Fontaines D.C. on covering the Velvet Underground at Abbey Road and their “poppy” yet “extremely dark” third album

Check out a new behind-the-scenes video documenting the band's experience recording 'The Black Angel's Death Song' at the legendary studio

A new behind-the-scenes clip of Fontaines D.C. recording their cover of the Velvet Underground‘s ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ at Abbey Road has been released. See it first on NME below, along with our interview with Fontaines’ Conor Deegan III below.

The Dublin band are among the artists who have contributed to ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror – A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico’, a new Velvet Underground covers album which features the likes of St. Vincent, Michael Stipe and Iggy Pop.

Speaking to NME, Fontaines bassist Deegan said that ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ was “the perfect song” for the band to be given to record for the tribute LP.

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“I was delighted they gave us that,” he said. “It’s more of a spoken-word vocal, which is what we do. And then we had this opportunity to do loads of mad noise, but also bring some Irish traditional thing to it because of the repetitive rhythm and the chords.”

Deegan said that he felt “genuinely honoured” after Fontaines were invited to join what he believes to be “a serious tracklist”. “It’s really well-picked: of course it’s class to have Iggy Pop and Kurt Vile on it, but the fact that King Princess [is on there] is so prescient,” he added. “What she’s doing with her music, it’s just great to have her do a Velvet song. That Kurt Vile version of ‘Run Run Run’, too: I heard it on the radio recently, and it’s an absolute banger.”

The new video, which is part of Abbey Road’s Lock-In series, sees Fontaines working with celebrated indie producer Dan Carey, who, Deegan says, is a vital presence in the studio.

“[Carey] brings his headspace and who he is as a person [to recording],” he continued. “We’ve all connected with him loads over the years, and when we meet him it’s such a subconscious thing: we click into his world, his very considered way of thinking. If you ask him a question, he’ll think before he speaks. That little gap slows everyone down and makes us all a little bit more relaxed, taking the tension out of the room – and that’s really great.”

Fontaines D.C. recorded their cover of ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ with Carey in one day, with the band relying on their tried-and-trusted method of “recording live to try and capture that spontaneous thing, so there are very few takes”.

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As for the experience of recording at Abbey Road, Deegan said that it was “an amazing thing” to be able to use the world-renowned studio’s facilities for the first time. He also added that the recording process became “quasi-spiritual” after the band were made aware that they were using the same room that the The Beatles made ‘Revolver’ in.

“There’s a piano in one of the rooms [at Abbey Road] which was used on ‘Penny Lane’ and I actually got to play it – and it sounded just like ‘Penny Lane’, it was so cool,” Deegan recalled about the studio’s inescapable Beatles connection. “When Paul McCartney came in to record, he’d come in through the basement room – there’s a secret door in there somewhere. So he wouldn’t come in through the front door, he’d come in through the secret door. I was just like, ‘What the fuck?’ It was so cool, and there were so many bits that you wouldn’t find out about normally.

Deegan went on: “It’s a very cool thing to be recording the Velvet Underground in the studio where The Beatles recorded, because they’re two sides of ’60s experimentalism. It’s like the yin and the yang of the whole thing. You’re in there recording the yang in the studio of the yin.

“I guess it made us very aware of how dark those Velvet Underground songs were for their time, how real they were.”

Fontaines D.C. Credit: Richard Dumas
Fontaines D.C. (Picture: Richard Dumas)

As for their own material, Fontaines D.C. confirmed back in March that work on their third album, the follow-up to July 2020’s ‘A Hero’s Death’, had been completed. Deegan has now told NME that the record is currently set for a release early next year, while also revealing the surprising feedback that the band received from their manager when they played their new songs to him for the first time.

“The third album is really good,” the bassist said. “We all thought the songs were quite poppy. We thought we’d got this sound that was finally the sound that we wanted to get across the songs, which we thought was quite poppy. We showed them to our manager, and he said, ‘Lads, this is the darkest shit you’ve ever written!’ And we were like, ‘What? What are you talking about? This bass melody is catchy, this vocal melody is catchy’. He was just like, ‘No, this is extremely dark’. So there you go!”

Deegan also revealed that the band are all writing new music at present, with the “tunes just stacking up”.

“We’re all still writing and we’re looking at doing other projects on the side, because we’re all writing tunes separately when we’re not working together in the band,” he said. “All those tunes are just stacking up and homeless, so we need to find something to do with them.

“So we’re looking at other artists and other people, and trying to see who might like them at the moment.”

Fontaines D.C. will hit the road in the UK and Ireland next month – check out their forthcoming tour dates and find tickets here.

October
2 – Mountford Hall, Liverpool
3 – De Montfort Hall, Leicester
4 – Corn Exchange, Cambridge
6 – Academy, Manchester
7 – Academy, Manchester
8 – Academy, Manchester
9 – O2 Guildhall, Southampton
11 – O2 Academy, Birmingham
12 – Rock City, Nottingham
13 – O2 Academy, Bristol
14 – University Great Hall, Cardiff
16 – O2 Academy, Sheffield
17 – O2 City Hall, Newcastle Upon Tyne
19 – Barrowland, Glasgow
20 – Barrowland, Glasgow
22 – Corn Exchange, Edinburgh
23 – O2 Academy, Leeds
25 – Forum, Bath
26 – O2 Academy, Bournemouth
27 – Alexandra Palace, London

‘I’ll Be Your Mirror – A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico’ is out now.

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