Establishing an identity

What goes into making it in the modern music scene?

Onstage, Identity Thief are electric. Bouncing with an energy that you don’t expect from anyone over the age of twelve, they occasionally remind me of five overcharged bumper cars. Disorientating, but fun. The band consists of Luke Dunne on drums, Danny Cullen on lead guitar, Mikey Cleary on rhythm guitar, Josh Daly on bass and Aoife McAuley-Stamp as the lead vocalist. At four foot ten-and-a-half (and protective of that half), blue-haired Aoife is dwarfed by everyone else on stage but makes up for it with the constant jumping. The band originally formed in 2015, although watching them you’d suspect that they all knew each other for much longer given how comfortable they are with each other. Here is a band of five best friends, playing around, and making some music along the way.

Once offstage, they could be anyone. This isn’t a bad thing, they just happen to have a relaxed composure that you don’t expect to find in musicians so young. The five members are dotted around the audience, chatting with those they know, those they don’t. When the next act comes on, they all watch intently. There’s no air of competition here, rather the opposite.

“These guys are my favourite local band,” Danny says to me, as he literally gleams watching Chinese Newspaper perform, and Mikey begins to shimmy into his back. “Josh and I found them when we started getting into that fuzzy, west-coast kind of sound.” He and Josh look as if he’s making perfect sense, but I’m confused. “Fuzzy?” “Like a fuzzy carpet!” Josh adds tipsily.

Taking off

They describe themselves as having a “laundry of influences”, particularly in how each of them found music. Danny grew up on “good music, like Bruce Springsteen and Take That”. Mikey’s dad showed him The Jam, and Aoife has always loved Disney songs. Luke fondly remembers his dad playing ABBA and Michael Jackson in his taxi. And then one day, Luke’s friend introduced him to System of a Down, and from that point onwards he knew that he wanted to be a drummer. “At fourteen I can vaguely remember driving everyone nuts in school pretending to play the drums with pencils and pens. I got awful abuse.” The journey for him was made tougher by his dyspraxia, but he thinks that the challenge only made him work harder. “It’s been a bumpy ride but I wouldn’t change it.”

After Chinese Newspaper finish, and before the next band come on, the guys decide to head to the “green room”.
It is indeed a room painted green, although what’s more noticeable are the stickers and signatures that cover the walls, left by past performers. Danny starts pointing out different ones. “They’re deadly, kinda Moose Blood-y…and I know the bass player off these guys…”

“Bicurious,” I say, reading off one of the stickers. “Ah that’s Gavin…wait, is he here? GAVIN!” I smile at Gavin. Danny nods at him, then turns back to me. “Yeah it’s him and this other lad…” And it goes on. Danny is clearly the talker, both on and offstage.

Who you know

It’s fascinating to see just how many people these guys know, and to realise the interconnectedness of it all. Talking to Identity Thief, it’s clear that not only do they seem to have a connection to everyone in the industry, but they are very conscious of just how much they owe their success to these people. Three of the members – Danny, Luke and Josh – studied at the music college BIMM, and they kept stressing how crucial the college was to their growth as musicians. Specifically, it was how BIMM opened the door to networking opportunities they hadn’t had before. “It was like School of Rock meets Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.”

We then all go to sit at the back of the room. Seating is limited, but myself and Danny’s girlfriend Siobhan are given priority. Josh lights a cigarette. “I saw the lads from Chinese Newspaper doing it so it’s grand.” Everyone is smoking and the place is slowly becoming littered with Heineken cans. Three of the guys in Identity Thief had split a 24 pack.

We chat some more. These guys treat the promotion of local bands like it’s a public service, as they begin to each simultaneously list off names too quickly for me to catch. At one point the conversation is interrupted as the guys from Chinese Newspaper break into song. It’s Blink 182’s I Miss You, and we all sing along. They explain that Blink 182 is one of their biggest influences, along with Biffy Clyro, and Muse. Although they’re a pop punk band, they say that they don’t take their inspiration from the “standard” pop punk bands, like Fall Out Boy. Rather, they look for musicians that are “ambitious” and are constantly pushing the boundaries of their genres. Similarly, when writing songs, they always try to do something different, “like guerrilla songwriting”. “So in What Happens Next,” Luke explains, “Dan has a screaming part in the pre-chorus. He had a megaphone on him so I suggested for him to use it.”

The majority of their fanbase would be in their mid to late teens, and they talk about how there is an honesty to them in how they are unashamed to fully enjoy music. “There’s a pretentiousness in our generation to not be a fan as it comes off as childish.” Luke mentions having a sense of responsibility to them. Interestingly, they talk about how current music venues don’t usually cater to younger audiences anymore because their enthusiasm is seen as a liability to health and safety. “The bands we all loved played in bars and venues and basements to droves of teenagers. That just doesn’t happen anymore, which is sad.”

Wrapping up

It’s getting late and the air is becoming so thick with smoke it’s growing difficult to breathe, but the guys continue to chat and joke. That is, until there’s a shout. “Lads we need to get out!” There’s a scramble for bags and the few remaining cans. Another shout. “Who owns the phone with the Identity Thief wallpaper?” “That’s Josh’s!” Josh emerges from the crowd reunited with his phone. “Danny, didya hear them?! They said I look like a young Simon Neil!” Danny momentarily looks confused but quickly switches to a pleased expression and begins to nod.

It is then that we are kicked out into the November cold and part ways. I’m left still impressed by the sheer energy and vibrancy of the band, how the playfulness that they had onstage carried on late into the night. A favourite Def Leppard quote of mine comes to mind: “It’s better to burn out, than fade away.” Although I think that the guys would agree with such a philosophy, it doesn’t look like they’ll be burning out anytime soon. They’re having too much fun for that.

Orlaith Holland

Orlaith Holland is a current Deputy Features Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister English Literature and Film Studies student, and was also a Deputy Features Editor in 2017/18.