Le Galaxie’s way with gravity
A major-label contract has put an extra spring in the dance-floor step of this Irish electropop sensation. New album Le Club shows that their killer dancefloor sound can be bottled on disc
If Le Galaxie had a euro for every time they’ve been described as “the best live band in Ireland”, they’d be lounging on a beach in Malibu, sipping Dom Perignon from a coconut.
“What was the last beach we were on? We were down at Poolbeg about two weeks ago in the freezing cold, taking photos,” says frontman Michael Pope, laughing, referring to the lonely stretch of sand that borders Dublin Bay.
“Every band goes down to Poolbeg. They think the further away they get from Dublin the cooler it’ll look, but it was just the worst thing ever.”
Le Galaxie are used to the hard slog; it’s got them this far, after all: two fine electropop albums, a mean reputation for live entertainment, even a label (Universal Ireland) to organise their press interviews.
“It’s okay,” says Pope, smirking over the rim of his teacup. “You can say money. We have a bit more money now.”
That’s not to say the foursome are newly minted, thanks to a deal for the release of their second album, Le Club. But things are certainly looking up.
The bushy-bearded vocalist is huddled around a table with keyboardist David McGloughlin. They’re in a city centre cafe, primed to discuss the follow-up to 2011’s Laserdisc Nights 2. Even at this early hour, both talk a mile a minute, finish each others’ sentences and animatedly describe how ready they have been for this release. They were ready to release it last October, in fact, before the label came a-knocking.
“I think we were always really focus and determined,” says McGloughlin. “I’m not sure that we knew exactly where we were going or how we were going to get there, but we were always putting our backs into it. I think we were all surprised with ourselves about how we took the deal with Universal in our stride.
“We weren’t blase about it, but we were like, okay, this is the next step, and it didn’t seem like a big leap for us.”
Back to the beginning
The Le Galaxie story began around 2007, when Pope, drummer Alastair Higgins and guitarist Anthony Hyland were recording at Loop Studios in Dublin’s North Lotts with their previous band, 66e. McGloughlin worked at the studio and ended up joining after a member left. Their transition from mopey indie rock merchants to architects of exuberant electropop began not long after, although it took some convincing for Pope to step up to the microphone.
Le Galaxie’s first gig – at tiny venue The Boom Boom Room over Conway’s pub on Parnell Street – was a disastrous affair. “Our set was supposed to be five songs long, but it lasted a song and a half because our laptop fell off the stand,” chuckles McGloughlin. “We hadn’t realised how physically we were going to throw ourselves into it.”
Still, it laid the groundwork for what would come next. Honing their sound via 45-minute-long midnight gigs at Whelan’s in Dublin, they eventually released Laserdisc Nights 2. It did well, though many felt it didn’t quite capture the energy of a Le Galaxie live show.
“The live thing was something that just emerged,” says Pope. “Previously, we would have been quite a static band, whereas with this, it really was just like the energy just came out and the audience reacted to it – and we just fed off that. We wanted to take people with us: it wasn’t a case of trying to push the audience or trying to push ourselves, it was more like, let’s all jump into this together.”
There have been several defining gigs in Le Galaxie’s career. Ravers still genuflect at the memory of that wee-hours set on the Body & Soul stage at Electric Picnic 2013 . They have handed out glowsticks at gigs and encouraged audience members to raise aloft A4 sheets with the word “Tune” printed on them; their gigs regularly end with the theme tune to Jurassic Park. They’re certainly memorable occasions. Pope says they approach each concert as “an event; like you’d stage a play.”
You might assume that such a fearsome live reputation comes at the expense of their recorded output, but Le Club contends otherwise. The album was demoed on a retreat in Slane and at the band’s rehearsal room on Dame Court, and recorded at Sun Studios – all on the band’s own dime. “It was totally financed by Le Galaxie’s live slog for the previous two years, penny by penny,” says Pope.
Last April, he and McGloughlin took it to the Los Angeles studio of producer and engineer Eric Broucek, a touring member of LCD Soundsystem. Broucek’s mixing abilities proved key to unlocking the energy and dynamism of the band on record.
“Me and Dave would walk the half-hour to the studio every day,” says Pope. “We wouldn’t talk about the songs we were doing the night before – we’d just be getting drunk, or exploring LA, or going to the beach, or whatever. Then the next morning, on the way to the studio, we’d go through everything we had to do and have a five-minute conversation to start the day. We mixed the whole album in five days, with an hour to spare at the end.”
Adds McGloughlin: “The life that Eric breathes into it was really incredible in terms of bridging that gap and really representing us. It doesn’t sound like a live album, but at the same time it’s got more of that energy of the live shows in there.”
Change of tune
In the past, some have criticised Le Galaxie’s material as being revivalist or revisionist. This time, contends Pope, they made a concerted effort to step away from the “love letters to John Hughes movies” that they’d released in the past.
“After our EP Fade 2 Forever , I think we did, whether consciously or not, step forward from the 1980s thing a bit,” says Pope. “And especially with what we were listening to recreationally, I think we wanted to be more progressive. With rare exceptions, we never wanted the album to be caught in that ‘Drive soundtrack’ territory. You find every act in that retro-futuristic movement, they do kind of hit that brick wall in terms of where can you go from here. I think songs like Streetheart and PM LA are progressive; they’re not meant to be evoking mad retro feelings. They’re meant to be about today and the future.”
That goes for Pope’s lyrics as well. “Even the stuff I’m working on now at the moment, I’ve got some really awesome stuff that I think is new for us as well; it’s less boxed-in by the language of the ‘light’ and the ‘night’. Much like Noel Gallagher . . . I heard one of his new songs last night and it had the lyric ‘fading away’ in it. I was like, oh god, still, Noel? Still fading away? Then I realised, okay, yeah. I gotta stop ending a lot of the lyrics with ‘light, night, street or fight’.”
All in all, it sounds like the start of a new era. Goals this year are to make serious inroads into the UK and European markets. “I think they’d love it,” says Pope. They also want to get Jimmy Somerville on board for their next album, which they’ve begun working on. “We asked him this time, but he didn’t get back to us,” mourns McGloughlin. “But Jimmy, if you’re out there . . . ”
You could argue that Le Galaxie have done as much as they can in Ireland, but that’s not necessarily true, they say.
“That’s not to say that we can’t become bigger,” says Pope, stroking that magnificent beard once again. “The kind of music we make is not going to be [as commercial as] The Coronas and Riptide Movement; mammies and daddies aren’t going to listen to it – unless you’re a really awesome mammy and daddy,” he laughs. “I think we definitely have a ways to go.”
Le Galaxie launch Le Club at Dublin’s Academy tonight and tomorrow. Le Club is out now on Universal Ireland