They're one of Ireland's biggest bands, but The Coronas have made international headlines for more unfortunate (but obvious) reasons of late.
Despite the Dublin band's suddenly unfashionable moniker, they're ploughing ahead with their sixth studio album 'True Love Waits', which is released on July 31st.
We spoke to frontman Danny O'Reilly about how becoming a trio last summer has given the band a new lease of life, their many collaborators on the new album, and more.
Hi guys, first things first – let's address the elephant in the room! Your band name has generated quite a bit of controversy over the last few months... what was your first reaction to hearing about this virus that was about to change the world?
It just made the whole situation that little but stranger. Then I felt guilty for even worrying about it. There was me, concerned about our band name, when it was a really serious developing situation. I suppose it’s only natural to be concerned about your livelihood. But the first thing we did was tweet Corona the beer, asking them what their plan was!
Was a re-branding for this album – particularly since you're now a three-piece – ever even remotely on the cards?!
No, not really. I mean, we had already released a couple of songs off the album and everything was in place for the release. At the end of the day, even with Dave leaving, this is a Coronas album - so it would have been very defeatist to give in to the virus and change our name.
Yes, let's talk about the fact that you're now a three-piece. Did Dave's decision to leave the band come as a surprise to the rest of you?
In a way, it came as a surprise to me. Even though I knew he hadn’t been enjoying it, I still didn’t see it coming. But it was very amicable. In fairness to Dave, he said to us that it wouldn’t have been fair on himself or us if he just kept going in the band while he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. He could have just “phoned it in” and showed up when he had to, but he knew we were still committed and loved it, so he graciously stepped aside. I’m sure we’ll play together again, he’ll always be a Corona.
Hey @corona beer! So what’s your plan? Asking for a friend 😬
— The Coronas (@TheCoronas) March 12, 2020
How did you find writing and recording as a trio for the first time? Did you find yourselves trying something new, or writing in a different way because of it?
In a way, Dave leaving gave us a new lease of life. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest and once we knew that without Dave the album was going to sound different anyway, that sort of took the pressure off, in a way - so we could just follow our instincts and it became such an enjoyable process. We loved it.
You mentioned how it opened up new avenues for you, even vocally. Why do you think that was?
I think working with different people helped me go places I wouldn’t have gone by myself. Co-writing with Cian from True Tides, Lar Kaye, Cormac Butler, and Ryan and Jimmy from Picture This, naturally gave our songs a different direction. Knoxy and Conor, too; they’d encourage me to try different things, deliver the vocal in different ways and I loved that.
You've worked with a lot of new people on this album, but what's the plan going forward – will you remain a trio or will you eventually draft in a new guitarist?
No, I don’t think we could ever replace Dave. I think we’ll play with loads of different musicians and hopefully he’ll play with us again, too, but it wouldn’t feel right to get another full-time member in.
A lot of people were caught off-guard by the album's first single 'Find the Water' last year – was it always the plan to surprise people who had you pegged as a 'rock band'?
Yeah, we liked that 'Find the Water' was different for us. There’s a whole new wave of amazing Irish bands at the moment: The Academic, Picture This, True Tides, Wild Youth, all getting great airplay and releasing great music. I suppose we felt it was time for us to evolve a bit musically and maybe do something that was different to what we’ve done before.
'True Love Waits' is your sixth album. What would you say are the main themes that were preoccupying your mind this time around?
Self-improvement. Trying to be the best I can be, as a person, a friend, a bandmate, a brother, or whatever. Songs about being the best band we can be have always been a lyrical theme throughout our journey. 'Heroes or Ghosts' is about that. Then there’s the possibilities of future, recognising that you’ve been through a tough time but seeing that the future has amazing potential, romantically or career-wise.
Speaking of romance, the title suggests that there's a romantic thread in there – are there many outright love songs in the mix?
I don’t think there’s any that are complete love songs. A song like 'Light Me Up' is about being grateful to have someone there to believe in you when you have self-doubt. ‘LA at Night’ feels like a love song ballad, but it’s more about having an amazing couple of days away from your own real life and past heartache. 'True Love Waits' is probably the most straight-up love song on the album. And it’s more about the excitement of a future with someone and letting your guard down with them, and how nice that feels to be vulnerable.
How do you feel when you listen back to your debut now? Does it feel like another band, or do you still have a connection to those songs, even though they were written when you were all much younger?
They do feel different. I heard an early song of ours on the radio recently and I was like, “we should have arranged it differently”. But I think there’s a naivety and an innocence to our early stuff that you couldn’t recreate and it’s probably what made it connect with our initial student audience. It wasn’t contrived; we were actually, “sleeping all day and drinking all night” - well, for that summer, anyway. But I don’t think I could write a song like that now. I’m almost envious of my younger self as a songwriter, I didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought.
You guys were due to embark on a six-month tour before the coronavirus hit – what's the plan for the future now? Are you worried about the possibility of not being able to tour and make money for the forseeable?
It’s definitely a concern! I really hope that we can get back to proper gigging, a packed room with strangers singing together arms in the air and not worrying about a virus. There’s an atmosphere and a magical thing that happens at big shows that I think is important for people, and I hope we don’t lose that.
Finally, what is the main message that you want fans to take from 'True Love Waits'?
It’s funny how post COVID-19 lyrics are taking on new meaning. The final line on the album sums it up pretty well: “It’s gonna be ok”....
'True Love Waits' is released on Friday, July 31st.