On the verge of their first major label release, UCD alumni and Coronas’ lead guitarist, Dave McPhilips chats with Gráinne Hennessy about working with friends, his time in UCD and the body hidden in their tour bus
Sitting in a London coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, Dave McPhillips has a lot to be smiling about. He has just come from the recording studio, where he and his bandmates, who collectively make up The Coronas, are putting the finishing touches to their highly anticipated, upcoming album. He remains coy about a release date, but does hint that the record will drop towards the end of the month.
This album will mark the fourth release by the four-piece band, their first with the backing of a major label. In July, The Coronas signed a record deal with Island Records, the same label that boasts the likes of Hozier, Bombay Bicycle Club and Disclosure. Speaking about the forthcoming release, McPhillips reveals “We’ve pretty much finished recording this album and we are going to tour it as much as we can. With Island on board it gives us a great chance to do some things we’ve never done before.”
Major record labels are regularly criticised for pressuring and manipulating their acts to change their image and sound in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. McPhillips, however, is positive about his label. “When Island signed us, they told us that they signed us on the strength of our new material, the demos we sent them, and so they see this album as our first album.”
While Island may regard the as-of-yet untitled release as the band’s first album, The Coronas’ previous releases are not to be forgotten. Released independently, all three albums were met with critical acclaim and continued to steadily help grow the group’s fan base. Their previous record, Closer To You topped the Irish Indie Chart, reaching number three in the overall chart. Reflecting on their past releases, McPhillips believes that “we have improved with every album we’ve done. To continue being able to do what we love with the same group of friends is a very lucky situation to find ourselves in.”
On the subject of friends, McPhillips offers an insight into the dynamic of the group. “All the guys were in the same year in school together, including our manager, Jim. Knoxy (bassist Graham Knox) and Danny’s (vocalist/guitarist Danny O’Reilly) parents were best friends growing up, so they know each other since they were born. Try to make sure you have good people around you. Not just your bandmates, but your manager, sound engineer. We’ve had the exact same small crew of seven people with us since we started and that has made everything so much more enjoyable. That’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it?”
This formula for success seems to be working. The Coronas have regularly sold out venues, including the O2 and have supported well-acclaimed names such as The Script, Justin Timberlake and Sir Paul McCartney. “We learnt a lot from The Script because we went on tour with them. They are extremely professional guys and gave us a lot of good advice. JT seemed ridiculously cool and nice to talk to and obviously, Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney. That’s a life so different to mine.”
At this point in the conversation, McPhillips begins to laugh to himself, thinking back to a moment while they were on tour. “One time I was left on the tour bus when the bus was being x-rayed. We were going through France and they were doing a security check. I was asleep and nobody woke me up. The police thought we had a body or a stowaway on board and started freaking out! I’m still waiting to feel those radiation effects.”
Had French authorities arrested The Coronas, McPhillips would have been well prepared after his time spent in UCD. “I was in UCD for four years. I did a degree in Politics and Philosophy and then a Master’s in International Relations. The IR thing overlapped with the recording of the Coronas’ first album. I’ll never forget trying to do some of my thesis in between guitar takes in the studio! It was by far the most stressed I’ve ever been in my life. But it all worked out well.” McPhillips also played super-league while in UCD, his fondest memory of his time spent in university. “I played for the Amazing Amazing Fellows, Dalhousie and Fr. Romeo Sensini XI. Somehow I never won the league.”
Not winning the league, however, hasn’t seemed to have an adverse effect on McPhillips. He chooses not to concentrate too much on the future, instead preferring to appreciate the moment. “Who knows how the next couple of years will go for us? We could be successful all over the world, or I could be back living in the parents’ house by Christmas. I’m not worrying about our future, our present feels pretty good and I’m going to enjoy that.”
The Coronas’ fourth album is due for release later this month.