Essential Listening

  • Approachable

The trajectory of Dublin based post-punk outfit Gurriers is quite impressive. The quintet built quite a buzz about themselves before they even played a gig thanks to a series of self-produced demos recorded in Yellow Door rehearsal studios in Dublin that garnered them airplay in Ireland the UK and America, which in turn led to them having a successful summer on the UK festival circuit.

The group had a successful showing at Eurosonic recently, they have just announced their first shows in Holland and having already been booked for 2000 Trees and London Calling in the UK, they are expecting more European festival appearances to be confirmed soon.

Eurosonic was a success in our books. A lot of people seemed to be really into it and they really enjoyed the chaos of our live show,” frontman Dan Hoff tells us over Zoom.

“That was one of the things we always wanted to be,” notes Hoff jokingly when we point out the unusual level of success the band received before they even released their first single proper. “We wanted to do so well that people would think we were industry plants.”

Photography by Ste Murray

When their debut single Approachable finally arrived this month, the kinetic energy Gurriers built up showed no signs of abating with the track landing on NME’s New Bangers playlist and being named single of the week on The Needle Drop.

“That was surreal, one of my friends sent me a picture of Anthony Fantano and the Gurriers single and I was like, ‘You better not be joking, this better not be a prank’ and he was like, ‘I swear to god I don’t have that good photoshop skills, this is real.’”

“You could get Anthony Fantano and be worst track, so to get best track was really, really surprising. We must be doing something right.”

However, despite Hoff’s genteel nature, it’s clear that nothing that’s happened to Gurriers thus far in their career is by accident. Every aspect of the group from their live shows to what songs they’ll record, when and with whom has been planned out during lockdown.

“We really pushed to keep (the band) in the front of our minds as much as possible. We had as many Zoom meetings as possible just to talk about what we wanted to do; how we’re going to write songs. We were talking to people about recording during lockdown…”

Hoff was adamant that the group would do as much planning and strategising as possible with each decision effecting how the band would sound. The band quietly went through several names such as Pink Pitts and Slates before settling on Gurriers.

“I had the Television Club in my head for a while. That got shot down pretty quick because of the night club in Dublin in the ‘70s.

“We just wanted a name that made sense,” continues Hoff. “Slates didn’t sound like a name that we really wanted to go for. We didn’t know what slates sounded like but when we heard Gurriers we knew what Gurriers could sound like. Slates are just slates on a roof, Gurriers have a bit of a story to them.”

Once the band settled upon their coat of armour it allowed them to forge ahead with purpose, developing their sound over months of experimentation in Yellow Door. Approachable, the first fully formed glimpse into that universe, sees Hoff and co. reacting to the rise of the far right in world politics.

“During the pandemic I was looking online a lot and seeing the Black Lives Matter protests and then the rise on the other side of Trump’s America and the far right and feeling real anger towards it.”

“We wanted to do so well that people would think we were industry plants”

Approachable pokes fun at how they are even people who second guess themselves: “I’m approachable at least I think I am, at least my friends say I am.”

It’s a funny song when you think about it that way,” notes Hoff. “We’ll try not to have loads of far-right heads turning up at our next gig to sing Approachable at us.

“There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it and some people might take it seriously. It is one of those songs that is very aware of what it is.”

“We wouldn’t call ourselves a political band but the lyrics to that one are. It’s just a song that’s very important for me to be released and to be given the right kind of recognition of what it’s about.” 

Approachable was recorded in Belfast with Producer Chris W Ryan of Robocobra Quartet (New Dad). “We had a great time with him. It was one of the hottest days of the year and we were all in the studio in our shorts with fans on but it was great. It was a lot of fun we spent two days down there.

“I’ve received a lot of comments from people saying this encapsulates us live, which is good. He saw us live (for the first time) after the recording. He came down to see us in our Studio in East Wall for pre-production just to see what we could do.

“He definitely got the sound that we have on stage down really well. There’s a lot more clarity and dynamics in Chris’ version than ours.”

Remarkably Approachable was written in the band’s first rehearsal. “It was the first thing that Mark played… we just worked on it that day, I still have a video of that…the song was 40% there,” recalls Hoff.

Part of the lockdown planning Zoom sessions included deciding which songs not to record until they had to budget to achieve the textures the songs required.

