Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

An interview with Le Galaxie

A piece I wrote before their Dublin Fringe Festival Meeting House Square show.

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 11:51


Like many Irish music fans, I’ve been following Le Galaxie for a while now, and their trajectory is a familiar one for a local act in an environment where achievements take longer to carve out, and progress is impossible without hard work. I’ve written about the band in a smattering of reviews and small interview pieces, but before their Dublin Fringe Festival show, I wanted to capture the amount of work that goes into their gigs – gigs that are loaded with energy between audience and band that can really be properly described as an ‘experience’ in the truest sense of the word.

So I spent some time with the band, as they were recording their 3D visuals, rehearsing for the show, a phone chat or two, and their gigs at Body & Soul and Forbidden Fruit also kind of feed into this piece in the background. In many ways, Le Galaxie remind me of another band I’ve spent a fair bit of time with over the years – Delorentos. Their attitude is extremely similar; four very affable guys who have a tremendous amount of conviction and drive with regards to the music they are making but are also slightly self-effacing, almost bashful. Like Delos, Le Galaxie have had a slog, and it’s a slog that has been worthwhile considering the level of creative development that slog has happened concurrently. And now things are really happening. The gigs are getting bigger, the UK is warming up, the management is in place, the songs are better, the critical acclaim is motoring along, the fan base is widening, and the enthusiasm within that fan base is increasingly amplified.

They’ve put in the 10,000 hours, and there’s a feeling surrounding them that I’ve witnessed with so many bands before on the cusp: perhaps everything is about to click.

Here’s the interview:

It is the early hours of Monday morning in the Body & Soul area of the Electric Picnic festival, earlier this month, and a young man who has just had a transformative experience is reaching towards heaven. “Jurassic Park,” he screams, the ultraviolet paint on his face smudging with each salty tear: “Jur. Ass. Ic. Park.” Le Galaxie have just finished their set to the strains of the film’s soundtrack.

“I don’t like the cheap trick,” says Michael Pope, the band’s frontman, outside a rehearsal space on Exchequer Street in Dublin late the following Friday. You can sense his apprehension about what Le Galaxie have become known for: their awesome shows, complete with flying glow sticks and Jurassic Park conclusion. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that it’s the gig’s core content – amazing songs played fantastically – that has grown their fan base. It’s official: Le Galaxie’s presence at a festival will make the weekend better.

Like all good bands, they’re a gang: Pope, de-facto leader, the tall, hilarious and scarily smart nerd, adorned with tattoos; Alastair Higgins, the handsome drummer and whiskey buff; Anthony Hyland on guitar and keyboards, sweet, always ready with a hug, and with the complexion of someone whose main source of vitamin D is nightclub strobes; and David McGloughlin, the friendly bass player, who has some excellent thoughts on the final series of Breaking Bad.

“We’ve no record deal. We’ve no publishing deal. We’ve only had a manager the past few months,” Pope and McGloughlin say almost in stereo, putting on disco-ball silver hoodies to shoot 3D visuals to accompany tonight’s sold-out Dublin Fringe Festivalconcert in Meeting House Square. Hyland, meanwhile, has his red-and-blue glasses on, and is looking up 3D images on his phone to make sure they work.

Le Galaxie are grafters. In 2008, the first eyebrow-raising moment came with the release of We Bleed the Blood of Androids, a guitar-heavy dance track. Laserdisc Nights 2, their debut album, is full of great songs, notably Beyond Transworld. But it didn’t really do the business, and was cruelly omitted from the Choice Music Prize shortlist. Unperturbed, they barrelled ahead with Fade 2 Forever, an EP containing Love System, which has vocals by Elaine Mai, earning them a best-song nomination in this year’s Choice awards. The songs from their second album are in the final stages of mixing, and they sound stunning.

It’s Monday night at the Academy venue in Dublin, and the band have been setting up a run-through for hours. These days nearly every show is the gig of their lives. Playing Meeting House Square is complicated – not least as it was almost cancelled late in the week because of a bar-licensing issue.

Seán Corcoran, their engineer, is finding his way around a sound desk that is extra tricky because the band are wearing in-ear monitors for the first time, in an effort to make them play at a volume that won’t break the venue’s sound restrictions.

Pope’s vocals are great, strangely reminiscent of Vincent Price. “That’s horrible,” Pope says after a track. Hearing himself singing on stage is going to take getting used to. Running through Love System, he’s perplexed about why Higgins’s drums sound out of time in his monitor. “We have it under a microscope now,” Corcoran says.

McGloughlin is concerned with getting the set recorded for the production team, but their laptops aren’t playing ball. “We’re running 105 stereo channels,” he tells Corcoran, who shakes his head and laughs. “How have we got away with this for so long without f***ing up?” McGloughlin responds: “Because we’re awesome?”

Their manager, Joe Clarke, who also works with The Strypes, was a fan first, calling Le Galaxie the most exciting live band he’d seen. “Asking what attracted me to Le Galaxie is a bit like asking Anna Nicole Smith, ‘What first attracted you to the multimillionaire . . ?’ They deserve and will have such a wider platform once they break the UK and once it all goes international.”

Later in the week, Pope is on the phone as he goes through passport control in the UK. “We were in other bands, a postrock thing. We’d all taken loads of yokes and listened to Sigur Rós, saying, ‘Aw, man, we should all make soundscapes, baby.’ But what was more interesting was what we were noodling around with in the studio.”

The live results were as surprising to them as they were to the audience hopping around at the Boom Boom Room, at the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin. The band learned their trade upstairs at Whelan’s, playing to 25 strangers until communal experiences were formed. “The stakes have never been higher,” Pope says, “but if the stakes are high, then the rewards are incredible . . . I can’t describe how we feel after a show like [Body & Soul], because we’ve worked so hard for it. We’ve met people’s expectations, and that’s euphoric. I don’t want to get all New Age about it, but being on stage, it feels like an elevated experience, what I feel and what I see in people’s faces. We’re there to bring joy, and burst your hearts a little.”

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