Fontaines D.C.: “When we were younger these were things you’d never imagine”

Fontaines D.C. reflect on the past year, from releasing the stellar 'Skinty Fia', to huge festival shows & launching their own music scholarship at BIMM Dublin

2022 has seen Fontaines D.C. go from strength to strength in mind-boggling ways. From when NME crowned them Best Band In The World at the BandLab NME Awards 2022, to dropping their third album ‘Skinty Fia’ (given the five-star treatment here at NME) – which gave them their first UK number 1 – the Dublin band have remained booked and busy.

Playing countless shows – both on their own tours in the US and in Europe, as well as slotting in to endless festivals – and breaking their own records (first ever award, first number UK number 1), they even found time to set up a music scholarship at BIMM Dublin, which is where the five musicians (Grian Chatten, Conor Curley, Carlos O’Connell, Conor Deegan III and Tom Coll) first met.

And yet, somehow, they’re still hungry for more. We meet O’Connell and Deegan the day after their first of three sold-out shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, their last performances in England before ending the year back at home in Ireland with a string of more sold-out shows. The rest won’t last long, with 2023 promising their biggest shows to date alongside Arctic Monkeys across arenas in the US – but until then, it’s time for a moment of reflection in Hammersmith.


For the latest instalment of our In Conversation series, NME sat down with Fontaines D.C. to look back on meeting Beck, nurturing their friendship with Sam Fender, reimagining their live sets, and so much more. Here’s what we learned.

They were told by Beck that Alex Turner was a fan

For fans, the news that Fontaines D.C. would be supporting Arctic Monkeys on tour in 2023 felt like the perfect match; but the way the band found out they had fans in Arctic Monkeys was also pretty special. “We played Primavera this summer, just before Beck,” O’Connell recalls of the moment everything changed. “He told us that he asked Alex [Turner] what music he was listening to these days and Alex said the only thing he listens to is Fontaines. And Arctic Monkeys are just so iconic obviously – they were so important when they came through.”

He adds with a laugh: “The whole thing is bizarre, even talking to Beck I was starstruck! And then he talks about another guy I admire, it’s mental. When we were younger, these were all things you’d just never imagine.”

Deegan agrees, remembering just how much Beck’s behaviour set the tone for the wild announcement that followed. “I was pretty intimidated going up to talk to Beck after the show, and the first thing he showed me was a video he took on his phone, side stage, just zoomed on me during the show!”

Fontaines D.C. perform at Glastonbury 2022
Fontaines D.C. perform at Glastonbury 2022. Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

Spanish rapper C. Tangana massively inspired a part of their live sets

At this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Fontaines D.C. took to the Other Stage under beating sunshine and played a very different arrangement of one of their most bruising ‘Skinty Fia’ songs, the dark and heavy ‘Big Shot’. O’Connell took to the piano while a string section underscored Chatten’s more mournful interpretation. The band had been planning it for a while, since their ‘Tiny Desk’ appearance earlier this year.


“We were very inspired by a Spanish rapper called C. Tangana,” O’Connell explains. “He brought a lot of flamenco influences from his last album to his Tiny Desk set, and had such a beautiful way of reinterpreting the feelings that were in that album, just making them much more present. It’s so ambitious.” He says that ‘Big Shot’ has “big balls” in the recording, but calls it “quite a vulnerable song”. The result was a moving reimagination that took the festival by surprise.

“We wanted to do something special at Glastonbury, but it was pretty crazy, because I’ve never played piano in front of people before. So the first time I play piano on stage is in front of 60,000 people. I was totally shitting a brick. It was horrible! I was just like, ‘Don’t fuck up man.’”

Sam Fender is the only man the band would book another show for

In the countless stream of festival bookings this summer, Fontaines made time to play alongside their longtime friend Sam Fender. It was part of his massive sold-out Finsbury Park day festival in July, which included Declan McKenna, Beabadoobee and Rachel Chinouriri on the bill.

“We weren’t booking any more shows last summer, we thought we’d done enough,” O’Connell admits. “We were too tired. But I’m so glad we did it, I like that relationship. There’s a real friendship we cherish.” The best part of the day spent with a 40,000-strong crowd in the blazing London heat? Cheering on the guy who invited them to play in the first place.

“Just seeing him play his show is insane,” says O’Connell. “The best part of the day was watching his show. He really deserves it. He works so hard, he’s so talented and so real. I love you Sam.”

Fontaines D.C. backstage at Reading Festival 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Playing with young fan Dexter at Reading was a massive risk

A major moment from Fontaines D.C.’s Reading set went viral this summer: when the band brought up a 17-year-old fan from the crowd to play guitar on ‘Boys In The Better Land’ with them. He killed it, but there was no guarantee he would.

The song comes towards the end of the band’s set, but frontman Chatten had planned his appearance from the start. “Grian spotted the sign before we played the first song,” O’Connell remembers. “While we were playing one of our techs got him out the crowd, and double checked he could play – I wouldn’t have minded but the crew were all like: ‘Do it!’” They had to make a few adjustments before making sure he was ready, though.

“He showed up with no top on and a bucket hat and a bum bag and one of our techs made him take off the hat and took the bag! But he was amazing.” And are they still friends now? “He texted me the other day, he’s really cheeky – he only texts me when he wants something! I text him and he never replies, but the other day he was like: ‘Hey man, I’m coming to your show in London, just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out backstage…’”

“Fair play, he’s made out for this business!” Deegan adds with a laugh – promising a bright future for young Dexter.

Launching a music scholarship at BIMM Dublin gave the band a full circle moment

In amongst their jam-packed 2022, Fontaines D.C. also found time to launch a music scholarship at the BIMM Institute in Dublin, back where it all began for the band. The scholarship covers course fees for the full four-year-duration of a BA (Hons) Commercial Modern Music degree.

Deegan appreciates how “special” the whole thing is. On being asked to take part in such an experience, he says: “It’s really touching, thinking of the fact we all met and formed the band there – and now we get to give someone a chance to go there for free.”

The band were heavily involved in the selection process, awarding the inaugural scholarship to Abbey Addenbroke-Sheriff, a young songwriter in Dublin, earlier this year. “She’s buzzing,” Deegan adds, praising her musical ability. “She’s brilliant – it’s exciting to hear such raw talent.”

O’Connell adds: “By the time you get to [where we are], or even playing small shows, that’s already a step ahead of what we heard….It was really cool to hear something [so raw].”