Essential Listening

  • Wonder

  • Rise and Shine

When a band counts Ween and Errol Garner alongside more contemporary musicians like Connan Mockasin and Chris Cohen among its influences, you know you’re going to be in good hands.

From the woozy ska of Rise and Shine to the nocturnal berceuse of Good Night & God Bless and everything in between, Fizzy Orange wield a bevy of exuberant melodies with soul jazz flair.

In another time in a different place, William DeVaughn might have even recorded Wonder.

In their pre-carbonated days, best mates Kevin Keeley and Cian Byrne attended the school opposite other best mates Rioghan McCarthy and Eoin Dillon.

We were basically total opposites. Our school was very beige. They were Mount Temple. Bono. No uniforms, peace and love sort of buzz.

Eoin had a band on the go, Cian and Rioghan played together in a different group and Kev had teamed up with Jack Martin, making music on cassettes.

Bands were abandoned and players poached or recruited until, finally, long-time friend Maxime Arnold was drafted in for the collective as we know it to take form.

After releasing one single under the name Pleasure Dome, that moniker began to feel incongruous with the band’s direction of travel and spurred on by the oblique utterings of two literary greats, they instead changed their name to something more effervescent.

Photography by George Hooker

When we were starting off, Rioghan and Eoin used to get drum lessons in Roddy Doyle’s gaff. He asked us how the band was getting on and if we had a name one day. We said we were Pleasure Dome. He just replied, ‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, A stately pleasure dome decree’.

We were very confused. He was pretty intense. We asked him what it meant and he told us to cop on to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and read his poem Kubla Khan. When we finally read it in the Marino Library we thought we were pretty shite ambassadors of the name.”

While The Beach Boys are held high in the band’s esteem, Kev notes that they all really bonded over a love for lo-fi and analogue sound. Tipping a nod to the classics, the sextet’s sounds spring from a collective well of musical diversity.

All of the lads’ oulfellahs were into music. Neil Young, Wings, Thin Lizzy and The Jam all got heavy rotation when we were young.”

Kev singles out Phil Lynott, Elvis Costello and Ray Davies as great storytellers and remarks that “Dublin is a great place to just observe, so we’ve made a conscious effort to use our city and surroundings for inspiration, like Annesley bridge, the old Monto and Corporation Street, Dzurrty Michael.

As the band progressed, so too did the songwriting. “For a while, we felt that every song we were doing ended up being ‘I love you, you love me’ or ‘I love you, you don’t love me’ sorta crap,” Kev explains, “so we tried to get out of that by pushing ourselves a little harder. We started reading more, paying attention to songwriting structure instead of just themes.”

The band extols the DIY ethos and tries to run its own gigs whenever possible (“We think you should be able to get a gig and stout for a tenner”).

They’ve run two ‘Fizzy & Friends’ mini-festivals so far with the intention of getting like-minded folk together to try to build a bit of a scene, at a reasonable price, of course.

Over the years we’ve put on sold out shows before where ourselves and everyone involved does well. We’ve also played sold out gigs just to have a promoter in brown shoes give you an envelope with 50 beans in it and say, ‘You were deadly, lads’”.

The difficulties in pursuing a full-time music career in Dublin, and Ireland, aren’t lost on the band, and while recent political developments have seen some money spread around to artists, the trickle only runs so far.

It’s cool to see grants and artist universal income come in but it seems like the usual gatekeepers of culture are the ones deciding who gets it and where it goes. I doubt any of them have been to the local poxy noise rock show down the back of a pub in Cabra.”

The band members are currently split between Ireland and the UK, all working full-time or part-time to fund the music. Far from seeing the distance as a disadvantage, Kev notes how they have managed to build a network in the UK through gigs and DJing, and there’s general band consensus on a favourite gig at Gaz’s in London.

“We did two shows a day for a week and this was our second of the first night. There were no monitors on stage, no soundcheck, yada yada yada. The venue billed us as a ‘Ska band from Dublin’, which was pretty funny. Anyway, we basically pretended to be a ska band for two hours, got heckled to bits and played everything at double speed.”

"...we basically pretended to be a ska band for two hours, got heckled to bits and played everything at double speed.”

The move has also impacted the band’s songwriting. Kev observes how it has given everyone a different perception, particularly of Dublin. “There’s a tendency I think for Irish people to go into fucking mega paddy mode when they’re abroad.

I found the first ten songs I wrote after moving to the UK were all about how much I missed Dublin, I was literally only gone for about three weeks. Relax the kax. When I was living in the kip all I did was complain, whinge and moan; a few weeks across the pond and I’m on some romantic Ireland buzz.

The move, though, has solidified in Kev’s mind the idea of committing to music in a more disciplined and immersive sense. The current plan is to blitz some festivals, hit the studio in May to record their debut EP and do a small tour of Ireland and the UK.

A helping hand could well be on the cards, if only to take the pressure off the business end of affairs to let the lads write in the optimal conditions…when they can just relax (the kax).

It’s clear that to make music in 2023 you have to be your own manager, agent, publisher, producer, mastering engineer.  We don’t mind, we like the control, but we’d also love someone to give us a fat wad of cash and tell us to make an album.

While they’re fond of a Beamish, and Oh Carling! sounds like what might come to pass if Animal Collective recruited Brian Wilson for a boozy recording session (only better), if you happen to run into the band in a divey bar or on a festival line-up and are wondering what goes best with Fizzy Orange, Kev offers some sage advice via The Humours of Whiskey:

“‘Whatever best wets your whistle, what's clearer than crystal, what's sweeter than honey and stronger than steam’. Or Harp lager.”

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