Fontaines D.C. on receiving their first-ever Grammy nomination: “It was like a phone call from space”

The Irish band tell NME why 'A Hero's Death' has resonated across the globe and how they're now planning to take inspiration from Sinéad O'Connor at next year's ceremony

Fontaines D.C. have spoken out for the first time on their surprise Grammy nod, likening the landmark moment to receiving “a phone call from space”.

The Dublin post-punk heroes secured a Best Rock Album nomination for ‘A Hero’s Death‘ – which received a four-star review from NME earlier this year — during the nominations announcement for the 2021 Grammys earlier this week (November 24) .

While they face tough competition from The Strokes, Michael Kiwanuka, Sturgill Simpson and Grace Potter, Fontaines D.C. say they are still trying to take the news in — telling NME that their nomination is just a “mad thing”.

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NME caught up with frontman Grian Chatten to find out a little bit more about his band’s momentous Grammy nomination.

NME: Hi, Grian! Congratulations on the Grammy nod. How did you first find out the news?

Grian Chatten: “Man, it was fucking mental. I was sitting in my flat with my manager yesterday and he was across from me, just looking at his phone. He stood up and goes ‘Jesus Christ, what the fuck!’. My heart just dropped and I asked him if something bad was going on. He just turned around and said: ‘You’ve been nominated for a fucking Grammy!”

Did you ever think Fontaines would make the shortlist?

“I didn’t even know we were down for consideration, I didn’t even know when the fucking Grammys were, or if they were going ahead. It was honestly like a phone call from space, it was that heavy.”

How did you celebrate? Were there any sore heads?

“Well, we’re all in London at the moment rehearsing and writing together, so we’re in the same bubble and we’re allowed to see each other. The lads just came over to my gaff and we had a couple of beers. We got talking about Sinéad O’Connor‘s performance at the Grammys in 1989 when she played ‘Mandinka‘. She was only like 22 and for some reason it just made us really emotional about other Irish artists.

“I think there’s only something like six Irish acts to be ever nominated for a Grammy before us, which is mad. But that Sinead O’Connor performance, I think she’s got a babygrow coming out of the back of her jeans as a nod to the Magdalene Laundries and the Church in Ireland. That was the thing I’d always stick on when I was getting emotional on New Year’s Eve, so it’s mad that we’ll be in that canon.”

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Is this your chance to fly the flag for Ireland on the international stage then?

“Yeah, fuck it – why not! I hesitate in all situations to say anything like we’re flying the flag, but it’s a global event and it’s not every day that an Irish act gets nominated, so I can’t help but feel a sense of that.”

Why do you think ‘A Hero’s Death’ has connected with people? 

“It was a fluke, the way it was released at the time of the pandemic and the lockdown. But it deals with feelings of isolation in a way that isn’t crass or blatantly about the lockdown. I never want to write a song called fucking ‘Coronavirus‘!

“But it deals, realistically and subtly, with those feelings of isolation. It’s a reflective album and it’s about finding, or at least believing, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That hope is diminishing and replenishing in repeated patterns, which I think people can relate to.”

Where does the nomination rank in everything you’ve achieved to date?

“Well, when you think about achievements there’s two schools of thought. There’s achievements and there’s just mad stuff, y’know. I don’t know necessarily if we’ve achieved this: it’s happened and I don’t want to put this down to our own skill or talent because I think there’s a lot more than that. It’s not necessarily an achievement – it’s just a mad thing!”

You’re up against some fierce competition in the Best Rock album category too, including The Strokes and Michael Kiwanuka… 

“Well, I don’t really like The Strokes’ new album so I’d be annoyed if that won! But I love Michael Kiwanuka and he’s got the Mercury, so I think he might get this. I’d be happy enough if he did, but it’s one of those things. You don’t want your mind to gallop off about who you’re up against.”

Have you started thinking about your plans for the actual ceremony?

“It’s funny you say that, because at this moment I’m dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on my acceptance speech! I’m joking, but I’d love to go over and take my fiancée or some family member. It’d be great to go for the thrill of it. It’s more of a mad memory to contemplate on your deathbed.”

It feels like the Grammys are finally waking up to calls for diversity, too – the Best Rock Performance features an all-female shortlist

“It’s so important. I don’t want to be speak on their behalf, but it’s so important for young people of any kind of identity to feel represented at that level. They can feel like it’s not beyond them and it’s not a world we’re rejecting.

“There’s a brilliant old video of Motörhead‘s Lemmy reading out fan mail from a black fan in America, who asks if he’s able to become a rock star because he’s black – Lemmy’s response is heartwarming. Just having that kind of representation will make it easier for people to feel accepted.”

You said Fontaines D.C. are recording at the moment. Does that mean a third album could be here sooner than anticipated?

“We’re flat-out writing and I can imagine that a third album will be out sooner than people expect, yeah. But I mean, you can quote me on that, although you might want to take it with a pinch of salt. We’re just flat-out and the fire’s still burning. We’re still writing for a reason, which is just the main thing.”

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