Walking on Cars may hail from the remote, western edge of Europe, but they’re ready to take on the world, writes Ed Power.
IF Walking On Cars had their way, their debut album would have come out 12 months ago. But their record label was of a different opinion, which is why fans of the much-hyped Dingle quintet have had to wait until now for the greatly- anticipated Everything This Way.
“It’s completed nearly a year,” says frontman Patrick Sheehy (he shares vocals with keyboardist Sorcha Durham).
“We would have happily just put it out there. However, we were advised to let the fanbase build rather than simply drop the record. What you’ve got to remember is that we’re new to the game. We thought it might be better to take advice from people who have better experience.”
With their upbeat, hummable tunes, Walking On Cars have become one of the most popular new bands in Ireland. They’ve sold out Dublin’s Olympia and the INEC in Killarney and are rarely off the airwaves (regional radio has been an especially vocal supporter).
The question now is whether they can take the next step and win a following overseas. While it’s a big ask, rest assured they’re up for the challenge.
“It would be awesome if Ireland took to the album,” says Sheehy. “The UK is the target. We’ve been over and back every couple of weeks, doing interviews and gigs. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.”
Who's planning on seeing us live this year? 🎤 pic.twitter.com/XF3jSKZiHb— Walking On Cars (@WalkingOnCars) January 10, 2016
The band are certainly receiving a big push from Universal Records. Walking On Cars have toured with Kodaline and James Bay — artists who have already parlayed a commercial, arguably slushy, sound into chart success.
Can Sheehy and company follow their example? Universal is betting the answer is in the affirmative.
“We were on the road with James Bay just as it was starting to happen for him,” says Sheehy. “It was an education. You could see it building. Audiences knew the words to all the songs. And the next thing, he was a star.”
From the outside, it might seem as if Walking On Cars have themselves soared to overnight success. Not true, says Sheehy. The national media may have only discovered the five-piece over the past 18 months or so.
Yet they’ve had their years of struggle — compounded by Dingle’s relative geographical isolation.
“We’ve done lots of two men and a dog type shows,” says the singer.
“The word got out slowly. We picked up a lot of support from radio, though initially we weren’t always aware of it. I remember three and a half years ago we were offered a gig in Wexford. And I was thinking, ‘Who in Wexford has even heard of Walking On Cars?’. But we’d been on a radio station down there, unknown to us.”
— Walking On Cars (@WalkingOnCars) January 6, 2016
Their big breakthrough came in 2013 when they played a sold out gig at Dublin’s Academy venue. The concert doubled as a showcase; the audience was crammed with record company executives, many of whom had flown in for the performance. This was obviously nerve-wracking.
Still, Walking On Cars aren’t the sort to turn down an opportunity when one is presented on a platter and so delivered one of the most compelling gigs of their career. Several weeks later, Universal UK were in touch. Ever since, they’ve been on an upward trajectory.
Dingle has played a huge part in shaking the group artistically. On the edge of Ireland yet brimming with tourists, the village is awash with contradictions. It also has a deep rock’n’roll lineage. The Other Voices festival is held there each winter, bringing a stream of musical notables.
Moreover, Dingle is popular with musicians hoping to get away from it all. Snow Patrol, Ellie Goulding and The Coronas are just some of the artists who have decamped to the peninsula for songwriting sojourns. Growing up in the locality, all of this seeped in.
“There are disadvantages,” Sheehy points out. “It takes three and a half hours to get to Dublin. So if you have promotion to do it can take a while. Generally we’re happy enough where we are. No matter how busy things get, we know that we’ll always be going home to Dingle.”
Everything This Way was written in a cottage outside the village and recorded in London, with production of Terry Britten, composer of such perennials as ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ and ‘Just Good Friends’ from Michael Jackson’s Bad.
“He was an absolute legend,” recalls Sheehy. “In fact we were quite nervous about meeting him. However we got talking tea and really got on and took it from there.”
Irish fans have become quite impatient about the band’s new album, Sheehy confesses. On social media they can be vocal — and then some. “It’s like… ‘OK, why aren’t you releasing an album?’ Well, fair enough. We have been writing and recording for three and a half years. But now, finally, it’s going to be out. We’re sorry it took so long. All you can hope is that people like it.”
‘Ambition’ is often a dirty word in Irish music. Walking On Cars, however, are upfront about wanting to do well. As far as they are concerned, there is no dignity in obscurity. They want their songs to reach the largest audience possible. Is that something to be embarrassed about?
“We probably put on that we’re happy-go-lucky,” laughs Sheehy. “Actually we’re pretty adventurous in our goals. It’s good to be unrealistic about where you want to be. It gives you something to strive for. You can’t predict everything — right now, we’re just keeping fingers crossed.”
Is it strange to promote songs written and recorded more than a year ago?
“We live for the reaction of our fans,” says Sheehy.“That is what keeps it fresh. When a song is released it feels as if the fans own it as much as we do. The great thing about our audience is that once they get into the band they seem to stay on board. For them, an album is probably overdue. I do apologise for that.”
— Walking On Cars (@WalkingOnCars) October 30, 2015
Everything This Way is out on Jan 29
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