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First Night Sold Out! Second Night Added!

Fontaines D.C.

Been Stellar

Sat, October 19, 2024
Doors: 10:00 pm

9:30 Club
Washington, DC

LATE SHOW

Tickets are non-transferable until 72 hours prior to the show time. Any tickets suspected of being purchased for the sole purpose of reselling can be cancelled at the discretion of 9:30 Club / Ticketmaster, and buyers may be denied future ticket purchases for I.M.P. shows. Opening acts, door times, and set times are always subject to change.

Fontaines D.C.

Into the darkness again,” beckons Grian Chatten on Fontaines D.C.’s ‘Romance’. A menacing bassline swells into a sublime orchestral boom; a repeated lyrical refrain defines this album’s central question, a loitering provocation and proclamation: “maybe romance is a place”.

“‘Romance’ can be a place you’re locked out of, that you’re confounded by,” explains Chatten. “Maybe you don’t have the language to gain access. It could be something you’re hellbent on protecting, or an all-out surrender.” Chatten recalls Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s anime Akira, where the embers of love develop despite a maelstrom of technological degradation and political corruption around its characters. “I’m fascinated by that – falling in love at the end of the world,” he says. “The album is about protecting that tiny flame. The bigger armageddon looms, the more precious it becomes.” This concept transfigures in Fontaines D.C.’s fourth album ROMANCE, the Dublin-made, now London-based band’s most ambitious, expansive record yet.

“This record is about deciding what’s fantasy – the tangible world, or where you go in your mind. What represents reality more? That feels almost spiritual for us,” says Carlos O’Connell.

“We’ve always had this sense of idealism and romance,” says Conor Deegan (Deego). “Each album gets further away from observing that through the lens of Ireland, as directly as Dogrel. The second album (A Hero’s Death) is about that detachment, and the third (Skinty Fia) is about Irishness dislocated in the diaspora. Now we look to where – and what – else there is to be romantic about.”

11 tracks constellate ideas that have been percolating among Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan (bass), and Tom Coll (drums) since they brought out their No.1 record Skinty Fia in 2022and toured with Arctic Monkeys. Backstage, they shared music and found a throughline with artists that deftly build out their own sprawling creative worlds: the attitude and aesthetic sheen of Shygirl and Sega Bodega, the bolshy sonic palettes of hip hop and heavy metal, Mos Def, A$AP Ferg, OutKast and Korn. They had time apart to build more singular visions for what future music could be: O’Connell went to Spain’s Castile-La Mancha and later became a new father, while Chatten spent time in LA, and Deegan in Paris. They laid deeper roots in London. Each member spent time pushing their boundaries – experimental riffs, chord progressions, and far flung lyrical references without intentions for a record.

A Maida Vale session in March 2022 set the first bones of ROMANCE. Hanging out in the hallway, Chatten and O’Connell found a rough melody for the album’s now final track, ‘Favourite’, and recorded it on a phone. “It felt like something new, even if the song actually became a bit of an outlier,” says Chatten. They texted early ideas for a record – something cinematic, grandiose, futuristic. “I called him when walking along the Thames just to say, ‘it’s happening again, isn’t it?’. The soil turned over. I was spinning in between the worlds of euphoria and sadness. That’s where this record was forming.”

Fontaines D.C. makes formidable, critically-lauded moves with each new record, yet no member likes defining when exactly they’re making the next album. “I don’t understand how artists enter ‘writing periods’,” says Chatten. “If you perceive the world creatively, you’ll never need that. I don’t feel like I’m ever not writing the next album.” Songwriting was instinctual and reactive. Many of the original lyrics endured. Chatten wrote 12 verses for ‘Favourite’ – he asked his bandmates to edit it down, however reluctantly.

It was “an intensive return to Fontaines D.C. at its fullest,” O’Connell says. They spent a month writing together again, three weeks of pre-production in a North London studio, and a month in a chateau close to Paris, sleeping among studio equipment, completely immersed.

“Everything became microscopic in detail,” says Conor Curley. “There was no breathing space between writing and recording. It flew quite close to the band having an aneurysm – and it needed that, really. ROMANCE has the true madness of a late night session.”

The sonic evolution of the band, who bared their teeth in early records with antagonistic punk sensibilities, is an ascent into grungier breaks, dystopian electronica, hip hop percussion, and dreamy Slowdive-esque textures that may surprise fans. “It was fun to broaden the palette that we started to emulate on Skinty,” says Coll. The shoegaze touchpoints first pressed on Skinty Fia unfold on ROMANCE like a purpling bruise. But the “retro aesthetic”, as Chatten describes, is left behind. “We’re more confident in what we’re all bringing now,” adds Coll. “We aren’t looking back so much.”

As a band, they first learned how to write using simple chord progressions and repetition, recording tracks live. “It was a philosophy. If we couldn’t do it live as a five, we were doing something wrong,” says Deego.

ROMANCE’s production process became more layered. “We wanted to express the feeling with every appendage possible,” says O’Connell. They worked with James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco and producer for Blur and Arctic Monkeys) and got down with what Coll calls “good nerdy shit”.

“We’re making sounds that go beyond what our comprehension was when we were in a shed rehearsal room,” says Deego. “I’m inspired by sounds that seem accidental, distorted and chopped up. We’ve worked through how to stay true to ourselves, while exploring new ideas.”

