MICHAEL POPE is dying to share a secret. “We have a guest vocalist on our new album but I can’t tell you who it is,” says Le Galaxie’s singer, his voice falling to a whisper.
“However, it was a fantastic person to get. Everyone in the group is thrilled at how it has worked out. We are all very excited.”
These are heady days for the Dublin electro outfit. Their second full length record is nearly complete (mastered by Eric Broucek, in-house producer with New York electro act LCD Soundsystem). A marquee guest is lined up for the project (despite prodding, Pope won’t say who). Later this month, Le Galaxie play Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. There is a fair chance of a sell-out. Pope is pinching himself. After years of hard work, things are coming together for the quartet.
“The idea that we would play the Olympia is astonishing,” he says.”We never thought that our band would get to the point where it could achieve something like that. We can’t believe it.”
Several years ago Le Galaxie were a struggling ‘post-rock’ act unable to distinguish themselves from the legion of similar outfits treading the Dublin live circuit. Fed up playing to the proverbial two men and a (very disinterested) dog, one day they decided to exchange their guitars for synthesizers. They have never looked back.
“As a kid I listened to God Speed You Black Emperor and Mogwai,” says Pope. “I thought that, because I had an interest in that sort of music, I should play it too. I didn’t have the confidence to actually go and try something different. I felt I had a certain skill set that I should stick to. Then we decided, ‘actually, let’s take the reverb off that guitar, give me a four/four beat and let’s see what we can do’. That was the beginning of it.”
Le Galaxie’s break-out moment was their melancholic 2012 single ‘Love System’ (featuring Galway singer Elaine Mai) . The tune received heavy radio play, became a YouTube hit and was nominated for the Choice Music Prize Song of the Year. More than that, it transformed Le Galaxie from plucky underdogs into one of the Ireland’s favourite live bands.
“That song did so much for us,” says Pope. “We started to notice it at the shows pretty quickly. You’d play the first two chords and the response from the audience would be amazing. To see a crowd go wild in that way was just great.”
They’ve also started to look overseas. “We went on a short tour of the UK. It was like starting over in some ways. Early in our career here we would play upstairs in Whelan’s in Dublin. I have very fond memories of that time. So we all enjoyed playing similar size venues in Britain.”
Dance music is in a moment of flux. The scene is dominated by ‘EDM’ artists such as Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Deadmau5. They are purveyors of a beat-heavy sound designed for huge arenas. Pope feels little affinity with the movement.
“It’s all about the ‘drop’, ” he says. “That moment where the beat kicks in. That doesn’t interest us. Our songs have a melodic quality, I would like to think. You can make people dance. But to hold their attention for over an hour, you need to have actual songs. That is where we are coming from.”
“The EDM craze gives me the heebee-jeebees,” he says. “But there is a lot of interesting stuff happening elsewhere. I’m insanely jealous of Disclosure, who are really young. And I like AlunaGeorge. The Irish scene is extremely healthy too. You’ve got people like Toby Karr and Daithi. Toby is a force of nature on stage. Daithi is great too. I think we’ve all got something in common in that we believe in the live show. We aren’t the sort of artists who are going to go up there and twiddle a laptop for two hours. That isn’t where we are coming from.”
They had a sense something special was happening at last year’s Electric Picnic. Billed opposite electro icons Orbital, Le Galaxie filled their tent. They repeated the feat at this year’s Forbidden Fruit festival.
The new album will be released in March. Le Galaxie had a blast making it, although there was the occasional moment of tension.
“Writing is fine but recording can be stressful,” says Pope. “If you’ve been on the road six weeks and then you are all in the studio, I think you will have disagreements. We were doing vocals a few weeks ago and I ended up shouting at one of the other guys. But it all works out in the end.”
Le Galaxie are probably the biggest band in Ireland without a record deal (they look after every facet of their career themselves). The group are extremely ambitious, says Pope.
“We’ve had a great year,” he says. “We must have played every festival in Ireland. That kind of hunger is key to what we are about. We don’t want to take the easy option and sit back and relax. We toured the UK this year and hope to go to Japan next year. It is very important for us to keep going, to keep looking forward.”
* Le Galaxie play Olympia, Dublin on Friday, Dec 13
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved