The Cast of Cheers have done things a little differently to most bands. For starters, they released an album for free before they’d even played live together as a band. A bit of a risky strategy, definitely, but it paid off for them in their hometown of Dublin, where they played their first show to a sold-out audience of ready-made fans. The album wasn’t polished or particularly produced, it didn’t even have artwork, but it got them noticed by the right people, and pretty soon they were on every Ones to Watch list going. Mostly still in Ireland, mind.
Fast forward two years to 2012, and they’re about to embark on the NME Generation Next tour with Howler and Gross Magic. After releasing an actual real record this July, entitled Family and met with widespread critical appraisal, the band are finally on the road to recognition after years of unsuccessful turns in bands and odd jobs. Just before their Bournemouth show, the first on the tour that’ll see them play some of their biggest venues yet, I caught up with three quarters of the band (guitarist Neil was absent to await the imminent arrival of his child) just before they went on stage.
The tour is just about to start, are you guys excited?
Conor: We’re very excited! We just heard Howler soundcheck, and it sounded deadly, so I can’t wait to see them.
John: We’re feeling a lot better after soundcheck. Our sound man was feeling a bit ill today, but after soundcheck today he turned around to us and said ‘I’m feeling better now.’
Conor: The healing power of music, I guess.
Were you familiar with the other bands on the bill?
Conor: We saw Howler play at Reading because we knew we were going on this tour with them, and they were great. Gross Magic we didn’t know much about, but we checked him out on youtube and he sounded really good!
You’re considerably better known in Ireland, what’s it like to play on ‘introducing’ tours in England?
Conor: The market here is so much bigger, so it’s totally different.
John: There’s more people in London than there are in Dublin.
Conor: Bands have to build from somewhere, and we’ve toured the UK twice, so this is only one of our very first tours. We did a co-headline tour with Theme Park, which was really introductory, when we both only had one single out. This feels like another introductory phase.
Family got a really good response from critics, were you expecting that?
Kevin: I think we were really nervous about how the UK was going to respond to the album. With Ireland it was kind of an experiment, but when we sparked in Ireland and starting get good reviews, we wanted to test the water over here. Then NME came back with a great review, and we got picked up by a few other blogs, which were all generally positive!
Conor: It was all great! It’s exciting because the album’s been out since June, and yet we’re here tonight and more people who haven’t heard it are going to get the chance, so it’s like it’s being released again really.
A lot of people don’t know that Family was actually your second record, did it feel a bit like your debut when you released it?
Conor: Yeah, definitely. I wouldn’t call the first one a demo, but it was an album where I think that if we’d had more money, we would have spent it on getting it mastered better. We’d actually quite like to re-release it, just to make it better sonically. We didn’t release it physically either, and it just felt weird that we never even really had artwork for it.
You wrote and released your first record before even having performed live together. What was the intention behind that?
Conor: We’d been in so many bands before, and we’d played so much around Ireland, and we didn’t want to be playing in empty rooms. We’d been doing it for years, and it just felt like that wasn’t the way we wanted to do it. By the time you get a buzz going about your band, it’d fizzle out within a few weeks, and it’d be like starting again. We thought we’d get an album out, and even if there’s only 20 fans, those 20 might come to a gig! A few months after we put it out, when we’d figured out how to play it live, we played a gig and it was jammed. When you go to a gig, it’s just such a better experience when you know the songs.
Who or what were your influences when recording the album?
Conor: So many! We had all been in so many bands before. I think sonically we were inspired by Bloc Party and Police, their riffs and grooves that they’ve got going. The sort of, fall-to-the-floor vibe that just gets people going, that’s what we were after.
How did the band come together?
Conor: Our old band broke up at the start of summer in 2010, and that summer I got a loop pedal, which opened up a whole new world in the way that I write songs! Then we kind of just had 10 songs, we’d all been friends for years anyway, and we just thought ‘let’s do it’. We jammed together for about a week, and then we were like, ‘let’s just record the album’ and it was all very quick.
Kevin: We all jumped in and just kind of figured out stuff as we went, really. The production of the album took longer than the recording of it, because we ran out of money. We were all working and saving at the time.
You’ve toured with bands like Blood Red Shoes, how do playing bigger venues compare to smaller ones like this?
Kevin: Big shows are amazing, because it’s a big thing to take in. With little shows you’re more face to face with the audience, there’s an intense, sweaty intimacy. Seeing Howler and Gross Magic in shows like this, in comparison to the tents they packed out at Reading, it’s pretty cool seeing the difference.
Conor: When we played Australia in August, the first show we did was a festival with thousands of people, which was the most people we ever had. Then the next night we played a smaller show with Django Django, and the vibe was totally different. They were sweatboxes, and such different atmospheres, they were both so great.
Kevin: Playing live is really great for us, it’s what we enjoy the most, definitely.
Have you had any standout shows, as far as you can remember?
Conor: Australia was pretty special.
Kevin: St Tropez…
Conor and John: Ohh St Tropez!
Conor: We played a gig in Switzerland with Bastille, and the venue was huge and just in the middle of absolutely nowhere, so nobody really came. We ended up playing for eachother, so we played for Bastille and their crew and then vice versa. It should have been awful, but that’s probably one of my highlights.
Kevin: We just like playing shows! Ask us at the end of this tour and we’ll probably have loads more.