How to make music and influence nobody

Patrick Freyne recounts how he lost his twenties to a band

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 01:00

We got good UK reviews and worked with a major producer called Gordon Raphael, but our English manager said we weren’t rock’n’roll enough. That night one of us drunkenly threw a bottle across a crowded area backstage at a Soundtrack of our Lives gig. The next night our guitarist was ejected from The Hives’ after-show party and was chased by security guards through Hyde Park. We were nothing if not committed.

Our experiments with rock’n’roll behaviour stopped there. There are no my-drug-hells in this story.

Being in a band is intense enough without chemical interference. People typically first form bands at the same time they’re detaching from their families. So a band is basically a surrogate family, and, like family, roles take hold and become difficult to break from. In the early days we all swapped instruments and sang. By our third album I was the singer and guitarist, Daragh was the bass player and Paul was the drummer. We also fell into personality traps. I was the stressed-out, wisecracking one, Daragh was the organised, serious one, and Paul was the calm, creatively unpredictable one. These identities started to chafe. We fought constantly. (Well, me and Daragh fought. Paul sighed.) And things were complicated by other problems. We had grown-up relationships, but none of us had a proper job. It was starting to worry us. We argued our way through the production of our final album. It wasn’t nice. Our friendship nearly ended.

Listen up: NPB in the wild

We stayed friends. We got through it. We called the record Let’s Work I t Out . When you start a band you’re basically hooking your hopes and aspirations to other people. This is a lovely thing when you’re in your rootless, directionless 20s. I got to spend 10 years making things with people I love. And when I listen to the music we made now – all three albums of it – it feels like it was someone else. It’s not me. It’s the product of a hive mind I can no longer tap into.

The end of NPB
The NPB came to an end in 2004, but it really ended in 2010, when Paul died. The three of us had started playing music together again. Paul had just completed an album of his own. My last conversation with him was about music. Two days later, at 7am, my phone rang. It was Daragh, telling me that Paul was dead. There was something wrong with his heart. That’s a bigger tragedy than can be contained in a story about a minor Dublin indie band.

Upstairs in my attic I have hundreds of cassettes. On those tapes are interviews and eight-track recordings and rough mixes and rehearsals. On many of them, amid the guitar hum and snare hits, there are snippets of forgotten conversations, laughter, arguments and schemes. I started playing them recently. More than our albums, listening to those tapes is like listening to being 25, to being in a band.

After a while I had to stop. It was three young men talking about music in the 1990s. Their conversations were bigger than I could handle. Their dreams were bigger than I could handle. I’m a different person now. I’m not in a band. I don’t know if I’ll listen to them again.

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