A half-hour slot on a crowded Hard Working Class Heroes line-up is a bit of a rite of passage for many Irish acts at some stage or other, and realistically, for most bands it’s just another unpaid gig with the promise of exposure, but there are times when the industry showcase format really works, and Le Boom are the most recent example of that in action.
When Christy Leech and Aimie Mallon took the stage upstairs in Tengu at last year’s edition of the festival, they had only been playing together for a couple of months. Percussionist Mallon had joined the electro-pop project that Leech had started the year previous while living in Brooklyn but which, Leech now admits, didn’t really have any momentum. In the twelve months since their last HWCH gig a lack of momentum has not been a problem, with so much industry interest in the band that they’ve had to pull back on the reins at times, even enlisting Niall Byrne (aka Nialler9) to manage them. Totally Dublin spoke to the Meath duo to find out what a difference a year – and a gig – can make.
So, Hard Working Class Heroes a year ago is a watershed moment.
A: Oh, massive.
C: Definitely. We only played for, whatever, half an hour, it was like, nine o’clock, obviously nobody is drunk yet, and we were playing this really small room in Tengu upstairs, and it just went nuts. It was the first time we got that real, *mad* reaction where people were really going for it. And then straight after it we got Airwaves in Iceland, and we did a big show then in Whelans at the end of last year and headlined that was just jammed.
Then we were like, jeez, we need to bring this to the festivals this summer. So we got really busy in January trying to book all the festivals for the summer, planning for ages, some of them wouldn’t come through, we were really just asking everybody, “Please, can we play?” and they all just started coming back with yeses. We just played something like our thirteenth festival this summer between here and the UK. So we’re really overbooked, but it’s a good complaint to have.
It seems like you’ve played every single one.
A: Ah, it’s so much fun though, it’s just been the best experience.
C: I think our project works best in a festival setting. It could go quiet now for a little while we just pick and choose our gigs, but the festivals were just where we needed to be because of the type of set we do.
Has what you’re presenting changed a lot since, say, the gig at the end of the last year in Whelans to now?
A: It’s changing loads, it’s changing all the time. Even now, for the Electric Picnic set, we’re making changes again. I think it’s good though because it keeps it fresh for us as well, and whenever, say we’ll make the song better, we’ll always be playing that version of the track, because the songs are still developing. So we might be playing some of the songs almost eight months and they’ll almost be changing every gig.
C: And that’s it. Because Ireland’s quite small, if you’ve played Body&Soul, and gigs like that, it’s very likely that you’re going to be playing to a lot of the same heads at, say, Electric Picnic, so I think it’s kind of important that we change up the set or keep it fresh.
I’m interested in what effect Hard Working Class Heroes specifically had, what were the nuts and bolts of it?
C: In a very practical sense, we got seen by people who we would’ve wanted to see us. We wanted Niall to see us, Brendan Canty [from Cork label Feel Good Lost] saw us and he brought us over to Iceland. We were offered to play Canadian Music Week, but we deferred it until this year because we were just too new to go and do that.
A: It would have been too much of a jump.
C: And we really just had loads of people tweeting about us… I mean, there was only about 40 people at that gig, but genuinely, they were all the people we want to pay to, all the heads that we had said, we really want to get in front of those guys and play. It just completely changed everything. Even things like Hard Working Class Heroes used our music in their promo stuff, it just really jumped it up a level.
Was there any sense before that gig that “This is a big one”?
C: No, no… we were late for the bloody gig.
A: Well, you were late boy, I was there freaking out!
C: We thought, OK, it’s Hard Working Class Heroes, it’s cool and all, but we’re still one of a hundred bands. But now, I mean, even for this year we’re so excited about it. Honestly, I can’t emphasise just how much we got from that. It was the turning point for us.
At what point does Niall get involved as manager?
A: Just about June. It’s great having him, because he’s become a real good friend to us over the last year, because we’ve asked him for advice on different things, and he’s always been so eager to help.
C: And that it, because after Hard Working Class Heroes, we got a lot of offers, like for Canadian Music Week, and it was just like, what do you say to these guys? People would ask you, “what’s your fee?” and we just hadn’t really a clue. So we just called Niall, because he happened to take a bit of an interest that night, so he helped us along. Then we asked him would he be interested in management and he said let’s do it.
You just have the one tune released.
C: That’s kind of the weird thing now, we’ve just released the one tune so it’s kind of weird to have this momentum. And everyone’s giving out to us, we get so many messages through our Facebook or Twitter saying, lads, come on, you’re taking the piss at this stage!
A: We’ve just been so busy with the live set, that just had to focus on doing that for the gigs. Because we’re more comfortable with the live set, we’ve spent the last while recording and we’ll hopefully release something in September or October maybe? It’s gonna be exciting!
Your Twitter bio has you described a DIY group, is that the plan, to do whatever release you do all yourself or would you be look to be getting signed, or have someone release it?
C: Well it really is, it’s so new to us. We’re literally twelve months together, so it’s so early to be making calls like that, at the moment we’re really comfortable just doing it ourselves, and making the mistakes ourselves, and learning.
A: Yeah, and making those connections ourselves and building those relationships in the industry first. I’m really happy the way that Niall is only managing us now [at this point] because it gave us a good eight or nine months just to figure it out ourselves, and meet everybody, and I think that is important.
And do you have plan for what you’re doing for the next twelve months, roughly?
A: Hopefully target gigs in the UK a bit more, because we feel like we’ve done a good few gigs in Ireland, and if we’re to do gigs in Ireland it would be bigger headline shows, or any good supports, but I think it’s time for us to do all the small gigs in the UK now.
C: It’s basically doing what we did here over in the UK. It’s almost an identical plan. We’re just a little bit afraid of getting stuck playing gigs in Ireland and not taking it international.
Any particular highlights from the year in between the two HWCH festivals?
A: Truck in the UK was unbelievable because we were like the little fish in the big pond, and we were just nervous about being lost in the big sea!
C: Those London bands are just really on it, we didn’t know how it would go down.
A: That and Body&Soul main stage was a bit of a dream come true.
C: That was kind of a weird one, we weren’t supposed to play that, we were supposed to close the Woodland Stage but then the headline band couldn’t play [because their gear didn’t turn up.] We only found out an hour before the gig. We ended up doing the main stage from one til two in the morning and then went over to the Woodlands stage and played from three til four.
A: But it was the best night ever, it was so surreal looking over at Christy during the first song thinking, “This is actually happening”. It was one of those bucket list things.
Words: Ian Lamont
Photos: Ruth Medjber