Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Two Door Cinema Club’s old-fashioned rise

It’s December 2009 and Two Door Cinema Club are playing the last of that year’s shows at Dublin’s now departed Crawdaddy. The band’s debut album is still a few months away so the venue is busy, but not quite full …

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 09:37


It’s December 2009 and Two Door Cinema Club are playing the last of that year’s shows at Dublin’s now departed Crawdaddy. The band’s debut album is still a few months away so the venue is busy, but not quite full or heaving. It’s a fine set, full of tunes which already sound familiar and infectious. At the end of the show, I bump into a well-known Irish musician at the bar and we exchange hellos (yes, some of them do talk to me). I ask him what he makes of the band and he shrugs and frowns: “don’t see it happening for them, too niche”. I’ll spare his blushes by not naming him here.

Two Door Cinema Club hanging out

Fastforward to January 2012, just over three years on, and Two Door Cinema Club are a band with hits and a huge audience. At the weekend, they played their biggest ever Irish headliner at Dublin’s O2. They’re big box office these days. All pop watchers know their name and their sound. It’s how things are supposed to work out. Yes, “Something Good Can Work”.

It’s been an old-fashioned rise with a new school hue for the band. They’ve released two albums and toured like beasts. Sure, they’ve also had a fine run of TV adverts but that’s a promotional aid open to anyone who writes a catchy tune. By the end of summer 2010, they were already tearing the place apart at festivals like the Electric Picnic. The tunes got people tapping their feet and the sheer energy and vim of the gigs further spread the word. When people wanted music that was a little bit indie, a little bit electro and a litle bit pop, they checked out Two Door Cinema Club.

It’s a time of mass confusion right now for those who toil or want to toil in the music business. The industry doesn’t know whether to be looking backwards or forwards. Everything that the pros know about the industry is turning out to be wrong. The old reliables which have been around for decades, like record stores and labels, are falling like dominoes. Bands are receiving conflicting advice at every turn about what to do.

Enter Two Door Cinema Club. A bunch of great songs, a fantastic live show and, voila, away they go. Yes, they’ve managers and agents and the Kitsune and Glassnote labels in the corner, but that’s a team that most bands who are serious about their career have on their side. What it comes down to is (1) writing great songs and (2) playing great live shows. As simple as that. Everything else, the TV ads and the festival dates, comes from that. Without the songs or the ability to play stonking live shows, nothing else would have happened.

Perhaps, then, that’s the advice to give any new band. Keep it simple, play it straight, forget about everything else at the start. You need bloody great songs, a strong belief in your own ability to play live tunes and the hunger to keep at it until it all works out. Sure, you’ll have to think about the other stuff, the Spotify exclusives or the sponsorship gig, but you won’t get to that point without the songs or the live show.

It’s how it has always been. Last night, BBC1 repeated their excellent documentary Here Comes the Summer: The Undertones Story. It was a fantastic rattle through the band’s career, their rise from Derry rascals to the arrival of champions like Terri Hooley, John Peel and Seymour Stein and onto Top of the Pops and a series of savage, spinetingling live shows. What hit you again and again were the songs: “Teenage Kicks”, “Here Comes the Summer”, “Wednesday Week”, “My Perfect Cousin”, “Julie Ocean”, “It’s Going To Happen”.

Contrary to what some of my grey-haired peers think, bands can still write songs like that and you just have to persevere to find them. Great pop tunes were still being written after “Teenage Kicks”, though it did set one hell of a standard. The show reminded me that the buzz of The Undertones playing “Teenage Kicks” back in 1978 is the buzz I look for every time I check out a new band.

As with Two Door Cinema Club, it was simply all about the songs. Without “Teenage Kicks” or “Here Comes the Summer”, The Undertones would simple be another Irish story, a band who played great shows at the Casbah but who never went beyond that. When it comes down to it, the old-fashioned way is often the only way to go.