The Coronas

Last year, The Coronas moved to London. Which matters because, as anyone in Ireland will tell you, The Coronas are a Dublin band. At home, the quartet could hardly be bigger. Their three albums to date are double platinum; their second, 2009’s magnificently-titled Tony Was An Ex-Con, beat U2 and Snow Patrol to Best Album at the Meteor Awards. They have sold out everywhere from Dublin’s 13,000-capacity 02 Arena to The Olympia Theatre, where they played a record-breaking six night run, and supported Sir Paul McCartney, The Script, Justin Timberlake and Pink on a full UK tour.

The Coronas haven’t abandoned Ireland – just this summer, they played to 9,500 arms-aloft fans at Dublin’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham Park – but their sights are now focused further afield. Within months of their move, the band who battled the big boys in Ireland on their own indie label had signed a publishing deal with Big Life and been snapped up by Island Records, not on the strength of their previous achievements, but for their epic new album, The Long Way.

“As soon as we moved, everything we’d hoped for started to happen,” says singer Danny O’Reilly. “We’d always believed that if we got big enough back home, someone would sign us. Three albums in, we realised it was up to us to make that happen.”

“In London we lived together, which was great for sharing ideas,” adds guitarist Dave McPhillips. The songs we wrote were in a different league because we had a new challenge. Knowing we were starting from scratch made us more ambitious.” Most of The Long Way was written and recorded before Island came on board. As ever, The Coronas began without a plan, writing what felt right and working with a new producer. Their previous album, 2011’s Closer To You, was recorded in L.A. with Tony Hoffer. On The Long Way, they worked with Eliott James (Kaiser Chiefs, Two Door Cinema Club, Noah and the Whale).

“We met Eliott by chance,” shrugs Danny. “We liked the albums he’d worked on before, but mostly we chose him because we got on. He’s very hands-on, he plays lots of instruments and he suggested some new directions for the songs we wouldn’t have come up with ourselves.”

Punchy first single Just Like That, a song awash with catchy guitar hooks, introduces the theme of an album dominated by a relationship break-up. “I’m not saying I want you back/Unless you say it first,” sings Danny on a chorus destined to cause chaos on indie dancefloors.

Elsewhere, atmospheric piano ballad The Silence That Scares Me describes the aftermath of an argument.

“It’s about that moment when the screaming stops,” explains Danny. “Suddenly, there’s silence. That’s scarier than the screaming. At least when you’re fighting, you’re communicating.”

My Fault is a sparse, affecting, folk-tinged admission of guilt and The Long Way a heartbreak anthem that recalls Elbow at their most moving.

There’s still the boisterous rock for which The Coronas are known – How This Goes, All The Others - but it’s more textured, a little cooler and more ambitious than before. The fabulous Get Loose is the funkiest song the quartet has ever recorded. The lush If I Gave Myself To Someone Else takes the band further in to electronica than they’ve previously ventured.

“That song began as a piano ballad,” says Danny. “It was Eliott’s idea to lower the key to make it less poppy and add organs and Imogen Heap-style BVs. That’s definitely one of the ‘new direction’ songs. I’m not even sure it’s recognisably us.” The producer’s sense of adventure proved inspiring.

“Eliott had lots of unusual percussion ideas,” says drummer Conor Egan. “He got us in boots with heels, stamping our feet to make beats. On My Fault, played the piano by lifting the lid and plucking the strings.

“When we were discussing getting a string section in for a couple of songs, Eliott disappeared upstairs, returned with a cello and played all the string parts himself. We couldn’t believe it. On several of the songs, he got Dave to play a petrol can guitar. It’s like a Castrol can with a neck on it that he picked up in South Africa.” The Coronas may call The Long Way a new start, but really it’s a reboot. The eight years the four members, all still in their twenties, spent conquering their homeland is the cornerstone of the band they are now. They couldn’t have started out with The Long Way, they had to work their way towards it.

Their journey began when childhood best friends Danny (the son of Irish folk legend Mary Black) and bassist Graham Knox formed a band at school with Conor. They played their first gig aged 15. By the time they reached uni, they had recruited Dave and had called themselves The Coronas.

Their debut album, 2007’s Heroes and Ghosts, was a collection of songs they recorded by blagging studio time. By their own admission, they had no idea what they were doing.

“We didn’t even realise we were making an album,” laughs Knoxy. “After two weeks, we had 11 tracks, so we decided to put out an album. It was rough around the edges, but there’s a charm to it because we were so naïve.”

Closer To You consolidated The Coronas’ position as one of Ireland’s best-loved bands, spawned their biggest hit to date in lead single Addicted To Progress and saw them sell out some of Ireland’s biggest venues. It was also the album that convinced the quartet that it was time to move on.

“The last eight years has been a blast,” says Knoxy. “We look back and can’t believe what we’ve achieved. The highlights? Too many to mention. But for me, meeting McCartney when we supported him. He asked who was the bassist. I said me. He said, ‘Okay, here’s my advice. Don’t break up.”

“And we haven’t,” laughs Danny. “We can’t. Paul McCartney said so.”

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