With their second album 'Domino Effect' hitting shelves, Mullingar natives The Blizzards are currently busy touring.
Band members Bresy and Doran took time out to talk to Linda McGee about their new album, song-writing and dreams of fancy cars.
Linda McGee: You've just released a new album, were you worried at all about the curse of the second album and was it difficult to decide what would go on this one?
Bresy: It wasn't really the second-album-syndrome thing. We didn't sell a million records internationally on the first one so there hasn't been that kind of worry about it. It was hard to record but I think it was much easier than the first record because we knew exactly what was required this time around. And our confidence levels were high live. We knew the band had improved a lot from the last record... It was the reaction we were getting to songs as well, from people we trusted, producers...
Doran: I think when the new songs started coming we all kinda knew. When you get the demos back you know you're on a winner. So that difficult second album thing, I don't think we thought about it.
Bresy: The thing about the second album is that we wanted to make what they call a sonically very strong album. A lot of albums nowadays don't sound particularly good or ballsy or live-sounding - there's no energy in them - that's because they're just basically being put through Pro-Tools on computer and sub-standard recording by sub-standard producers straight out of college. We went to four different studios to get the sounds we wanted. That's what I don't like about downloads. You can't really get this album until you put it in and crank it up.
LM: You've worked closely with Michael Beinhorn on this album. Was his influence a major factor when it came to song writing and the reworking of songs?
Bresy: It was. He has got this amazing view on the world and the music scene and how he can just read it, because he comes from the old-school world and now he's in the new-school world and he knows. He just says that a lot of what you're hearing on the radio at the moment, there's no honesty in it. It's recorded badly, the songs are just rushed out without being developed. He said: "What you need to do is make and honest-sounding record." And that's what he's famous for doing. So he just basically goes: "Don't write tripe. Don't try to be a poet. Don't try to be a politician. Just write easy, simple stories that people love hearing, and write what you're good at." So he just essentially said: "Play to your strengths."... You're sending him demos and he's sending you emails back saying: "Now you're becoming a songwriter. These are much stronger".
Beinhorn essentially told me that the songs that we were writing were s**t. He said: "Those are too heavy. They don't suit your personality. They're not honest. Stop writing this type of music. Don't bother sending me anything until you cop on and stop being moany." And that's exactly what I needed. It was almost a relief he said that to me because I knew that wasn't what the band were at.
LM: Some of the songs on your latest album have a much softer sound, like 'Postcards‘. Did ye consciously want to change direction with this album or was that as a result of advice from producers?
Bresy: I think I've softened up a bit, haven't I? (laughs) No, it's not that we've softened up. We've got a lot more honest. The one thing about those songs is they're certainly not ballads. They're meant to pick you up. 'Postcards' essentially is a very, very, very important song, the words. I know a lot of people don't really bother paying attention to the lyrics but I hope they do on some of these songs because I definitely think they'll pull something out of there. I love good lyrics. I love simple lyrics.
LM: 'Trust Me, I'm A Doctor' has got to Number One on the downloads chart - was it important to you to get that instant feedback before the album launch?
Doran: It's a bit scary because we've been away for about six months, longer probably. We've done a couple of gigs in the run-up to this and they're all selling out so we're kinda delighted that it's gone that way.
Bresy: The song is catchy... People are saying: "Do ye have to pinch yourselves?". No, we've working our arses off. We've worked every day since January to get this so we're not going: "Look, this is amazing". It is amazing and it's great but we've worked for that. When something like that happens, when you can look everybody in the eye and say: "We deserve it" you're in the right place. You don't go: "Jeez, I can't believe that just happened". We've been working for that. We've been working towards that.
LM: You're starting a live tour at the minute - is the stage where you guys are happiest? Are ye dying to get back in front of the crowds after being in the studio for so long?
Bresy: Studio bores the s**t out of me. It's not a nice place to be. Getting the album right, to the place you want it to be, getting the design right and getting your videos and stuff like that, it's all part of it but it it very boring and gigging is where it's at. But then with gigging, you have to keep gigging fresh for yourself too. You can't go around playing the same songs for four months. You gotta freshen up your set because if your set is stale then you're stale, and the crowd are stale... That's the glory of our sets. We don't plan them too much. We're likely to come out with anything at any stage.
Doran: For us, playing the live thing, you have to excite people I think, especially for this tour coming up. For this tour we can bring in the new songs and for us that's exciting too.
Bresy: I don't like bands that don't perform. That's the least you should be doing if someone's spent money on a ticket.
LM: Seeing as I'm from Westmeath as well, I'll have to ask you about the reaction that you get when you go home - do you get stopped in the streets much?
Doran: We still live at home so people are kinda used to us now. If it was like that it would be a bit weird. It's nice to go into a pub and you get a pint before anybody else - that's what I love. That's nice.
