God is an Astronaut are a savvy bunch. Right from lift off a decade ago, they have followed their own canny trajectory. And now they’re aiming for an even higher orbit, Torsten Kinsella tells IAN MALENEY
What’s that saying about no prophet being received in their own country? Whatever the wording, it’s probably an idea that Torsten Kinsella and the rest of God Is An Astronaut always keep in mind.
Having circumvented the usual “band gets popular at home, moves to the UK, conquers the world” story that has become the standard trajectory for successful Irish rock bands, the instrumental group from Glen of the Downs, Co Wicklow, chose not to wait around for people here to start paying them attention.
Kinsella and his brother Niels were joined by drummer Lloyd Hanney in 2002 and they soon made waves across Europe thanks to their epic post-rock stylings and an online promotional campaign that eschewed traditional print media in favour of the then-burgeoning blog scene.
“Back when we started, we did a lot of promotion through the internet,” says Kinsella. “Where a lot of people didn’t really see the point in that, we thought it was the best way to promote ourselves. We saw the internet in that fashion where we could spread our music as far and as much as possible.”
The tactic has clearly paid off. Speaking down a phone line from a tour bus somewhere in the north of Germany, Kinsella lists off the countries that they are visiting on their 10th-anniversary tour – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, France and England before culminating in an appearance at Dublin’s Vicar Street, the group’s biggest Irish show to date.
With sold-out shows from Croatia to Serbia this year already, the band’s approach highlights the importance of knowing where your fans are and how best to reach them.
“It’s built up a demand where people want to see us so it’s not like we’re going out to territories to try and spread awareness as such,” says Kinsella. “It’s really just catering to the fans that we’ve built up.”
While many people involved in the Irish music scene would disagree with Kinsella’s assertion that “Ireland wouldn’t be as open to instrumental music as some of these other territories”, God Is An Astronaut’s success in Europe would seem to suggest that something about their music or approach appeals less to Irish audiences than it might. Even now, Kinsella retains strong feelings about the way things are done in Ireland.
“There’re a lot of good bands there; it’s the industry itself which is the problem,” he says. “It’s a delusion I think in the Irish scene. They think it matters when it doesn’t. It’s equivalent to Alcatraz in a sense that you can’t really get out of the country. If you can succeed in Ireland, it doesn’t mean you can succeed outside of Ireland. That’s the biggest problem.”
He looks to the north for a better example of how things might work. “Northern Ireland is a great example in that, if you do well up north, you’ve got great inroads straight into the UK with the BBC,” he says.