Amps set to ‘11? Check. Kick drum like a hyperactive mule? Check. Killer melodies? Check. Choruses that once heard will never be forgotten? Check. Brought together by their mutual love of punk and ‘90s grunge, Fangclub are the real, full-blooded rock ’n’ roll deal, and a name you’re going to be hearing an inordinate amount of in 2016 and beyond.
The north County Dublin trio had been in bands before, but none that clicked as instantly – and thrillingly – as when the soon-to-be Fangclub first jammed together in 2013. “After about 30 seconds I thought, ‘Holy shit, this is it!’” enthuses their songwriter-in-chief and wielder of one of those guitars, Steven King. “We didn’t have to ask each other afterwards whether we were now officially a band; we just knew. Sound and attitude-wise we were all on the same page, and within a week had a set of songs ready to go. It was totally organic.”
If it was good in the rehearsal room, it was even better two months later when Fangclub made their live debut in the legendary Fibber Magee’s. “From that first Dublin gig supporting Wounds, we’ve always managed to connect with the audience,” notes bassist Kevin Keane. “Somebody will see us on their own, love it and come back to the next show with their mates. It might start with 30 people in a venue; next thing there’s a hundred, and then you’ll get 300 kids singing the songs back to you and turning the place into a giant mosh-pit. That’s happened in Cork, in Dublin, in Limerick… all over Ireland, we’ve been ramming places due to word of mouth.”
That word of mouth has spread across the Atlantic with Fangclub playing blinders at the respective CMW and CMJ showcase festivals in Toronto and New York. “We submitted our demos online and the organisers said ‘come on over’, so we begged, stole and sold a lot of t-shirts at gigs to pay for the airfares,” laughs drummer Dara Coleman. “We got the same reaction as we do in Ireland, with people crowd-surfing and coming up afterwards and saying, ‘I’ve been waiting for a band like you!’”
With their live following growing by the week, several labels went to Whelan’s to see what all the Fangclub fuss was about and, like the sold-out crowd, were blown away. “Yeah, that was a crazy show!” Kevin nods. “People tend to think, ‘Oh, there was a master plan to get signed’, but we were so busy writing and gigging that we didn’t pay that side of things much attention until suddenly, along with the fans, there were record company people turning up. We thought, ‘Wow, this is getting serious!’ There were a few different labels interested, but we went for Universal because they just totally get us.”
With the same management team that have guided The Coronas to stadium glory coming on board, Fangclub have, as Kevin puts it, “surrounded ourselves with people who know the industry inside out, but are just as importantly music fans themselves.” Christmas 2015 was celebrated with the limited release of their self-titled EP. “On the surface it’s punch your friend in the face whilst drunk fun, but underneath there are lots of layers, both lyrically and melodically,” is how Dara describes the four-tracker. As well as capturing the frenetic energy of their live shows – this is a definitely a band that has to shower after coming off stage! – it also highlights Fangclub’s penchant for pop hooks of Beach Boys-ian proportion.
“‘Pop’ is not a dirty word,” Steven laughs. “One of our ambitions is to have Fangclub screaming out of people’s radios at full volume!” We don’t want to induce coronaries among their listeners, but Programme Directors and Heads of Music should check out ‘Bullet Head’, a ‘Song 2’-style short, sharp shocker that you want to play again the instant it’s over. “That’s the one we always finish our set with, and which destroys the place!” says proud parent Steven. “It’s chaotic and a bit dark round the edges, which has something to do I think with me having an addictive personality.”
The start of 2016 has found Fangclub working furiously – in every sense of the word! – on their new Bullet Head EP with Kerry-born, Vancouver-residing producer Tadgh Healy. Due in May, it’s another take no prisoners stunner. “Tadgh being the secret fourth member of Fangclub, we’ve been having a really fun, productive time in the studio and surprising ourselves with some of the directions the songs have headed off in,” Dara observes. “None of the bands we’re into are prepared to stand still musically, and neither are we.”
With the Bullet Head EP comprehensively nailed and its release highly anticipated, Fangclub will return to live duty with headliners on both sides of the Atlantic, and then hit the summer festival circuit with an August stop-off at Indiependence in Cork among their Irish dates. “I can’t wait to get back out there,” Steven concludes. “We love it in the studio, but nothing beats the feeling of being on stage, and us and the crowd going completely berserk!”