Le Galaxie are on the 10-act shortlist for the Choice Prize for Irish album of the year 2015. The winner will be announced at a live show in Vicar Street next Thursday, March 3. They’re up for Le Club, one of the most ridiculously fun albums to come out of Ireland in a long while. Listen to it on Spotify or buy it in your favourite music shop. I got to chat with Le Galaxie frontman Michael Pope over the weekend for the latest The Point Of Everything podcast. Wrecked from moving studios over the previous few days, Michael was still up for a wide-ranging chat, touching on the ‘economic recovery’ and its impact on artists and spaces in Dublin, such as Block T. We were both at Foals’ show in 3arena a couple of weeks ago, which Michael was quite taken by, so he tells us his thoughts on what he takes away from shows, how he’s always learning and looking at new ideas. We also talk about the early days of Le Galaxie, when they were far from the cocksure strutters that they are now. After some discussions on the Choice Prize, Michael reviews The People v OJ Simpson and predicts who will win the Oscars at the weekend.
You can listen to the podcast below via Soundcloud or subscribe on iTunes and never miss an episode. I’ve transcribed a few highlights from the podcast below, to give you a taster of what to expect.
What’s it like in Dublin regarding bands and studios – are you almost fighting among yourselves for good spots?
There is a bit of jumping from place to place. It does seem like there’s a lot of moving around, especially in the studio we were in, which is just off Dame Street. You’d be seeing some band, they’d be gone, then three months later, ‘ah didn’t really work out for us in Crumlin’ or ‘didn’t really work out for us in Fairview so we had to come back’. I’ve noticed bands like All Tvvins, Kid Karate have got a room and made it their own rather than going into a purpose-built space so they end up having quite nice studios and they put the time and the effort in. So we kind of got envious of those guys. While we were out doing all our gigs, coming home was like ‘OK, let’s go into this cube again and try to make music’, when it wouldn’t hurt to have a window, would it? Can be quite nice.
So the new place has a window?
Yeah it has three windows, would you believe? It is on the ground floor but at least we’ll get some natural light from day to day.
Are artists being forced out of spaces in Dublin? In Cork, Camden Arts Palace and Sample Studios are both looking for new spaces.
I don’t think Cork is unique in that now, to be honest, that’s just the policy for the entire country, for the 26 counties anyway, which is when the chips are down, when the economy is going through a hard time, we as artists prop up these abandoned spaces and buildings with our interests and our rents, bring in people and events into the areas, and then when things get better, they get squeezed out, the rents go up. No loyalty is shown, of course. All in the name of ‘keep the recovery going’. Look at what happened to Block T, y’know? Back in 2008/9 when everything went to shit I was living in Stoneybatter. Everyone was freaking out, everyone was saying I spent too much. The bank was sending me pre-approved loans in the post, all this kind of stuff. And Block T was there, and it was just making Smithfield Square feel like a vibrant place. Because it was always trying to be something but it was always kind of shitty. It was. There was a Spar, a hotel, and that was it really. Block T gave it this whole energy, and then came areas like coffee shops, Third Space, and then the Lighthouse Cinema was there, and stuff like that. Those guys made the area what it is today and they’re being squeezed out, of course they are. There’s quite a lot of that around. There’s an expiration date on any sort of creative enterprise – maybe enterprise isn’t the right word; maybe endevour – when it comes to the arts in this city. We have great spaces like Mabos – they just get a nice patch of six months to run events and then it just gets shut down. Same with Block T. We played a gig in Block T two years ago – was it two years ago? Maybe it was a year ago – us, Planet Parade, and a band who now go under a different name – back then they were called God Knows and Mynameisjohn –
Oh Rusangano Family?
Yes. We were three songs in, police were outside, shutting it down. Just a good-natured event in this building. Not that loud, normal PA, they just didn’t like the actual gathering of people, y’know? Yeah, three songs in then we were stopped, then we closed the doors, kept quiet for five minutes, then two more songs, kept quiet for another five minutes, then two more songs. It was a great night. It was a real us vs them mentality but at the same time, the next day [we thought], ‘That was weird that we weren’t allowed just play for 35 minutes in this gorgeous little space that’s not harming anybody’.
Was it just the neighbours who were calling the cops?
I think there was two people outside drinking cans and that just started off, the cops came down. Maybe it could have been the neighbours. I dunno. I just remember thinking it was a shame because soon after that all the events were cancelled. There were a lot of bands that were booked in there.
To play gigs?
Yeah. Fine, if you don’t want to put live bands on let them put on acoustic acts, let them put on more simplified, more subdued electronic acts, whatever. It doesn’t have to be us, four dickheads smashing shit, having people dancing around, there’s more than one way.
