Dublin indie-duo We Cut Corners sit down with Conor O’Boyle to discuss their new album, getting a quick sugar fix and the dynamic that the two share.
MANY students find it difficult to imagine their teachers as real human-beings, complete with lives outside of the classroom. Enter Conall Breachain and John Duignan, two primary school teachers leading a double life as Dublin indie-rock band We Cut Corners.
In the run up to the release of their studio album, The Cadences of Others, OTwo managed to catch the two piece during a break from packing up their vinyl pre-orders of the album. “It’s sort of Christmas Eve for us as a band,” enthuses guitarist Duignan. Breachain, lead-singer and drummer, adds that “it’s all a cause for celebration. We’re thrilled more so than ever with how it’s turned out.”
And so they should be. The Cadences of Others is a beautiful record from start to finish. The band have retained their ability to write a triumphant high-energy rock song, but on this record have delved deeper into music thoughtful and empathetic.
It has been five years since We Cut Corner’s debut album Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards. What has changed between then and now? One difference is the development of their sound. “The first record was all about capturing what we did live… Jimmy Eadie [producer] came to see us live before he started working with us and he saw a rawness and a real energy to our live performances that he wanted to replicate.”
This can particularly be seen on tracks such as ‘The Leopard’, whose rawness seems a world away from the lushness of new single ‘Oh’. “When we started writing this record we had an idea of how we wanted it to sound and it was big, it was polished and it was professional.”
“When we started writing this record we had an idea of how we wanted it to sound and it was big, it was polished and it was professional.”
The Cadences of Others is also significantly longer than their previous two albums, both of which clock in at just 27 minutes. “We didn’t feel the need to keep everything to its absolute briefest this time,” Duignan explains.
As a young band trying to release material, the temptation to release the shortest, punchiest songs is understandable. “When you’re hungry,” he surmises, “you tend to go for a quick sugar fix, which is satisfying in the short run but in the long term it doesn’t sustain you as well as it could,”
There’s definitely a certain lushness on this album not previous heard in the We Cut Corners catalogue. The album was recorded in the brick chapel of St. Patrick’s College, the university where the two met and started playing music together. The recording location adds a layer of warmth to the recordings but also a reverence. The band have also expanded their horizons in arranging songs with the addition of bass guitar from Conor O’Brien of Villagers, the Fratres string quintet as well as brass members of the Booka Brass Band.
One of We Cut Corners major strengths is the visual fluidity of their lyrics. On this album, the words are interwoven with an intimate sense of self. Duignan reveals that this was a struggle when writing the album, admitting that he found himself asking, “are people going to listen to this and have an adverse reaction?” to each song on the record. There is, obviously, a necessity in keeping songs personal; discerning listeners know when lyrics are faked, but the possibility of offending loved ones is real.
The case in question here is of single ‘On Avoiding People’, which closes on the haunting refrain of being terrified when you’re with your own friends. Duignan has settled on the philosophy, however, of ignoring the fear of being outed and to just “take something that’s potentially very revealing and just stick it in a track.”
One of the reasons the band decided to do a vinyl release on top of the traditional CD and digital platforms is the free flowing nature of the album. “We’re really delighted with how the vinyl records have turned out,” they both confirm. Their efforts have clearly paid off, despite revealing on a recent Facebook post that they’d poured “all our savings” into this packaging. Vinyl is no easy task for a band on an independent label.
On top of the release of the album, We Cut Corners have also just completed a stretch of shows around the country with gigs in Dundalk, Cork, Galway, and Dublin. As a result of the orchestration and increased instrumentation, translating these new songs to the stage was one of the more challenging aspects of the album process.
“We made the decision to not take the big ensemble on the road with us. John and I have always been about the dynamic created between myself and himself on stage.”
“Orchestral arrangements on the record were a big part of it,” Breachain admits, “however, we made the decision to not take the big ensemble on the road with us. John and I have always been about the dynamic created between myself and himself on stage.”
And why change the record if it isn’t broken? This dynamic and bond has served the two lads well from their early days in college, and it looks like their success is only going to continue for some time.