Cometh the hour, cometh The Minutes
‘WE’RE THE MINUTES. Don’t forget it. If you forget it, I’ll go round to all your houses and make you not forget it.” That’s what Mark Austin, the singer and guitarist with Dublin band The Minutes announced before playing their last song at the BBC Introducing stage at last year’s Reading festival. Call it ballsy, call it self-belief. Either way, it’s working.
A month earlier, the band were nervously surveying the vastness of the Vodafone Stage they were due to play at Oxegen, before delivering one of the gigs of their career. Ballsy self-belief.
In 2003, Austin, Tom Cross (drums) and Shane Kinsella (bass) were in a band called Stars of the City with guitarist Brian Carroll, playing the inaugural Hard Working Class Heroes festival in Dublin before heading to South By Southwest in Texas the following year. It wasn’t to be for Stars of the City, despite looking and sounding like a band that would be part of a resurgent local music scene that was growing in swagger and creativity.
Austin, Cross and Kinsella went on to form The Minutes. They had a decent tune with Ukraine, but it would be three years before their debut album, Marcata, would be released in 2011. In the interim, the volume was turned up, and their craft was honed in rehearsal rooms and rock venues.
By the time fans and critics were nodding to the sweet opening chords of Fleetwood, it became increasingly clear that The Minutes weren’t going to be almost-rans; they were just a slow burner.
“We’d been playing s**t music for years,” Kinsella says, with a bluntness that is the band’s collective conversational tone, “we just decided, let’s do something different. We chose what we believe in. That’s what took us on this route. If you keep trucking, something will happen.”
Kinsella is with his bandmates on their way to Switzerland. They’re in a middle of a 20-date European tour, booked on the back of a performance at the Dutch music industry hooley Eurosonic, where they played just one gig (during which Austin accidentally kicked a monitor on top of “a lad in a wheelchair”), but enough to impress several bookers on the continent.
The Minutes, with their low-slung bass guitar, cuffed jeans and thumping drums, cut the swagger of an old-fashioned rock’n’roll band. Listening to Marcata, you can almost smell the dive-bar spit mingling with sawdust and whiskey sweat.
Leaving the reinvention of the wheel aside, they play blistering rock music, with live shows known for their voracity, volume and intensity. In the midst of the hard-rocking, F-wording and pint-swilling, there is a savviness that The Minutes have learned through hard work. As people, they’re charming, honest and a great laugh, still with that wide-eyed energy that suggests being jaded or overly introspective are not yet attributes listed on their rider.
“Bands tend to give up if it doesn’t happen [straight away],” Austin says. “You see these bands recording demos and getting signed to a huge label. Another band will see that and think, ‘We’ll give up’.”
“We’ve done it through just gigging,” Cross says, “the old-fashioned way. We never waited for our demo to fall into the lap of some label exec. It was always about the live show. We wanted to be one of those bands that would be able to back everything up with a live show.”
The band, now signed to Irish label Rubyworks, had already done the hard work, industry talk and relationship-building before they landed in Texas for SXSW 2011. “The business was done beforehand,” Austin says, “we just did the gigs. Sometimes bands go over there and they’re hoping to meet people and see whoever is over there, but we had it sorted out before. You normally go to South By Southwest freaking out, thinking, ‘Am I going to get something out of this?’ This time all that was set up. We just had to play good gigs.” He pauses, adding, “We rarely play a bad gig.”
Steve Strange, the agent who represents Coldplay and Queens of the Stone Age, signed them up.
“The key thing is the fact that we’re getting out of Ireland,” Austin says. “As much as we love Ireland, and we’re proud to be from Dublin and all that, you can’t make any sort of long-lasting career in Ireland if you do what we do. The Germans are mad for us. The last time we played France, they were mad for it.”
In Dresden, 250 kids showed up, “all up the front, moshing away. If you’re in London, you wouldn’t get that kind of reaction to it,” Austin says. “Berlin was pretty good as well,” Kinsella adds, “we felt like we were Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for 10 minutes.”
Cross interjects, “I didn’t enjoy that at all. I hated it.”
They continue to talk about the gigs, reflecting again on Dresden. “Mark had a cowboy hat on for the whole gig,” Cross laughs, “Why the f**k not?” Austin retorts. “You wouldn’t get away with that in Dublin.”
Cross is particularly impressed by the food laid on by European promoters. “They have a big spread in the dressing room, nice cheese and ham. You do your soundcheck and then they give you a big feed so you don’t have to go to the poxy chipper. We’re looking great.”
With more gig tales and chat about the “five million” festival dates they have lined up, The Minutes are off to Zurich. Now that they’ve gathered people around them who believe in the band, concludes Austin, “all we have to worry about is rocking out”.
The Minutes support The Stone Roses at the Phoenix Park in Dublin on July 5th. Marcata is out now. soundcloud.com/theminutesmusic