In early March, The Coronas' Danny O’Reilly was surprised to receive interview requests from CNN, the BBC, the Guardian and the NME. None had previously shown particular interest in O’Reilly and his band.
But then the coronavirus happened.
The international media was suddenly terribly excited to discover The Coronas shared several syllables with the pandemic sweeping the world.
“We were just going into lockdown and I was a bit weirded out,” says O’Reilly of the fascination with The Coronas’ name.
Six months later, as The Coronas prepare to release their new album, True Love Waits, Covid-19 is almost, if not quite, part of everyday life.
And so O’Reilly agreed to speak to all those global journalists still desperately keen to talk.
“The Coronas: ‘We have such an unfortunate name’,” went the headline in the NME.
“Are the Coronas the unluckiest band of 2020?” wondered the Guardian.
“It’s not that it isn’t still serious. People are still dying,” says O’Reilly. “But I think people have got their heads around it now.
“And we’re happy to make fun of our unfortunate name. People have been saying, ‘did you think about changing your name?’ To be honest that didn’t even crop up.
"I’ve started doing those interviews now. And if they want a different angle that’s fine. I don’t mind spending the first 30 seconds of the interview going on about our name – and then promoting the album.”
The band’s Spotify plays are up, he notes. The international coverage has been generally positive too. The Guardian, for instance, approvingly described the Dubliners as “a drive-time National”.
“We play the hand we are dealt,” shrugs O’Reilly.
“They want a little clickbait or whatever it is.”
The National comparison might be pushing it slightly. But True Love Waits is without question the most downbeat and mature record The Coronas have yet recorded.
That’s in part simply a result of them getting older and more reflective (O’Reilly is 34).
However, the LP was also recorded in the shadow of the departure of guitarist Dave McPhillips after 12 years.
Though amicable his exit was nonetheless a jolt. In the aftermath The Coronas are taking stock, reflecting on what it’s ultimately all really about.
“It [being in a band] isn’t for everyone. Dave hadn’t been enjoying it for six months to a year before…so fair play to him,” says O’Reilly.
“He could have just phoned it in and done the bare minimum. He sat me down last summer and said, ‘Danny it wouldn’t be fair to you guys – You still love it’.”
O’Reilly has found that he is changing as a songwriter. There was a time when he could write a tune in an afternoon and then move on to something else.
That was back in the early days, when The Coronas sang about their J-1 holidays ('San Diego Song') and the trials of young love ('Grace, Don’t Wait!') .
A decade on, life has moved on for the singer and for many of the band’s fans.
“I’m almost envious of my old self,” says O’Reilly.
“That naivety I used to have. I have noticed with my lyrics that I’ve been writing a lot about self-improvement. About being the best version of myself. The best brother, the best son, the best bandmate.
"Over the years, I’ve become more introspective.”
He is anxious about the future. The Coronas have had more than a decade of success and a loyal following. And concerts are not their only source of revenue.
So while it was a blow having to cancel all their live dates this year, they can take the hit. For the time being at least.
“I think we can ride out the storm at least until next summer,” he says. “If it goes beyond next summer we’re going to be in serious trouble.”
He understands he is relatively privileged and that others in the industry are not so fortunate. “We work with really talented people who are very good at what they do: the technicians and engineers.
“They live week-to-week to pay their rent. We have a couple of other sources [of revenue], whether that be publishing or radio play.
There had been tentative plans to launch True Love Waits at the Sugar Club in Dublin with an audience of between 75 and 100.
But then phase four was pushed back, meaning the maximum attendance to whom they could play was 50. They concluded that it wasn’t worth it.
“I had mentioned it to a few friends of mine who work in radio,” says O’Reilly.
“Everyone was so excited. It was so different. But now that phase four has been put back, and even though we could do it for 50 people, it didn’t feel right. People have to take a bit of responsibility. We thought, ‘let’s not do the launch’.”
They have had to think of other ways of promoting the record. O’Reilly and his bandmates have signed every vinyl pre-order of the LP.
And they have announced a collaboration with an ice-cream chain by which they will tour the country signing True Love Waits and giving out complimentary sundaes. Welcome to the age of Covid, when musicians have to do whatever it takes to keep things going.
O’Reilly is the daughter of singer Mary Black and of Joe O’Reilly, Black’s manager.
In April his grandmother – Joe’s father – passed away from natural causes at age 96. The socially distanced funeral was rather surreal, he recalls.
“She lived to a great age,” he says.
“But it was strange at the funeral not being able to hug my dad or my uncle. After the funeral you usually go to a pub or restaurant and have dinner and everyone would talk about stories.
"It’s that Irish thing of almost having a wake. It brings you closure. You meet people you haven’t seen in a while. And we didn’t have that.”
The Life Of O’Reilly: Danny’s Cultural Picks
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: It’s such a great book. My dad is really good at suggesting books to me and he recommended it.
Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts: This is my favourite book of all time. I went back and started reading that during the lockdown. It’s a really long book about a guy who escapes from prison in Australia. It’s sort of semi-autobiographical.
[Netflix series on basketballer Michael Jordan] I’m totally obsessed with it. I really missed sport initially.
It was one of the things I was surprised at how much I missed. I still play a little bit of Gaelic football at a low level, just for fun. I miss that. I miss the team, miss the training.
I love watching sport. So the Last Dance was a great thing to have. I was looking forward to it every week.
I found this on Sky Documentaries. It’s about how Motown all that started. It was really, really good. They talk to people such as Smokey Robinson.
Initially when the lockdown started, I was putting on the news every evening at 6pm, seeing the latest updates on case numbers. After a while I was like… ‘I’m not doing this any more…if there is something you need to hear, you’ll hear it’.
So I watched Succession which is great. And Ozark, that’s fantastic as well.