Bresy: I just actually think they're very proud of us, which is really nice. I remember, the one thing that springs to my mind was when we were doing a gig a couple of weeks ago and some guy rang and we were like: "We want this, this and this at the gig" and he said to me on the phone: "What's going on here lads? Ye've changed.". We haven't changed as people. The band have changed. We're much more professional.
The one thing about people in Mullingar, they know well we haven't changed. We've huge support... and I think at the minute there's a nice buzz going around the Midlands and I really hope we're part of it. And I hope people can be proud of us. And we don't take it for granted. We're working really hard and 99.9% of people at home are 100% behind us.
LM: So your reputation as the nicest guys on the music scene isn't unfounded?
Bresy: Are we?
Doran: The good guy always wins.
Bresy: Yeah, the good guys always win - that's our philosophy. I think the 'nice-guy' side of it is that I feel quite privileged that we're in this position. I know how many bands there are in Ireland bursting to try to get recognised, acts like us. And unfortunately, that's just the way the industry is. People get lucky and we got lucky so we don't take it for granted.
But the other side of it is, once we got given a chance we didn't sit back and go: "Grand". That's actually when it really kicked in. We spent every minute of every day working on stuff and getting it right and becoming a professional band. So if we do go to the UK and we do go to America, I know now from playing with the Kaiser Chiefs and The Kooks and bands like this, we're well able for it.
LM: Is successfully cracking the UK market and touring over there your next big ambition?
Bresy: We don't want to be touring Ireland five times a year. That's not what we're about. We're about progression and ambition. We've upped our game and now we want to up it again and we want to go over there.
Doran: It's hard being away from your loved ones but you have to pay the bills. I don't think we ever set out and said: "Right, I'm gonna get a guitar and I'm gonna join a band and we're gonna be big". It just kinda happened like that for us.
Bresy: It's tough. Everyone's like: "Oh, you're on TV, you must be rich". F**k that. It's not like that.
Doran: Have a look at my bank balance!
Bresy: There's the romantic view of being in a band and there's the realistic view as well. The realistic view is that you can't go buying a house and buying nice fancy cars... yet! I'd love to be in a position to do that... but not at the moment.
LM: It seems to be a good time for Irish bands, both within this country and outside it. Are there any bands that you would say influenced you or that particularly impress you?
Bresy: The Loose are, whether they know it or not, a huge influence on The Blizzards in as much as we did a few gigs with them and they were the standard set to us as a live act. We thought we were a good live act and then we saw Republic of Loose and then we went: "Right lads, let's cop the f**k on. Let's get practising. Let's get our live show in order because this is the standard being set." So that was a huge influence on what we did... The thing about the scene in Ireland, it's time now the scene stands on its own two feet and people stop getting caught up in going to England and going to America. The scene here is amazing. Every band in Ireland sounds different. They're not following each other. The radio is being good to the bands. The media have been good to the bands. And now it's time for them to stand up.
OK, you do need to go to the UK, but it shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of being in a band anymore. That's the one thing about the scene. There's thousand of really strong bands now. They just need to be allowed develop. There's huge financial restrictions. I think personally that the government are pathetic on funding sports and are pathetic on funding arts... The only people not supporting the scene here are the government. We're lucky that we're signed and we have finance behind the band and we're in a position where we're making money but there are so many bands that are struggling and not being allowed to develop... I just wish there was a bit more help for bands like that. Then if you push over to the UK, the scene there is all over the place because every band is a clone of the next band and that's just the way that has gone. But that's what's good about Ireland - it's not happening here.
LM: That's a good thing but then a lot of Irish bands have to contend with people accusing them of not sounding Irish...
Bresy: Did The Beatles sound like they were from Liverpool? People should stop worrying about what something sounds like. If it sounds good, it sounds good... if it's from Siberia or wherever.
LM: So do labels bother you when it comes to categorising your band - do you want to steer away from being called a pop band? Or do you hate labels like indie, ska, rock or whatever else?
Bresy: We're a pop band. That's what we are. The Killers are a f**king pop band, they're not an Indie band. I don't think Indie exists anymore. I just think Indie is gone. Everyone who gets played on daytime radio is a pop band. Indie was around for Oasis. Indie was around for Blur. There's none of them bands left.
Doran: People are fascinated by labels. You have to be in this kind of box of what you are.
Bresy: We know what we're here for. We're not a critics' band. We never will be. We don't want to be. We know exactly what we are and the people that we care about are the people that buy our albums and that's it... We're not claiming to be anything we're not.
Read Harry Guerin's review of The Blizzards's new album 'Domino Effect' here.
For more on The Blizzard's live dates click here.