Dublin duo We Cut Corners release second album Think Nothing today, Friday, April 25, on the Delphi Label. Below, I talk to drummer and co-vocalist Conall O’Breachain about why 10 is the magic number, how they’ve gotten darker, and why they’ve been sitting on the album for nearly a year. You can listen to the album below, via Spotify.
Like We Cut Corners’ debut album Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards, Think Nothing doesn’t overstay its welcome. In fact, it barely has time to take its hat off before it’s gone, locking in at just 27 minutes and 10 songs. Are John Duignan and Conall O’Breachain fans of austerity? “To be honest, it’s quite intentional. We think 10 is the magic number in relation to the amount of songs on an album; a lot of our favourite albums have 10 tracks on them and we’ve always just thought that was a nice amount of songs to include in a collection,” says O’Breachain down the phone from Dublin, where the primary school teacher is presumably enjoying the Easter break. “What we tend to do is when we bring a song together in the rehearsal studio, a lot of what we end up doing is shaving off as much of it as we can. Any kind of excess fat, for want of a better expression, on a song we try to shave off so we can get across what we want to get across musically and lyrically in the most succinct way we can.”
There’s something very assured and confident about We Cut Corners. From stripping an album to the bare minimum and, live, ensuring that eyes never drift from the pair of them, O’Breachain and Duignan command attention. Think Nothing is an enthralling half hour of crashing drums, spiky guitars and lyrical wit, antagonism and sometimes spite that doesn’t deviate too far from what We Cut Corners created with their debut album. O’Breachain says they knew exactly what they wanted. “We went into the recording of it with a very clear idea of what we wanted to get out of it sonically. We just knew we wanted it to sound quite different to the first album. We wanted it to sound fuller and bigger and brighter, and we wanted to incorporate a variety of sounds whereas on the first album we were quite restrictive with the sounds we used. But we think we’ve pulled it off. To our ears, anyway.”
Recorded with Villagers guitarist Tommy McLaughlin in his Donegal studio (he’s also responsible for Soak’s debut EP, released on Chvrches’ label), O’Breachain says they have contrasted the brighter sounds with darker lyrics. The likes of ‘This Is Then’ crash in and feature worrying choruses: “I would hurt you if I could,” goes the refrain. The sneering ‘YKK’ disregards any self-doubt: “Am I, am I doing just great? Give it up, give it up.” ‘Best Friend’, meanwhile, opens with the line: “What is so wrong about robbing the poor?” O’Breachain says it was an intentional contrast: “That’s something that we were interested in exploring, having it sonically sound brighter and having that as a foil to the darker lyrical themes. A lot of the songs would be somewhat documents on modern escapism. If there was an overall lyrical theme it would probably be that, features on how people opt out of the banalities of reality through sex, drugs, and violence, and the internet and stuff like that. So the darker lyrical theme is definitely there but we wanted a brighter sonic foil to that.”
So they haven’t become angrier as people themselves? “We just write about where we are at the time and kind of more observations than being totally autobiographical. I mean, I don’t think we’re angrier as people but that’s just the direction we wanted to go lyrically.”
Having met some 10 years ago at St Patrick’s college in Drumcondra, O’Breachain and Duignan instantly clicked, writing music together on acoustic guitars and going under the name Camogie Lovers. It’s only ever been the two of them. “We know where the other person is coming from,” O’Breachain says, explaining how We Cut Corners came into existence. “In the last four or five years, we changed it up and got our electric guitars and drums setup together. But it was always a very natural thing for it to be the two of us. Obviously, in bands the dynamic between the band members is one of the most crucial elements of it and I think myself and John have a particular dynamic between the two of us.”
They finished making Think Nothing at the end of last summer, but they’ve spent the interim months putting videos together, getting the artwork done and, as O’Breachain says, just getting their ducks in a row. “It feels like we’ve just been working nonstop at this since it was finished. It doesn’t really feel like we’ve been sitting back and doing nothing. It’s also given us a bit of chance to get some more songs worked up, so we’ve got several new songs as well that we’re working on at the moment. So it’s always the way: you think once you finish the record it will come straight out, but from the two times we’ve done it now it seems like it’s a more protracted process.”
We Cut Corners are hitting the road today, with Liza Flume on support duties. O’Breachain says he can’t wait to hear her play every night. “One of the most exciting things for us when we consider going out on tour and booking our shows is who’s gonna open for us. Liza Flume, we’ve been aware of for the last couple of years, and I’ve just been loving what she’s been doing. When we were deciding to tour this one, she was one of the first names that came to mind for both John and I, so we were delighted when she was up for coming on tour with us.”
Think Nothing is out on the Delphi Label now. We Cut Corners play Galway tonight and the Crane Lane in Cork tomorrow. Doors are 8.30pm and tickets are €10.
We Cut Corners Irish tour dates:
April 25: Roisin Dubh, Galway;
April 26: Crane Lane, Cork;
May 3: Voodoo, Belfast;
May 9: The Button Factory, Dublin;
May 16: The Spirit Store, Dundalk.