“We thought it was a joke, to be honest,” says Fangclub frontman Steven King, about his band being signed to Universal Records. “We really didn’t believe them until we were in the offices having discussions.”
It’s the morning after the last night of Canadian Music Week, and the singer, talking on the phone from a hotel in Toronto, is nursing a hangover after the Dublin-based trio – completed by bassist Kevin Keane and drummer Dara Coleman – indulged in a rather heavy night after playing their last gig of the festival. It’s just the latest event of a series of entirely expected events that have happened to the band since they formed towards the end of 2013. Back then, the scuzzy, grunge-influenced act had no idea they’d get this far, nor was doing so even on their radar. Rather, what they were doing was pursuing a labour of love, investing all their time and money into recording Bullet Head, their debut EP, just because they believed in what they were doing.
“We put every penny we had together,” says King. “There was this house with a tiny studio attached to it in Kerry, Ireland, and we went and lived there and recorded there. We lived on tins of beans and spaghetti, and lived out of each other’s pockets. And then we left with this record of songs and it was like ‘Okay, now what?’”
As it turned out, the band didn’t really have to answer that question. Soon after they’d recorded the EP – much of which King, after quitting a dead-end job, wrote during a month-long spell in New York – it found its way into the hands of, well, the right person, and the rest is history in the making.
“We were going to put it out DIY,” King says, “because we were that kind of band anyway – you play those underground gigs and you pick up that whole aesthetic of the DIY approach and putting out your own stuff. That’s where we were heading, and then it got into the hands of Universal somehow, and then it just spiraled into the chaos we’re in now!”
You might think that would add an immense amount of pressure to Fangclub, but the trio, who recorded not just the EP but also their debut album before Universal signed them, seem to be taking it all in their stride. For them, as amazing as all that stuff is, it has no bearing on their approach to what they do.
“The label have been so cool,” says King. “They don’t want to change anything or put their ideas on us or anything. They just want to back whatever it was that we created, and that’s it. And we just want to keep making quality music, because it’s all about the music at the end of the day. That’s all I really care about. ”
You can tell that’s the case by listening to their music. Because, despite what their name might suggest, they don’t sing about vampires, but gritty, grimy songs full of ennui and malaise. In keeping with the tradition of grunge, their music holds a dirty mirror up to the way of the world and all its vulgarities. That’s most apparent on the EP’s final track, Role Models.
“I hate saying what songs are about,” says King, “because I want them to be open to interpretation, but that song is basically just saying don’t listen to anybody – be your own role model and fuck society. Fuck celebrities, fuck your parents, fuck your teachers – don’t listen to anybody because they’re all hollow.”
Nihilistic and reckless as that may seem, it’s advice that Fangclub themselves followed one hundred per cent, and it seems to be working out for them pretty damn well – one by one, little by little, all their dreams are coming true. Sure, it’s early days, but already they’ve exceeded their own expectations.
“It’s a complete cliché and stereotype of the rock’n’roll dream,” laughs King. “It’s strange to even talk about because it’s like a weird movie. It’s an over-the-top, fake movie – except it’s actually happening.”
Fangclub’s Bullet Head EP is out now on Universal Records.
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