Well if you’re smashing shit that’s a whole other thing…
Yeah I did throw Dave through the window but that was fun.
On Foals’ show at 3Arena a couple weeks ago:
I like Foals, I wouldn’t be a crazy fan but I’ve always gone to see them and the show they put on is actually kind of interesting watching their show. They have this huge setup, they had these LED screens and panels above their heads, but they didn’t ignite it all straight away. They kind of came out in a subdued fashion. It had been a while since I had seen a show have this structure. I’ll compare it to a film: there wasn’t a blistering opening sequence and then the film starts. The show had a real mercurial sense to it, quite amazing to see. Like, most bands I’ve seen at festivals, you have to come out strong, you do, you have no choice. You have to win over a crowd of – what’s the word I love? – revellers. And the rain can not dampen their spirits. Seeing arena shows and venue shows you have more of a chance to build a narrative. I know that sounds really pretentious but I don’t mean it that way. I mean you have a chance to, by the end, you’ve reached your absolute peak. There’s nothing wrong with that, y’know? Whereas the last time I was at 3arena was the Prodigy and they just came out and played ‘Breathe’ and the whole place went crazy, but then fell silent for an hour as they played whatever their music is these days, dance metal fucking nonsense.
I’d say I’ve passed by them at festivals three different times, you know how they’re always headlining the second stage at festivals. It always looks like it’s really good fun and everything but I just have no interest in it.
I grew up on that stuff, I wasn’t listening to Nirvana when I was a teenager. I was listening to the Prodigy; my illicit hardcore mix tapes from the UK and stuff. That was my jam because I was a northsider and we didn’t get grunge until two years later. After it, we might’ve gotten into it then, but we just dancing in fields and raving it up with cider.
So when you go to these arena shows like Foals you’re like, not willingly taking notes but –
Oh I’m willingly taking notes, yeah, absolutely.
Oh like, how can we (Le Galaxie) always improve the live show?
You can improve but you’ll never have their budget so we do things in our own way. Without influence I think I’d be this myopic, narcissistic dickhead, really. I think you need to go out and absorb, which is why I like to go to as many big and small events around Dublin as I can. I remember the first time I saw Ruairi Bantum and the visuals for his show – I think it was in another space that was shut down, they had been right in Temple Bar square.
Meeting House Square?
Right in Temple Bar square, just to the left of it, there was a gallery there – it might still be there – but they put shows on. It got shut down almost straight away. I think I was out in the courtyard one night and they poured a bucket of water on our heads, which we probably deserved. But the visuals and stuff like that, I do go to shows for my own enjoyment, but I also go to learn, to get ideas.
On the development of Le Galaxie:
We really do grow all the time as a band. We can never really rest, even if we do the one tour, say five or six shows in a row, when we come back we’re like, OK that tour is done, that set is done, let’s not go back and do that again, let’s make it different. There was always a progression. We’re a different band now than the one we were last year, way different to the band the year before that.
When the band got together, around 2006/7
2007 I think. Fuck, seven. Oh bollix.
Was it expressly you were the frontman, was it something you wanted to do?
No, we were writing in the studio for six months. We had all these instrumentals. It was kind of falling flat and I think that was because we didn’t know if anyone was ever going to hear it. I remember we were all kind of getting restless and I was like, well OK what if I just book us a gig? and we just play the six or seven songs we have here. One of the songs was called ‘Le Galaxie’ so we said we’d call the band that. We’ll just go play these six or seven songs, see how it goes, it’ll be grand. So that was a kind of B12 shock because we just really lounging around doing nothing. When we turned up at the venue we started to set up and we hadn’t done it in this way before. Because there was a guitarist and a bass player I just ended up standing in the middle, that was it. That was the spot that was left. I was horrendously uncomfortable even with the microphone to say thank you, because I had never spoken on stage, being a drummer and all that. I had no interest in that kind of stuff.
You should’ve gotten yourself one of those headsets.
Oh like the Edge wears these days, Janet Jackson-style. But yeah I just ended up standing in the centre. As soon as it kicked off I realised… almost straight away we started to lose the run of ourselves a little bit. Like OK, this is our job now. That was a disastrous gig. We played two songs, our laptop fell over and the gig was over.
And you said ‘I’m never standing in the middle again’.
It was an unbelievably catastrophic gig. It was just a disaster. But we got enough from the two songs. One day, that story will be told by a third party and they’ll embellish it amazingly: ‘They did two songs that changed the world and then the gig was over!’
‘I was there.’
I do know people who were there and still say, ‘It was really good until the laptop fell over and smashed on the ground.’ I’m like, thanks.