London based Dublin band, The Chakras, release their new single ‘Drifting (Take A Walk Inside)’ on July 29. I caught up with the band before they played their first Irish gig in 18 months.
Sitting down at a table surrounded by The Chakras, there are a couple of things that are immediately noticeable. Richie, Brian, Gordo, Ian and Rocky have an infectious enthusiam for what they are doing. That’s hardly surprising though, things seem to just get better and better for the quintet, headlining Club NME in Koko in Camden, London and now with a new single release.
‘I think it’s our favourite venue we’ve played in the UK’, says Richie ‘The great thing about it is that you don’t come on stage till quarter to one or one o’clock so the party is really started by the time you come on stage, which is brilliant. It makes a difference. There’s already an atmosphere, it was a brilliant slot. It was amazing craic’.
The other thing is how they all contribute to the conversation and this seems to echo the dynamic of the band, Richie explains ‘The way they do it, they have this screen that comes up so while you start your first song they give the signal to whoever looks after the screen and the screen comes up and it makes for quite a dramatic entrance.’ Brian adds ‘The lights go down in the auditorium and everyone’s.. the sentence is finished by Ian ‘attention is drawn to the stage.’
I had first heard of The Chakras a few years ago when they were playing upstairs in Slattery’s in Rathmines, a venue close to where they are from. Then there seemed to be nothing, The Chakras had vanished, or in reality moved to London. They biggest change the band found was playing to new faces in new venues every night. ‘You’re playing to a totally different crowd every night I think it was just great though for us all to get away from Ireland for a bit.’ says Richie ‘We had grown up here in Dublin. You get more inspiration from being abroad, new surroundings.’
Lead singer Rocky adds ‘In Dublin, most of the venues are within a mile of each other and you go over there and you’re playing in completely different places every week and there’s completely different crowds in the different suburbs around there. It’s definitely exciting, we just felt that we played all the venues in Dublin a lot of times and played around the country. It’s just good to be out there, it’s such a big place, the UK, there’s thirteen million or fourteen million people in London. There’s more people in Essex than in Dublin, you’re exposed to so many more people, it’s just a larger crowd.’
The Chakras aren’t afraid of looking at the big picture and realized a move to London would benefit them. ‘I think that it’s just so there’s so many people there and the majority of the music going public would go and try and find a band that they haven’t heard of before or that haven’t released and album yet or haven’t been in NME or in a magazine.’ says Brian. ‘In Dublin, people love to do that as well it’s just a smaller amount because there’s less people.’
I love the band’s honesty and they aren’t afraid to say what they think about the Dublin scene but there are certainly no rose tinted glasses. ‘I think the quality of the bands is probably as good or better over here. I think that bands are almost more professional over here but they just don’t have the audience for it’, says Rocky. ‘When you go over there some bands who are doing very well, aren’t as well rehearsed. There’s a certain style, more fashion orientated over there because they’re exposed continually to the change of fashions in London. I think certain Irish bands, if they moved over would fare better in London.’
The move to London was prompted by a couple of different factors including frustration. ‘We’d been writing in our bedroom for two years’, says Brian, ‘We’d always seen ourselves going international anyway and it just seemed like the next step.’ The band’s management were London based and suggested that the band go over for a few months to see how things progressed.‘We got sick and tired of waiting for things to happen, we just wanted to get out there and knock on some doors.’
Rocky explains how the there were Irish labels interested but they just didn’t have the power to invest money in the act.‘There were one or two who were dead keen and bringing people over from London but it just made sense to go to the source of it where people could in a snap decision make the decision to back your band and give you the money to go out and do things properly, the right studios, everything.’
The band had been together for almost four years before the move took place but in that time the band developed and honed their sound from indie pop to one they are now truely happy with. ‘That’s when we now consider the start of The Chakras’, says Brian,‘that’s about two years ago before we started recording the album (Build Me A Swan). Before we had the name but it was a totally different band’.
