*published in the Cork Independent, 23/3/2017*
They haven’t been in existence very long, but Dry Roasted Peanuts have already won the 2017 UCC Battle of the Bands, triumphing a year after they failed to make the final of the 2016 competition.
JJ Lee sat down for a Q&A session with guitarist Robert McDonnell and bass player/vocalist Marc Ó Cearnaigh about the indie band’s Ennis origins, being scared to perform live in front of mothers – and future plans.
Q. How did the band get started?
Robert: We formed about a year and-a-half ago.
Mark: Right at the start of first year (in college), we started jamming.
Robert: Me and these other two lads, I met them first day of college and said we should start a band. Then, we met Mark out and we kind of vaguely recognised each other because we’re both from Ennis and I asked him if he wanted to join. Simple as that really.
Mark: It started off as the four of us jamming and then when the time came that we decided to form an actual band, it was only really the two of us and Tommy Hayes. We kept going on like that but we didn’t really have a focus, until the 2016 UCC Battle of the Bands and we sent off a recording of us jamming and they allowed us to enter.
We didn’t get through to that final and we didn’t really play again until that summer, in Dublin at the Workman’s Club. Tommy never drummed with us again after that, just due to commitment issues. We’ve had a few different drummers since then. We’re actually currently in the audition process for a new drummer actually.
Q. What genre and styles of bands are you most influenced by?
Robert: Indie rock I suppose. We’ve always said it was generally Joy Division with a Pixies influence, but we’re trying to do a lot more melodic songs lately, Velvet Undergound-ish.
Mark: The stuff that shines through is that sort of Joy Division, Interpol, New Order sound but obviously there’s a lot more traditional alt-rock influences thrown in there too.
Q: How do you think the band’s progressed during your time together?
Robert: We’ve definitely got tighter as a band anyways, I’d like to think.
Mark: In terms of composition, it’s only been a year; we’re still playing the songs we wrote at the start but I suppose we are coming more and more towards a particular sound.
At the start, the sound may have been a bit looser but we haven’t gone through a psychedelic, or experimental, phase or anything like that.
It hasn’t been that long though, so who knows? I think in the future it could become a bit groovier, a bit more synth-orientated, but the songs have definitely got better.
Q: You’re both quite animated on stage; do you place a particular emphasis on stage performance?
Robert: I think it’s important to put on a performance. When you’re performing live, you’re putting on a show, you’re not just there to play the music like you would in a studio. You do kind of put it on when you’re up there; you just get into it. It doesn’t matter who is watching you, you want the audience to see a good band grooving.
Mark: Yeah, if you’re not giving it licks up there, why would anyone in the crowd? I wouldn’t be able to do it if my mam was there though! There’s no way I could do it.
Robert: But that’s because you make it too sexual!
Mark: Yeah it is quite sexual. I don’t deliberately set out to go up there and act in a manner that’s overtly sexual; I go up there and I say I’m gonna rock out and that’s just the way it comes across. It is a very sexual thing.
But because there’s only two of us up there and we’re both into it, there’s no real weak link up there.
Q: Is social media important for bands now?
Mark: Definitely, 100 per cent I think so. Like, the first time I went to Dolans in Limerick, I went and saw this band called Fox Jaw and I was blown away, they were excellent. Afterwards I was talking to one of the members and I was like ‘oh you know, I’m in a band’. And he said to me, ‘are you on Facebook?’ I told him, no we’ve just started and he just replied: ‘Get a Facebook page’. It’s how we find out about gigs. How would anyone know we’re playing gigs without Facebook?
Robert: You get a gig based on the amount of likes you have on Facebook, it’s a metric of how well you’re doing. There’s certainly a downside to it, outside of a band context, it’s going to ruin your life.
Q: What does the future hold for Dry Roasted Peanuts and where can we see you play next?
Robert: We’re heading into the studio to record three or four tracks and we’re going to put that on Spotify once it’s all mixed. Following that, we’ve the College Intervarsity Battle of the Bands in Galway on 7 and 8 April, so that should be good.
Mark: We’ve other things we’re not ready to speak about yet, things are in the works!
There’s a bright future ahead for the Clare natives. A striking sense of purpose combined with a solid work ethic is a necessity for any young band, and these men have both in spades. In just 12 short months, their progression has been impressive, and they are only improving. A natural flair for performance, coupled with excellent song-writing ability, means 2017 could be a very positive year for Dry Roasted Peanuts.