HURT, healing and four-four-two.
Dublin three-piece Gatsby are back with their second studio album ‘Newfoundland’ and a sound born behind the offside trap of the Atlantic Ocean.
From the hopeful opening of ‘Any Joy’ to the anthemic ‘And A Soul Inside’, the band blend artisan melodies with freight train honesty.
And a little football.
“The songs are a mishmash of experiences, recollections, thoughts — usually within the one song,” says frontman Patrick Quigley. “There’s enough room for the listener to fill in the blanks themselves.
“A phrase on the news or in the paper can set us off. Defender is really a love song couched in football clichés. I’m not sure a transfer fee has been mentioned in a love song before. It’s probably a dubious first!”.
The three-piece are used to walking on gilded splinters.
Between the break-ups and the make-ups they have played with everyone from Crowded House to Joe Strummer and lived to tell the tale. Legendary U2 and Rolling Stones producer Steve Lilywhite likened ‘Defender’ to an old Buddy Holly track for its graceful simplicity. They have also toured with the Hothouse Flowers, featured on a movie soundtrack and most recently worked with Alabama 3 collaborator Philip Magee.
Finally fulfilling the great promise of their first album ‘The Sweet Science’, Gatsby have also become creative with percussion. Even adapting the central heating. “In the absence of a drummer we generated our own percussion,” says bassist Sid Alcock. “The three of us played drums, radiators, really anything that came to hand! “Philip pitched in lots of ideas and helped a lot with ambient sounds and generally getting us to push the envelope. But each song started with just the three of us in the live room with acoustic guitars and bass, putting down a live foundation. We built them up from there.”
Constructed on a bedrock of Elvis Costello and The Smiths, the trio first got together after meeting at a Crowded House gig.
It was noise at first sight.
In 2002, under the previous guise of Sonora, they won the O2 ‘Unsigned Band of the Year’ award. Having turned down an unfavourable recording contract with Warner Brothers the band was described by Tom Dunne as the ‘Paolo di Canios’ of Irish rock.
Crowded House’s Nick Seymour produced their debut single “Relentless” and there was also the small matter of supporting The Clash’s Joe Strummer on his last-ever Irish gig.
“For some reason we didn’t approach him after the gig, trying to preserve youthful cool or something like that,” laughs Quigley. “But I remember peeking in the door of his dressing-room just to see the man himself. He was sitting there, his back to me, boots up on the table… watching Eastenders on a little portable black and white TV! Since then we always make soap operas part of our rider.”
On ‘Newfoundland’ the three-piece from Swords capture their own cobbled journey from the defunct DA Club on Clarendon Street to the optimistic outlook of 2014. Lyrics crackling like a campfire are backed by guitars and bass that splash and sparkle like summer. And not a false number nine in sight.
“Defender’ got everyone excited when we started writing the album,” says guitarist Stephen Sheridan. ” ‘And A Soul Inside’ sums up what we’ve been trying to do for ten years; “things may not be looking up love, but you’ve got nothing to be scared of”.”
That hope is evident from the opening track ‘Any Joy’. “There’s a line: “Any joy you can have you should grab”,” adds lyricist Quigley. “It’s a little like the last line of the ‘Desiderata’ which was printed on the back of the homework journal at the school Sid and I went to; ‘Strive to be happy’.”
With nods to Wilco and Ron Sexsmith the album still owes a large debt in style and scope to the songwriting of Neil Finn. “He’s the one songwriter the three of us agree on!” laughs Alcock. Throughout their bumpy ride the Antipodean influence has been a constant.
Just don’t mention the weather.
“Sid and I first met at Crowded House in the Point in May 1994,” says Quigley. “Funnily enough it wasn’t until Crowded House again, in Marlay Park in 2007 that all three of us first went to a gig together and it pissed down for hours.
“That was Sid’s final appearance at an outdoor music event!”
2014 may change all that.
“Choosing to name yourself after an F. Scott Fitzgerald character to whom the word ‘Great’ will forever be attached is a brave move for any act, but not one of GATSBY’s abilities. For a band described by Hotpress magazine as “Dublin’s best-kept secret”, it’s a safe bet they won’t remain that way for long.” – Hotpress Magazine