“We all just sit in a room playing bad things until something good happens.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming the worst from Dublin five-piece SPIES’ own description of their creative process, but the approach seems to be working for them. Their first EP, Liars Call Me King, came out in 2010, and the four years since have seen their fanbase and the buzz around them grow. Last year they were featured in NME’s Radar section as well as the Guardian’s New Band of the Day column. SPIES seem on the cusp of exciting things with the exquisitely realised, taut, dark guitar stylings showcased on their releases thus far, but singer Michael Broderick and bassist Hugh O’Dwyer are still feeling cautious about the prospect of releasing a full-length album anytime soon.
“It’d be easy to just go in, record ten songs and say ‘there, that’s an album’,” says O’Dwyer, (the last member to join SPIES, having suffered from band envy when he first met Broderick in college), “But it’s such a massive statement for a band to make.” This must be particularly on the band’s minds considering the critical accolades surrounding what they’ve already released, and O’Dwyer concedes: “If we are gonna put out an album, it has to live up to all that’s come before it — it would have to be, like, perfect.”
This is not to say that they believe suggestions that consumers are more interested in tracks than albums now. “Albums are definitely relevant,” protests an affronted Broderick, before adding with consideration, “I guess we are coming to an age where you can just make a Spotify playlist […] but there’s something very special about how an album takes you on a certain journey — that’s what I wanna do. That’s what we’re all striving to create.”
The determination to only release an album that is a statement of SPIES’ identity suggests a good deal of thought must constantly go into their sound, and the band are often compared with the likes of The National and The Smiths. They aren’t trying to emulate any of these bands in particular though, they insist, with each member bringing their own musical tastes to the table (Echo & the Bunnymen and Joanna Newsom are mentioned). That three of them met as children in a boys’ choir might too imply more varied musical influences than the staple list of indie bands. “[Guitarist] Neil comes from a very musical family,” explains Broderick, “Like he was born with a double bass bow in his hand, so I think he does bring in that [classical] influence in terms of musicality and chord structure. Then I guess I had the choral training, Hugh was playing in Trinity Orchestra.”
Trinity Orchestra has been an excellent hub for local musical talent, not least boasting Hozier in its alumni, and the pair discuss what it means to be a part of this incredible time for Dublin music. “It’s a really healthy scene here,” says O’Dwyer, “Everyone’s really helpful — there’s no hierarchy.”
If there was a hierarchy, however, one suspects SPIES would rank amongst the top echelons of the current Dublin scene with their beautifully rhythmic rock and Broderick’s smooth, yearning vocals.
“We’re all trying to give each other a leg-up,” agrees Broderick, before admitting jovially, “While also kind of hoping that we do better than everyone else.”
“But you bury that deep inside,” laughs O’Dwyer.
Photo by Tara Thomas.
Originally published in tn2 Magazine.