spies - filling the silence
It's not just the UK which is witnessing a musical renaissance; across the Irish Sea things are also blossoming in Dublin. Aidan Kelly Murphy will be keeping Isolation up to date with the latest news and the bands to watch.

Here, he introduces SPIES, and also takes the pictures

Dublin’s independent music scene has been flourishing lately. Bands have taken control of their output by forming independent labels, releasing their own music and putting on gigs wherever they can. The last year has seen shows in art galleries and on street corners as well as in the usual array of pub back rooms and small clubs. One of the genres to come roaring back to life with renewed promise and venom has been that of the alternative guitar band.

Of those bands, several have started to carve names for themselves both locally and nationally. One of those is post-punk quintet SPIES who have just launched their new single 'Distant Shorelines'. It’s their first release since late 2010′s 'Liars Call Me King' and 2011′s 'Barricade'; in the intervening period innumerable gigs have aided their development and there is little doubt that 'Distant Shorelines' and its b-side 'Mint & Lime' have cemented their place as one of Dublin’s most promising acts.

The band’s music is a heady haze of swirling atmospheric guitars reinforced by a truly superb rhythm section. To complement all of this excellent noise is a vocal performance of overriding passion and lyrics that are filled with personal confrontations and contemplations. Spies deliver all of this with a supreme confidence that is completely justified. To celebrate the launch of their new record, the band (Neil Dexter, Conor Cusack, Michael Broderick, Andy McGurk and Jeff Flynn) put on a gig in The Button Factory in Dublin’s Temple Bar with support on the night coming from Myles Manley. The day after a truly excellent performance, Jeff and Conor arrived to talk about the release and their plans for the future.

spies guitarist
Your first two releases (2010′s 'Liars Call Me King' and 2011′s 'Barricade') were only six months apart. Then a two year gap. Was it a break to concentrate on writing or to focus on gigging more?

We were finishing college but mainly we wanted to concentrate on writing songs. Neil has a cottage down in Mayo so we went down for one month. It was an amazing experience for all of us. We became so much closer as friends and we wrote a core of songs that changed how we approach writing music. We continued to write; previously we’d write two or three songs then release them. It’s a great attitude to have but this time we wanted to have a more cohesive release. We’re very careful about our releases, we get very excited about them. That’s what it’s all about really. Releasing material and gigging.

New release 'Distant Shorelines' is a departure from those early recordings, was this a conscious decision or a more natural progression of your sound?

'Distant Shorelines' is actually quite an old song comparatively. Your songs change and if they didn’t change you’d be doing something wrong. The songs sound different and similar at the same time, a progression. We live together so whatever we are listening to will filter in to what we create but it wasn’t a conscious decision, more an amalgamation of what each of us listen to at the time.

spies guitar
There are a lot of independent labels around Dublin at the moment. You release your material through Trout Records. How important is this independent ethos to the band?

Independent labels are great. Trout Records was initially a shop we worked in (four of the five band members worked there at one stage or another) that developed into a label. Conor now runs the label, and as a band it’s great to be a part of that. Tandem Felix and Jet Setter are also on the label; they’re friends of ours and it’s great to be a part to a collective, have that kind of unity.

Having been putting gigs on around Dublin for over four years now, how do you feel the Dublin scene has progressed?

There’s a huge diversity in Dublin music at the moment. We live in town so we go to gigs a lot, and there is a huge array of talent around at the moment. A lot of our friends are in bands such as Girl Band, We Are Alive, Peaks and Telephone. As music fans we love their music, it’s really strong. We’re very lucky to have this in Dublin at the moment.

You released 'Distant Shorelines' as a free download before the launch. Is it a case of trying to get as many people to hear the songs as possible?

It wasn’t a major decision. If people want to hear the song they should be able to download it. Streaming stuff only makes the industry stronger, digital files online aren’t really worth anything. If people want to support a band they will buy something at a gig. We’re not in this to make money, you don’t make money from selling records. What we want to do is make enough money to release records and gig. With Trout Records we’re thinking of not just doing strictly a record but making a product. Including a CD or a fold-out poster, things like this become an object and will allow fans to support bands better.

spies bass
Now that you’ve launched the single what’s the plan for the rest of the year?

We’ve a lot of cool songs that we feel people are really going to like. Towards the end of this summer we’re going to go back into the studio with David from Tandem Felix. Hopefully pressing a record later this year with gigs in Ireland and the UK. That’s what it’s all about really, making music, releasing it and putting on shows.


You can download 'Distant Shorelines' (link to review below) as well as Spies' previous recordings on Bandcamp. Physical releases may be difficult to find in the UK, but they can be ordered from Trout Records.




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reviews may 2013