"Your body of work is what you stand on" Delorentos on how they captured their True Surrender
The enduring indie outfit on their new album and why leaving behind a lasting legacy is the only thing that matters...
Rónán Yourell takes a breath. He's earned it.
The Delorentos frontman (one of two) has just condensed the last three years of his band's collective lives into one five-minute, unbroken answer.
"I thought that my head might melt halfway through," he smiles, picking himself back up.
In fairness, it's been quite the road. A road almost not taken, as it happens.
Rewind three-and-a-half years ago to the arrival of Night Becomes Light. The successor to the Choice Music Prize-winning Little Sparks found the foursome somewhat caught between stations; riding a wave of critical acclaim and positioned for commercial success, all the while attempting to stay true to themselves.
A genuine sincerity belies the four songwriters that make up Delorentos, the set completed by Kieran McGuinness, Níal Conlan and Ross McCormick.
If you know the band, you know the backstory. A break-up - seemingly forever immortalised in the 'last ever show' lead image on their Wikipedia page - followed by a relatively quick U-turn led to the richest songs of their career on Little Sparks and a general feeling of revitalisation.
In dealing with upbeat yet pensive, radio-friendly yet explorative numbers, Delorentos specialise in soulful and searching affairs, short stories that people can find themselves in, dancing between the lines.
Their newest work - the band's fifth, or sixth if you wish to count a limited edition acoustic album in 2014 - comes with the kind of creation tale that you've heard before, only this time it's not just a way to fill paragraphs on a press release.
True Surrender genuinely is the album that Delorentos wished to conjure up and share with those willing to listen. We know this because there's an entirely different record, constructed while touring, that got left behind somewhere amidst the sunny outskirts of Madrid.
In and of itself, that's not the most remarkable thing. A great deal of music never makes it beyond the studio, even when precious time and money has been spent. But you know, generally, when you listen to something that doesn't quite connect, doesn't quite feel loved.
The tracks that make up True Surrender are there because people fought for them, even if that meant engaging in a shouting match. Or several.
Clip via Delorentos Music
Returning to Yourell's monologue, a word that comes up here and there is 'time' - a now-vital currency given that the band are no longer "living out of each other's pockets" and doing the nine-to-five, six days a week thing.
"We felt like we needed a new impetus again, particularly with the four of us living quite disparate lives outside of music," he notes.
Keeping them apart; relationships, growing older, new responsibilities. Life unfolding.
It can prove tricky for musicians to sidestep the pratfalls and clichés that come with the above changes. Take a listen to recent efforts from Justin Timberlake and Manic Street Preachers, for instance, to see how joy and inertia can have a numbing effect.
True Surrender, thankfully, avoids hitting conventional clichés that would literally spell out where Delorentos are as individuals at this precise moment in their development.
"I don’t think anybody wants to hear that," admits Níal Conlan.
"I think your responsibility is to bring some sort of artifice to it. That’s your job, right? It’s really irresponsible to do what you’ve just outlined there. Anybody could do that. The skill is in presenting that in a new and interesting way"
Conlan points to the importance of not just seeing the world, but interacting with it.
"I think one of the things that makes our band is that we’ve evolved quite a bit," he offers. "We have always evolved. We started in a very specific place. Even working with different producers and playing in different countries and embracing all of those idiosyncratic influences - I don’t think there are many Irish bands who have spent as much time as we have in Spain, for example.
"Also, frankly, when we tour Europe, we’re not playing in the snazziest dance hall in Frankfurt. We’re playing the clubs in the backstreets of Berlin. But that’s where all the creative shit happens. That’s where all the mad stuff that doesn’t quite make sense but gives you something to jump off of happens."
Clip via Delorentos Music
True Surrender was captured closer to home at Attica Audio in Donegal, with Tommy McLaughlin (Villagers, SOAK) at the helm, in addition to a welcome cameo from Jape mastermind Richie Egan.
Egan would lend subtle but effective textures to a couple of tracks - lead single 'In Darkness We Feel Our Way' and wistful opener 'Stormy Weather' - and provide the band with something of a sonic boot camp along the way.
"Richie is an idol of mine," says Conlan. "I own every single Redneck Manifesto album. I think he’s an absolute genius and he’s a really cool guy to hang out with. He made us try and think a little bit differently. He would play unconventional pop music to us in the morning to try and get us to think differently about pitching vocals and things like that."
Being open and approachable can have its slight drawbacks, too, of course. Yourell recalls a recent conversation in which he was asked directly why the band isn't playing to stadiums every night.
"I occasionally get asked this question, and I have no answer to it," he confesses.
"Because we’re not? We haven’t made enough money? I don’t know! The one brilliant thing about being predominantly an independent band and making it up as we go along and surviving on favours and other people who maybe don’t have a lot of money but are passionate about music, we’ve got to have loads of really sometimes fucked up but mostly wonderful experiences around Ireland initially, and then around the world."
Ever the realistic optimist, Conlan is content with a different measure of success.
"It means that we’ve gone down all these side roads, but we’ve left a legacy of good music. That’s the whole point. That’s the only point. You write and record good music and you play it live. There’s going to be a point where you don’t get to play it live anymore and then you leave behind the legacy.
"None of that other stuff matters. Money doesn’t matter. Everyone has to hustle to keep the lights on, but that’s always going to be the case. Your body of work is what you stand on. Sure, there are times when you’ve thought, ‘Shit, I could have done that better, or I could have done that differently…’ But that makes the next thing better."
True Surrender is out now. For more, visit delorentos.net