Interview // Delorentos
An edited version of this interview was originally published in the Irish Sun on Friday, August 31.
The life of a professional musician isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and Delorentos know better than most the struggles of doing it for yourself – but fresh from sharing backstage beers with Ian Vrown and Noel Gallagher at the Benicassim Festival in Spain, things could hardly be going better for the band.
“We gave them CDs. It was brilliant – just having a few beers with the lads,” laughs singer/guitarist Kieran McGuinness. “The album has gone really well over there. We released one of our singles there – it’s on Youtube – and it’s in Spanish. Next year we’re hoping to go to Latin America to Mexico and Argentina. Our single ‘Care For’ was released in Mexico first, and the views from Mexico on the video are three times those from Ireland.”
With a name like Delorentos, it’s perhaps not so surprising that the Spanish-speaking countries would embrace the north Dublin quartet like their own, but McGuinness is quick to note the stark contrast between the big festival slots they command in Spain and the sometimes less glamorous gigs they play at home.
“We played our biggest ever show there in Murcia at this huge festival, bigger than Oxegen. We were on in between Mogwai and the Flaming Lips, and it was 20,000 people going mental and signing all the songs – it was amazing. At the end of the set they sang ‘Ole, ole, ole’ and they sang it for ten minutes. We were on the stage going, ‘holy s–t!’ Then we came back and played a gig in Kildare and some guy got sick on the side of the stage!”
It’s been a tough slog for the band up to this point, as the critical and commercial success of their first album, 2007’s ‘In Love with Detail,’ failed to translate to real-world benefits, and McGuinness admits that the pressure of following up the album without any label support almost broke them. The band briefly split in 2009, only to return months later with their second album, ‘You Can Make Sound.’
“The first album had gone so well – we’d been nominated for the Choice Prize, we’d done these massive gigs in Dublin and started to play abroad in the States and stuff, but the uncertainty of it all was probably a bit heavy on us. We were just sitting there, stressed because we were doing it full time and spending all our money on the album, and I think it just came to a head.
“We realised afterwards that it’s the best thing that could have happened to us, that break-up. After that we said, ‘right, we’re not going to do anything by halves.’ It was a s–t or get off the pot moment. It was either you do this or you don’t, and we had to struggle with it, but we came out of it better. We’re much more creative.”
He adds that the group’s unorthodox setup – all four members of the band write songs and all four take turns singing – makes them an unattractive proposition for labels who are keen to pigeonhole bands for the same of marketability, and they were never prepared to sacrifice their individuality for quick success.
“No label wanted to touch us because we were a bit too odd. We weren’t poppy enough and not alternative enough. We do the songs we want to do – some of the songs are really poppy, and some of the songs are really dark or really sad or a little bit out there. And the thing about it is that people don’t want you to be – they want you to be simple and marketable.
“I guess that alienated a lot of people. We could sell more records if we just did happy, upbeat pop songs, just had one singer and dressed in a uniform, but it wouldn’t be us. It came to the point in the last album where we had to decide what we wanted to do.”
Far from being a hurdle, McGuinness is clear in his belief now that their outsider status – as Portrane natives, they never felt like they fit in with the Dublin crowd, while the rest of the country considers them a Dublin band – that is their greatest asset, as it gives them the freedom to do what they want and relate to their audience as people rather than packaged products.
“We’ve embraced the fact there can be a song about suicide and depression on our album, and there can be a song about the best day of your life. They can both be on the same album because that’s what people’s lives are. They go from A to B, they are sadness and darkness and light. Our songs are about the drudgery of going through your twenties, working in offices and trying to figure out where you are. That’s what people’s lives are, and it’s OK to have light and shade on an album. We tried to embrace that.”
Equally, life without label support has forced the band to work harder and to use more creative methods to promote their music. For the ’Little Sparks’ EP, the band produced a full-colour print magazine and gave it away for free at acoustic shows, while for the album release they set up pop-up shops around the country and played impromptu shows.
“We did all this stuff because we realised we were free and could do anything we want. If you want to be good and sell records, if you want to play to be big crowds, you’ve got to be interesting and you have to show your personality to people. It really feels like it’s paying off for us. Even at a time when there isn’t much money, our sales have been good and our gigs have been amazing – three or four of the biggest and best shows we’ve played, in Spain especially.
“If you’re going to make all the decisions and do all the creativity, you’ve got to be better than most. You have to work harder than most. You can’t just sit back because there’s no record label firing CDs into every radio DJ’s pockets every three months. That doesn’t happen with us. There isn’t a year-long album cycle, there isn’t a million followers on twitter – you have to work harder and be better.”
Delorentos play the Crawdaddy Stage at Electric Picnic on Saturday, September 1 at 4.30pm.