Autre Monde are a Supergroup. But, if you’re coming out of the Popical Island stable, who isn’t?
Though, since the closure of their practice/gig space The Pop Inn, it might be a stretch to say Dublin Shambolipop hivemind Popical Island even have a stable. That might sound negative, but frankness needn’t read as such and frankness is something Autre Monde have in spades.
Their members, Padraig Cooney, Paddy Hanna, Mark Chester and Eoghan O’Brien have, between the four of them, played in too many bands to list without scuppering my wordcount. This project is coming from a different, darker place though. The spiky cuts they’ve released so far being tellingly born of a space with a landlord rapping at the door. We sat down with Cooney and Hanna to talk Popical post-mortem and starting a band when you’re old enough to know better.
So Padraig, take me back. Your old band, Land Lovers, came to an end, why did that come about and when did Autre Monde enter the picture?
C: Land Lovers had been going for eight years and that’s enough really. We weren’t necessarily becoming a worse band, it was just getting harder to maintain enthusiasm. So,I sent an email around just BCCing everyone that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to ask to be in a band with me…
I play bass and keyboards and Paddy sings. I didn’t intend that at first but when I met Paddy he said he was interested in singing and I saw this might be my opportunity to not be a singer in a band, which is something I’ve kind of dreamed about for years.
I always get a bit jealous of bass players and things just turning up and swaggering around and not having to say anything.
You weren’t tempted by the same thing, Paddy?
H: I originally wanted to be the bassist too. That’s the god’s honest truth. Well, I said I’d be the bassist or the singer. Being a keyboardist is a pain in the arse. Being the guitarist is too much responsibility.
C: This band is an exercise in abdicating responsibility.
So what happened?
C: Well, what actually happened was both Chester [Mark Chester, Guitar] and Paddy expressed an interest in being the bass player…So I immediately clamped down on that.
H: I think that it speaks to the spirit of the group that nobody wants to be the Head Tomato. Everyone wants to play an equally collaborative part…and we all wanted to be the bass player. Around the time Padraig was putting this together, Popical Island was kind of in a dark place. Here’s a label that makes pop music and has a factory kind of venue/rehearsal room combo, The Pop Inn, that is within two weeks of closing when he had our first ever Autre Monde rehearsal. I think everyone that agreed to be in the group all kind of had this sense of melancholy that this was the end. Autre Monde’s first rehearsal was like…on an ash pile.
C: I think it was the last rehearsal there.
H: Quite possibly. So that’s how we came into it. I remember our first conversation at rehearsal was about how we’re starting this at the end of something. When we started Popical Island it was (sings) I love you, always forever, near or far… we all came into Autre Monde wanting to do something a bit..darker?
C: Yes! We struggled for a while to cobble together what we the band’s identity to be. But one thing we agreed on was that we wanted it to be a bit more sinister, less immediately likeable than your standard Popical Island kinda thing…
…I was going to say, is that mindset a reaction to the fact that you haven’t been written about without the prefix “twee” for nigh on a decade now…
C: Yeah, I suppose it is.
H: It’s hard to shake any label. At the same time, we weren’t planning on perming our hair and putting on eyeliner necessarily, not that we’ve ruled it out. We didn’t want to become dark as much as we were aware that Popical Island for us was no longer a happy thing. Therefore, it would have been a misrepresentation to move forward in a kind of jangly, up with people kind of way.
We didn’t want to do the Popical Island thing of the Fischer Price wall of sound or creating a symphony in a tin bucket. We really wanted to go ‘back to basics’ if you’ll pardon the tired expression. We started listening to a lot of very early post-punk made by a lot of people who really didn’t know how to play and made remarkable music because of that. It came from their spirit rather than their virtuositude.
C: I think we all also have an in-built mortification. Whenever we start playing moody chords and single-note basslines we look at each other and go “are we just being The Cure?” and do something else. We’re not trying to make fan music.
It seems like we’re talking about Popical Island in the past tense here. Do you think it ran its course or was it kinda pulled out from under you with the Pop Inn closing?
C: Yeeeeeah I feel like these things are hard to keep going for too long. Popical Island was a going concern for eight years. But it really had momentum for three or four years and then it seemed like we spent a long time trying to resurrect something about it. So we saw maybe it was time to stop trying to resurrect that thing…
H: …Popical Island flourished for the same reason it came kind of to an end, It was a community. When you have a community you can create wonderful things but it’s difficult to manage something when you have about 20 people who can chime in.
C: It’s still a useful tag. For Autre Monde stuff I’ve used the Popical Island email because…why not? It does maybe attract more attention than just the name of a band they’ve never heard of before…
…But you’re a SUPERGROUP, Padraig.
C: Ha! Well there ya go. Just like every Popical Island band…
P: I’ve been in three Popical Island Supergroups! Seriously though, everyone who’s involved in Popical Island is very proud of their own personal contributions. The fact that so many bands came out of the idea that three people sitting in a room doing nothing suddenly become a band just by virtue of being there. It’s a wonderful thing.
C: The thing about Popical Island ever getting any bigger is that we’d have to have started seriously thinking of it as some kind of business and devoting time to promoting it and I’m not sure anyone was willing to that. To be honest, I’ve no regrets. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want the Pop Inn back tomorrow. It’s better than having to pay 50 quid a session for some shithole with a terrible funk band next door…
…Aren’t they all…
P: Tell that to the Ohio Players, am I right?
It should be fine, I don’t think The Ohio Players are going to read this…
P: I have a very simple rule. There are two things that will tell you if a band sucks. If anyone in the band is using that asshole box you sit on and tap your hands on. It’s like The Scottish Play, if you even say the name of that instrument you’ll make things suck by proxy
The other thing is if anyone is playing an Ibanez Bass guitar outside of metal band or an African funk band then they suck, it’s that simple. If you see somebody and they’re like “hey, we’re inspired by the Killers” and the bassist has an Ibanez you know that man was listening to Korn two weeks ago and was forced to wear that shirt by the rest of the band.
C: If we’re giving tips, I’m opposed to wooly hats in bands.
P: That’s just mean. People who wear wooly hats on stage are worried they’re going bald. There are self esteem issues at play. Playing an Ibanez is nothing to do with self-esteem. It just means you’ve made some bad life decisions.
You’ve got a new single coming. What’s the intentions from there?
C: We recorded a few tracks with Daniel Fox of Girl Band and we’ve been putting them out one at time to make it seem like we’re really busy. We’ve put three out so far and we actually went in to do some grubby rehearsal room recording last week but…
P: Yes, explain yourself.
C: Well, I forgot my bass…
P….You had one job…
C… By the time I got back with a bass it turned out Mark had forgotten a very important cable. We went to Maplin to get another one but they were fifty quid so we said we’d just record another time…
You guys are really going places!
Words : Danny Wilson
Photos: Malcolm McGettigan