With the release of their debut album OK just over the horizon, Otherkin band members David Anthony and Conor Wynne spoke to the Last Mixed Tape about the group’s recent rise to prominence, being free to write indie bangers and the Irish music scene.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to see Otherkin play one of their first festival sets at the now defunct Fire Escape festival in Rathmines’ Mart Gallery. Things have gone from strength to strength for the band since then, including notable airplay abroad and a recent slot supporting Guns ‘N’ Roses at Slane Castle.
Now sitting at the Library Bar in Dublin, David and Conor look back how far things have come. “Always thinking about the next thing is the key. We’re never really focused on something like Slane when it’s happening. It’s more like, we focus on getting that, then start to think about what comes after that. It’s only retrospectively you think… holy shit that’s crazy! Going from three years ago playing Rathmines to 30 or 40 people, to playing to 20,000 people in the rain” reflects David.
Indeed, Otherkin’s rise has not come from out of nowhere. Having taken the time to find their sound, over the course of two E.P’s, the group finally broke through with the thrashy garage-pop single ‘Aye Aye’. Garnering the attention of DJ’s like Annie Mac and Phil Taggart, the track was also a sea-change sonically. “I wouldn’t consider us a proper band at the start” states Conor. “We were only meeting up once a week, for one reason or another. Once we had ‘Aye Aye’, we made our own independent plan. We wanted to record it really well, save for our own PR and if it’s a success we’d become full time with it.”
David adds “When we made the earlier E.P’s, the sound didn’t evolve. There wasn’t as much after thought and drive behind it because we weren’t doing it full time. Don’t get me wrong, I still think those are great songs. But we weren’t as focused. When Conor brought in the riff for ‘Aye Aye’, it was like… ok, let’s just write a load of bangers that make people wanna lose their shit!”
Change in style and drive was a success for the band not just commercially but also critically. Otherkin had separated themselves from the pack, a fact not lost on the group. “As friends, we all have very similar tastes in music. Party/indie stuff like the Vines, and it felt like no one is making this. Especially over here” Conor insists. “Not that we want to be a carbon copy of that at all. We wanted to make the sort of music we’d listen to”
“We wanted to write a bunch of massive choruses and have people to have as much fun as they want at the live shows,” says David speaking about the anthemic sound of Otherkin in the studio and on stage. “No judgment, just have fun. We’re just trying to do our thing”.
This attitude also plays into the writing of OK, the foursome’s highly anticipated debut album. Speaking about how Otherkin approached the record Conor says. “We always had a clear vision on wanted album one to be, and that was a representation of where we are in our life. Four lads having a good time and being on the road. The shows we play are a shit load of fun, and we want to listen back to this album in twenty or forty years and feel like… yeah that’s exactly where I was at, at that time in my life. We wanted to make it straight up rock and roll”.
And while Otherkin are making waves abroad, the band seem to still have their ear to the ground in terms of the Irish music scene. “When people ask us in England or wherever, “what’s the scene like back in Dublin?”, in terms of our own genre, it’s amazing. There are bands like Thumper, the Academic, Fangclub, Wolff, and Young Earth who I think are going to be fucking brilliant. And the great thing is that it’s so diverse.”
“Yeah like Rusangano Family and Soulé!” says David. “There are all these amazing artists. That Rusangano Family album is fucking class. My girlfriend asked me the other day what bands have I seen the most times, and I think I’ve seen Squarehead twenty times, after that Thumper fifteen times (laughs). After that, no one comes close. So, two of my favorite bands are my mates”.
“There’s so much more to Irish music than one sound.” Conor continues. “There’s such quality rock, alternative-pop, hip-hop out there we’ve got it all. It’s kind of annoying because so many Irish acts deserve to be bigger and heard on an international stage.”
Otherkin’s debut album ‘OK’ (pre-order) is set for release on September 29th with a massive tour to coincide with it, including a show at the Button Factory, Dublin on December 15th. Photo credit: Jake Haseldine