“I remember Noel Gallagher talking about it in Supersonic. They wrote All Around The World in one of their first ever practices but he said that song’s not ready until we have enough money for an orchestra. To have that kind of confidence is unbelievable, when I heard that I was like ‘Yeah, fucking right’. If you want it to sound right, you may as well wait.”

When we enquire what music has influenced Gurriers, Hoff namechecks Gilla Band, Oasis, Sunns and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

“You can definitely hear The Beastie Boys in there as well with Approachable. We love hip hop, A Tribe Called Quest, but we don’t really think about influences – it’s only after you go, ‘Oh, this kind of sounds like this.'”

“We definitely take a lot of influence from techno music. The lads think a lot about how techno music is written and how that would play into our way of writing. We love playing Des Goblin live. We’re really happy with it it has that techno structure.

“During the pandemic I was looking online a lot and seeing the Black Lives Matter protests and then the rise on the other side of Trump's America and the far right and feeling real anger towards it.”

However, Hoff likes to draw from as many non-musical influences as possible in his lyrics.

“I’ve been listening to these crazy recordings of doomsday preppers talking to people just to hear the way they are speaking in their rants to see if I can find a rhythm in it. I like to find influences in weird shit if I can.”

“I’m always looking for lyrics. There’s a song No More Photos that we have. No More Photos on the Dancefloor was an art piece that I saw in Berlin five or six years ago and I thought that sounds like a cool line for a song. I can’t tell you how many songs I tried to stick that in and then finally one day it fit.”

Despite the international success of Irish rock acts in recent times, it’s seemingly harder than ever for Irish rock acts to crack Irish radio

“I’ll have cut-ups of loads of different lines and I’ll just start trying to find where one tangle of words will work in a song and I’ll write the theme around it afterwards.

“But for me, it’s melody first. If I can get the melody down then I just start babbling. We record everything and I’ll take it home and I just write down what I think I’m saying and then I create the story.”

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” says Hoff at the mention of David Bowie’s cut-up method “and his Verbasizer – you know the computer software he created – which somebody has put on the Internet for the first time recently,” adding “I feel like I’m doing it but kind of backwards,”

Being an Irish post-punk outfit in today’s climate means one things is unavoidable – being compared to Fontaines DC.  Hoff is fairly pragmatic about the situation, however.

“I’ve always liked U2. They’re an amazing band but the exact same thing would’ve happened back then,” says Hoff, noting that it’s simply a bit of history repeating itself.

“Every article we’ve been in, The Fontaines are there as well, and it’s a great place to be in there beside them. It’s always them, Just Mustard, The Murder Capital and Enola Gay. We get bunched in with all those.

“We’re not worried about it. I think it was inevitable and you can’t say that we don’t have any elements of the Fontaines in our songs.”

One thing that certainly sets Gurriers apart from the majority of their post-pun peers is their energy on stage and the fact their frontman doesn’t resemble a scarecrow doing a Liam Gallagher impression.

“I’ve been in a band were you just stand there and sing into the microphone and that would make me a lot more nervous -all eyes on me kinda thing- and when that band disbanded, I went to see a lot of other bands and every band was just standing there doing the same thing and I said, ‘Okay, this is kind of whatever but the music is good.’”

“So I just said none of that for me – move, jump, run around, get the crowd going, enjoy yourselves and then it just became a little more intense. I really enjoy it – it’s cathartic. It’s very fun…screaming at people for an hour acting like a lunatic.”

Despite the international success of Irish rock acts in recent times, Irish radio seems like a harder nut to crack for Irish rock acts than ever before. Hoff finds the situation disappointing now that he is at the coalface.

“The talent is here but the media isn’t I guess,” he laments. “The amount of great bands and artists from folk to hip hop is unbelievable. It’s definitely annoying but what can we do?

“I’m happy to get John Barker, Neon Room and Dan Hegarty and other people in RTÉ and Nova but I think I’d be more upset if I didn’t get Neon Room or John Barker because they are people who give a shit about music.”

You can catch Gurriers at the Pillow Queens curated St. Patrick’s Day event at Collins Barracks on Saturday, March 18th with appearances from Sprints, Melts, Katie Kim, Girlfriend and more. Tickets HERE.

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