Exclusive album stream: the story of DFF's Pouric Songs
They’re an Irish supergroup that blends chamber pop with rock and African influences, but don’t mistake DFF’s debut for `just another world music album’. Oh, and don’t ask them what their name means, either
Deep Fried Fingers? Dirty Flamin’ Funk? Dublin Fandango Federation? You really want to know the answer? Well, to paraphrase a well-known quote from a famous Chuck Palahniuk novel, the first rule of DFF is “don’t ask what DFF stands for”. The second rule of DFF? “Don’t ask what DFF stands for.” You get the picture.
What we do know is this: the Irish supergroup of-sorts was brought together by Dublin musician Dave Flynn and includes cellist and co-vocalist Vyvienne Long (perhaps best known for her collaboration with Damien Rice) and Dublin-based Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu. Still, even Long admits to being flummoxed when it comes to their moniker. A band of their kind must retain a sense of intrigue, after all.
“There’s such a long stream of emails as to what it could be, but I don’t think even Dave himself knows,” she says, laughing. “The obvious thing is Dave Flynn Federation, or Dave Flynn Foundation, but there were lots of ideas about it – and probably some that shouldn’t be repeated . . .”
Listen now: DFF's Pouric Songs
Flynn and Long were both classically trained at the DIT College of Music, but they never knew each other as students. It wasn’t until their paths crossed at a festival in Sweden that the rumblings of a collaboration began to be felt.
“I thought he was a bit odd, but I got over it,” recalls Long, laughing. “I was struck by his musicianship, so I was drawn to work with him. I had written a song for that festival called Seahorse, and it was a tricky piece of work for the cello and even trickier to play the same part on guitar – but he got it instantly, and that’s quite rare. He invited me to record on his album, and I was impressed by the efforts he’d gone to, to source really good musicians and top-notch studios.”
“We got on very well both musically and as friends, and we’ve collaborated a little since then,” says Flynn. “I supported her on a short Irish tour a couple of years ago, and that’s when I really thought it’d be great to work with her on an album.”
The line-up was further bolstered by the arrival of Tsumbu, who had worked with Flynn (on Africa Day) and Long (on The New Triangle, alongside composer Roger Doyle). His outstanding guitar playing on DFF’s new album, Pouric Sounds , flavours it with a joyful African vibrance, which has led the group’s sound to be described as “Kinshasa chamber-pop”. That uplifting, sunny-side-up vitality is especially audible on the songs Phantom Moves and Freaky Funk.
“I love African music styles, especially Congolese rumba and soukous music,” nods Flynn. “I learned a lot about that music through records, so I had a good working knowledge of the styles to be able to fit in with Niwel’s playing. He’s into all sorts of different styles of music and is incredibly versatile, so he blended in really easily with the non-African aspects of DFF.”
Flynn has been a gleeful genre-hopper throughout his career. He had already co-written the bulk of the songs with lyricist Pádraic Ó Beirn and had “strong ideas for the arrangements”. So once his musical collaborators were in place (including a four-piece backing band to bolster the trio at the front), they decamped to Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio in England and Grouse Lodge in Westmeath to commit them to tape.
The process was a fluid one that was modified as they went; Long was initially brought in to provide harmony vocals and cello on some tracks, but ended up playing a much bigger role.
“Vyvienne’s role on the album really evolved through this process,” explains Flynn. “After her first session, I thought her vocals were working so nicely with mine that we made it more like a duet and gave her some parts where she takes the lead vocal. Her cello was so great, too, that I asked her to play on all the tracks.
“With Niwel, I mainly just let him loose on the tracks and he came up with some incredible stuff; there’s so much great stuff that he laid down that didn’t even make it on the record. The solos in Quartz are elements of different takes merged into the one song. So I basically crafted his part from various improvisations he did over the song, whereas his epic guitar part on Freaky Funk is literally one take with no edits.”
With such a diverse cluster of sounds in the mix, Long admits that she was initially unsure about what the end product would be.
“I was a little hesistant about the album when we recorded it – I was new to the material, and I think you don’t always get the magic of something when it’s in the work-in-progress stages. But hearing it now, my opinion has completely u-turned. It’s a joyous, magical work.
“The album just shines, and when you look closer, the skills of all the players are gloriously apparent. The music is naturally uplifting and the lyrics are funny and beautifully descriptive; at times they read like an Irish fairy tale. They take me to other places.”
All three musicians are undoubtedly busy people, but there’s nothing to say that DFF can’t continue past one album and tour. Indeed, Flynn says that he has “enough suitable songs written at this stage for at least two more albums of DFF material”.
“My personal hope is that the Irish release and tour will go well and will generate interest that will result in some festival bookings initially,” he says, nodding. “We’d make a great festival band, and I’d really love us to do Electric Picnic, for example, or Womad, since we recorded the album in Real World Studios, where Womad have their office. We all tend to be quite busy with different projects, but I think there’s a general consensus amongst us that we’d like to continue.
“We also get along very well as friends, which is just as important and helps make this project so satisfying. That’s true of the other band members, too. We’re basically just a bunch of musicians who get on really well as friends, and share an interest in exploring different musical styles.”
Pouric Songs is out today. DFF tour nationwide from April 2nd to 12th. dffmusic.com