Their assuredness creates blazing sonic bravura. ‘Starburster’, the explosive first single, is punctuated by Chatten’s sharp, feral intakes of breath, inspired by a panic attack he had in St. Pancras station. Its propulsive beat and unrelenting lyrics establish self-destruction as fantasy. There is a brief moment of sobering clarity, when the drums fall away and Chatten moves from spitting, almost-rap into an almost-psalm, his baritone rich, dreamy. “This is the first album where I’ve actually loved my own voice,” Chatten says. “I sound most like myself on ROMANCE.”

‘Here’s The Thing’ builds on anxious undertones by way of Placebo’s mechanical sounds and, lyrically, by a brief but caustic argument between Chatten and O’Connell. The hypnotic central track, ‘In The Modern World’, was first written in LA, indebted to Lana Del Rey’s strain of disillusionment. It asks questions a generation of Fontaines’ fans will find solace in: of detachment from a capitalist society that identifies you by your job, what you consume, and spiralling political strife. Chatten’s lyricism remains vivid and visceral, with ‘In The Modern World’ built around the idea of a fictional throuple intent on staying together while the dystopia rages on.

‘Horseness Is The Whatness’, is the album’s oldest track, written by O’Connell in Spain. Its title comes from James Joyce’s Ulysses, and plays with the architecture of words like ‘choice’ and ‘love’. Lean instrumentation builds into lush strings with an enveloping climax. O’Connell spent time producing for The Only Ones’ Peter Perrett, inspiring him to expand his own string arrangements. He acquired a mellotron and a new keyboard that bolsters ROMANCE’s grittier soundscapes.

Concepts held close for years find new terrain in ROMANCE. “We try not to see albums as ‘sequels’,” says Chatten, “but often it’s inescapable.” ‘Death Kink’, a sinister track about waking up from a manipulative relationship, is one – “That has a chord progression I’d held onto for a while,” says Curley. “There’s the ghost of ‘Boys In The Better Land’ [Dogrel] in it. It has the intention of being a straight up rock song, but it’s deformed by this project.” Ode to friendship ‘Sundowner’ is written by Curley and features his lead vocals for the first time “by accident”.

“Deep they’ve designed you, From cradle to pyre, In the mortal attire,” Grian calls on ‘Desire’. It is frenetic with lustiness, which swirls across the record. “To write songs that are sexier and sensual is new to me – I’ve never had the confidence,” says Chatten. Album closer ‘Favourite’, a jangly, shoegaze-inflected track, feels immortal in its looping guitar lines. This is ROMANCE’s final surrender: to a volatile fantasy and sinister sense of bliss.

Literature and cinema continues to unfurl in their narrative. Chatten references the decaying glamour of old Hollywood, and the deranged fantasy of ageing star Norma Desmond in  Sunset Boulevard. The climate-anxious fiction of Nikolaj Schultz’s Land Sickness was also an influence. “I think of the album like a snowglobe, too,” says Chatten, “where a pastoral scene can be sent into chaos.” O’Connell was inspired by Tom Robbins’ postmodern, ecstatically weird love story Still Life With Woodpecker.

The album, out with XL Recordings, will be brought to life on a world tour from Summer, with stopovers at Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, and Europe. A sixth group member, Chilli Jesson, will join them again on tour. “The live shows will showcase a world we’re excited to make real,” says O’Connell. “I’m excited to see how our old songs interact with our new,” adds Coll.

“We say things on this record we’ve wanted to say for a long time,” Chatten says. “I never feel like it’s over, but it’s nice to feel lighter.” The fantasy is felt for better or worse, and Fontaines D.C. welcomes either end of oblivion.

Been Stellar

Scream from New York, NY, the first album by Been Stellar, is a remarkably brutal debut – bruised and volatile, it captures an image of ‘20s New York that’s unrelenting and harsh, where tenderness is a finite resource burned up by the machinery of the city and human connection is a luxury product. Leaving behind the driving shoegaze of their early recordings, the NYC-based five-piece tap into the disaffected sound and spirit of New York luminaries like Sonic Youth and Interpol, as well as the nihilistic, yearning cool of Iceage and Bends-era Radiohead, striking upon a sound that’s fearsome, buffeting and beautiful at the same time – a tidal wave as viewed from underneath.

As its wry title implies, Scream from New York, NY, is a record about what happens when language fails – between friends, partners, a city and its citizens – and the primal scream you might let out when words just don’t work anymore. Guitarist Skyler Knapp, vocalist Sam Slocum, Brazilian-born guitarist Nando Dale, bass player Nico Brunstein and drummer Laila Wayans met as undergrads at NYU, bonding over a shared sense of humor and forming a motley crew based more on emotional compatibility than any rigid ideas of shared artistic sensibility. Finding that last vestiges of the city’s famed 2000s and 2010s DIY underground had been ground down to nothing, the band put on their own shows, renting spaces and collaborating with friends to build the world they wanted to inhabit.

Determined to break new sonic ground, the band embarked on a relentless practice schedule, even renting scrappy studios on days off during tour. After befriending him at SXSW, the band tapped producer Dan Carey (black midi, Wet Leg) to help coalesce the disparate elements of their sound that had been percolating: forceful, driving physicality; pop classicism; gnarled beauty; and a rich emotional core. The resulting 10-song album announces Been Stellar as gimlet-eyed chroniclers of contemporary youth, staring through noise and confusion into the dark heart of modern life. These songs embody the spirit of a city that makes and breaks its inhabitants on a daily basis – an irony befitting the album’s tone: Been Stellar’s preternatural ability to capture the disconnection that haunts New York with photorealist detail might just be the thing that vaults them into its pantheon.

Venue Information:
9:30 Club
815 V Street N.W.
Washington, DC, 20001
WWW.930.COM

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