They started really attracting industry attention when they were chosen as MySpace featured artists in the UK. Through twists and turns, this led them to their manager, David Boyd, ‘He’s a good skin. He’s been with us for three years now but his back catolgue is just phenomenal’ says Brian.The band then start naming bands that he ‘found’, The Verve, David Gray, Smashing Pumpikins, Placebo, Mercury Rev, so he’s a pretty impressive guy to have in your corner. We joke about name dropping but Brian says ‘When someone like that offers to work with you from finding them at a first gig to selling eight or nine million records, those names really matter because you’ve seen the proven success. It’s not just throwing a dice with someone who’s hungry. He’s someone who’s been through every step.’
In an everchanging music industry, it’s important to have a good team around you and the band admit that finding the right team to surround them may have slowed their progress but the needed to have the right people in place. ‘Every single person we’ve used, producer, agent, mixer, artwork have been the top 1% percent.’ Getting a good agent is vitally important in the UK, it’s a bigger territory with more promoters. ‘They’re the one’s that get you onto all the big gigs, festivals, that’s how we got Koko’, says Rocky, ‘that’s a massive part of the jigsaw. Outside of who you record the album with, it’s the other big part of it.’
During the course of our conversation the band get an email with options for their single artwork. The artwork is done by Storm Thorgersen who has been responsible for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover amongst others, another coup for the band. How did that happen? ‘Through the management and label we signed to, (Planet Function) Ren knew him and he liked the music’, says Rocky. ‘He’s doing everything for us, the album, the singles, the whole package. He’s one interesting character to work with. The most crazy eccentric person I’ve ever met in my life. ‘Adorable though’ adds Brian.
The album itself was produced by Jaz Rogers, (Brand New Heavies/Bryn Christopher) and mixed by Chris Potter (The Verve/Rolling Stone), ‘It was amazing working with both of them each step of the way was an education.’ Talking with the band, it seems that they enjoy the recording process and listening to new ideas and getting new input from a producer. ‘When we were writing the material, we would get so insular’ says Ian, ‘We’d work so hard on them, try changing a bit.. After a while you don’t actually know which is better, just because you’ve been doing it for so long.’ Brian adds, ‘It’s brilliant to have someone to come in and just give it a new life for you. They are talking abou the song so know so well and then just flip it on its head’. ‘He took us out of our comfort zone and we took him out of his and it’s like you work at your best when you’re on edge’ says Rocky.
‘Build Me A Swan’ comes out in September and the band have a pretty unanimous decision when they are asked what song surprised them. End Beginnings. ‘We always had in our minds, since we were kids to record and album with a beginning, middle and end’, says Brian, ‘We had the beginning and the intro, maybe I amd the Ressurection is a bit of a blueprint but we wanted something that would build and build and build. We just wanted a song where we thre everything at it, all the rules go out the window. It’s the final song we’re playing in our set and the feed back we’re getting is really really great.’.
Signing to Planet Function, a subsidary of Belgium dance label RNS, has transformed everything for the London based quintet. ‘They’ve just been so supportive’ says Ian. Brian described the first six months of life in London, the band get up go to jobs where they photocopy for eight hours, rehearsing and recording until two in the morning, go home together, get up and do the same thing again, which gets very tiring. It transformed everything though, given a taste of being a professional musician getting paid to do what you love’, says Rocky before Brian adds, ‘Having a rehearsal room to go down and walk into every morning, it just freshens up everything.You feel much better about what you’re doing, what you’ve done and the progress and all the tough times and hard work has been worth it.’
‘We’ve always seen this as more than a domestic thing’, says Brian ‘ever before we had proper finance we were aiming for the top people at the top of their game. Ren and Sabine and the label have completely shared that vision with us and with Dave (manager) and it’s kind of fluid and unison in the one direction.’
‘All the people involved with us are music lovers, they are genuine anoraks, buying albums since they were young. From our experience with labels, there didn’t seem to be that. There seemed to be a lot of people who looked at it as a business and how much you could sell and ‘shift x units’ and use all those words, products and units. Ren, Sabine and Dave, they love music as much as we do’.
The Chakras new single, Drifting (Take A Walk Inside) is out July 29th, the album ‘Build Me A Swan’ is out in September through Planet Function Records.