a charming four-piece band from Co.Monaghan who can, indeed, play damn good indie-music. Obviously influenced by The Smiths, as Dane himself admitted in our brief chat, they have put together their very own blend of melodic guitar, up-lifting vocals and even some rather powerful lyrics.
The Flaws, it seems, can stand up to and even exceed the wave of generic indie bands that have flooded the music scene over the past five years (The Wombats, The Hoosiers, The Kooks – does anybody really know the difference?). With this in mind, why is it so hard for young Irish bands like The Flaws to gain recognition for their musical ability on a larger scale?
“The music market is just so dense, you really have to fight your corner and get stuck in there if you want to go for it and really achieve something,” Dane told me, and to be fair to the lads, that’s what they’ve done. In 2005 they bravely self-financed an EP of their early material which went down a storm with Irish radio stations and gained high praise from top Today FM DJ Alison Curtis who, according to the band’s press blurb, proclaimed their track “Sixteen” to be one of the best Irish songs of the year. High praise for a group that were relatively unknown at the time. The song was, however, not released as a single until last year after the band re-recorded it with the help of Irish producer Gareth Mannix and I have to admit, it’s an infuriatingly catchy indie-pop track.
Since then, the band have been touring, gathering a gang of adoring fans who, by the looks of the posts left on the band’s forum on theflaws.com, are definitely in it for the long run. One eager fan exclaims, “I didn’t think that I could love you guys any more than I already did, but after that performance I certainly do! You are the best Irish band EVER!” Once again, high praise indeed. But despite their success, the band don’t seem to have let it go to their heads at all. When I asked about the title of their debut album Achieving Vagueness, which they released last year to great acclaim, I was confronted by a side of the band that I was blown away by – their painstakingly honest self-awareness. “This album is not it; we’re still only achieving vagueness. It’s not perfect but it’s us for now. We know we’re only just starting. That’s why we’re called The Flaws – we know we still have so much more to give.”
In an age where ego is everything, it’s refreshing to speak to a group who have such modesty and a true desire to make not just good music, but great music. While the charts are bombarded with an onslaught of bands who release one-off indie anthems, which are adored by BESS students in the Purty Kitchen for about a week, The Flaws see the bigger picture. “We don’t feel pressurised to make a number one single. We’re still making the music that we want.”
And for now, this doesn’t seem to be doing them any harm – the band played to a full house of appreciative fans in Whelan’s just last week and are set to play the Spirit Store in Dundalk as part of the Amnesty International Small Places Tour on 27 November. But these gigs are only relatively small compared to some of the places the band have played this year – including nine festivals, most impressively the legendary Glastonbury.
I asked Dane about this experience and he tells me that it was a “monumental” moment for the group, playing for a crowded tent at one of the world’s best-known music festivals. Three times the size of the second largest festival they’ve ever played (Electric Picnic), the softly-spoken bassist recalled Glasto (as he affectionately calls it) as “daunting but a once in a life time opportunity. We just had to give it our all.”
Finally, as our short interview drew to a close I quizzed the musician about The Flaws’ plans for next year. “We’re going to step back, start again and begin re-thinking ideas for the new album” he said, before joking, “we plan to get bigger and bigger and then take over the world!”
Well, if their brilliant first album is anything to go by, I’m sure The Flaws’ next offering will achieve far more than vagueness.