Purveyors of cool, accessible and immensely popular indie rock, Irish band The Coronas are riding high and are currently working on their sixth album which is being produced by industry legend Rob Kirwan who has previously collaborated with a panoply of music stars including Hozier, PJ Harvey, U2 and Depeche Mode.
The last two summers have seen The Coronas play some of their biggest shows in their hometown, Dublin, including a sold out gig at the 3Arena and playing to a whopping 15,000 fans at the Royal Festival Kilmainham.
The band have played some truly memorable gigs having performed alongside Jedward and Imelda May for US President Barack Obama in 2011 and having opened for Paul McCartney at the RDS in 2010.
Now the hot property foursome are on their ‘Long Way Home’ tour and are due to perform at Belfast’s Custom House Square on August 23, playing hits like Give Me A Minute, Someone Else’s Hands, We Couldn’t Fake it, What A Love, Heroes or Ghosts, If I Give Myself to Someone Else, All the Others and their anthemic most recent release, Find the Water, a cracking ballad reminiscent of the kind of addictive rock-pop produced by Snow Patrol, Coldplay and The Killers, or as Hot Press eloquently describes the band’s sound - “walking a soulful line between Jeff Buckley and The Libertines”.
Frontman Danny O’Reilly, son of Irish trad heroine Mary Black, remembers the first time the band played Belfast “to about 20 people in Auntie Annie’s - a very enthusiastic 20 people! That was probably 11 years ago. We’ve always been lucky enough to be made so welcome in Belfast and we worked our way up playing the Empire, the Limelight and then the Ulster Hall. We’ve evolved since our first gig there and I think our early albums were perhaps more pop-y whereas now we’ve found more maturity and depth.”
They’ve been bothering the Irish charts now for over a decade, their star firmly on the ascent, with second album Tony Was An Ex-Con having won best album at the 2010 Meteor Awards, beating stiff competition from Snow Patrol and U2.
2012’s Closer to You was the band’s first major UK release and was followed by 2014’s The Long Way. From the latter album came ever catchy single All the Others which reached number three in the Irish singles charts, making it the band’s highest charting single to date.
At the moment, plugging away on their sixth album, O’Reilly says he is writing “almost every day. With the last album, Trust the Wire, I had something close to writer’s block. Everything I wrote I was very self-critical of and even before a song had developed I was thinking ‘No, that’s c***, we’re not doing that.’
“Our label had dropped us after the fourth album and I think I had a lot of resentment and feelings of negativity about that. We’d been used to making baby steps forward all the way, building up an audience, playing the small venues and then the bigger ones, moving forward and this felt like the first step back.
“So a lot of Trust the Wire is about reminding yourself of why you do what you do and how lucky we are to be able to do what we love. I was reminding myself that I’m doing this for the right reasons. For the new album I think it’s really about self-improvement, about trying to be a better musician, a better friend, a better person - I think that’s what Find the Water is about, sort of trying to find yourself and trying to enjoy the journey.
“I’m always quite an honest lyricist so relationships would be a theme I tend to go back to, not just boyfriend-girlfriend relationships but also friendships and our relationship as a band. I think I like to write in a kind of conversational way without using too many metaphors.”
It’s a cliché that long dark nights of the soul produce fertile ground for lyricists, but after his difficulties with his record company O’Reilly feels his new found equanimity has helped him reach peak production levels.
“I’m writing more and I feel happier,” says the handsome frontman, who previously dated MTV presenter Laura Whitmore.
“Not that I don’t have any darkness or different things to explore in my music. I think with songwriting you can always delve deeper into what’s going on inside your head. Break-ups can produce great cathartic music but at the moment I’m in a great creative spot and I’m probably in the best form I’ve been in for a while.”
The Coronas have developed their sound from an array of musical influences including, Danny confides, “The Beatles, Oasis, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Bruce Spingsteen, and The National, Foals and Gang of Youths, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, but when we started out we were more into bands like The Killers, The Kooks and Coldplay.”
Growing up as Mary Black’s son, you can imagine that O’Reilly must have grown up in an immensely musical household with frequent sessions by the hearth, but these days when he and his singer sister Roisin O are back home they generally want a break from melodies and lyrics.
“When my mam would get home from a tour she wanted to turn the music off and it would me more my dad’s side of the family saying ‘Come on lads, let’s have a few tunes.” We all love our music but my brother for example is a quantity surveyor and we’re not always sat there talking about music.
“I actually studied at UCD for an entirely useless degree in commerce!
“The one thing I will say is that my mother was always really supportive when I started to play the guitar, she would urge me from the start to go and write my own songs. I probably wrote my first song when I was 13 or 14.
“My mother was more of an interpreter of other people’s songs. It’s only really as I’ve got older that I’ve realised how actually amazing she is musically, I listen to her earlier folk stuff and I’m just blown away by it.
“My mum loves the band. She comes to our gigs, listens to the albums. Her and my dad are both really supportive and I’m so grateful she got me to start writing lyrics at a young age.”
O’Reilly assures us that there isn’t much debauchery on The Coronas’ tour bus, they tend to be sensible - though back in the day they certainly had the craic and really went for it - and being on the road - they’ve toured America twice and played gigs in Australia - is often far from glamorous, but he’s adamant that getting to see so many different cities and play their music is the “best job in the world. Sometimes it can be tiring but we love it and we don’t complain and we’re all very close, we’re best friends.”
Being on stage is “like literally the best feeling ever. I tend not to drink before I go on stage as I don’t want it to cloud the buzz I get from being up there. It’s the best feeling in the whole world and it’s really where I feel at home. It’s just incredible, like a drug I could never have enough of. I don’t really get nervous, I get excited. People have paid to see you, you have them on side and they want you to succeed - I enjoy every second. The gig in Custom House Square - it’s madness that we’re playing such a big venue and we’re going to just walk out there on stage and totally love it.”
The Coronas play Custom House Square, Belfast on August 23. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster outlets.