Dara Quilty has undergone a metamorphosis from his previous occupation as a 98fm disc jockey to founding and fronting the Dublin based Apella; a sprightly and irreverent outfit responsible for the feel-good hit ‘We Met at a Party’ which was released on 12th August. Read on to hear what he has to say about Irish festivals, influences, dinosaurs, and owning a Spice Girls album.
First things first, tell us about your new single/video. You undergo a series of persona changes in the video for ‘We Met at a Party’ , is there any significance to the Robert Smith/inner-city boyo impersonations, or are you just having fun?
We Met At A Party is our debut single, it’s quick, it’s loud and it’s a lot of fun to play. As it’s our first single the concept for the video is essentially us trying to find our identity as a band. Styled by Orla Dempsey we spent a day wearing ridiculous outfits performing in front of a panel of “music industry” experts. The video was directed by Andrew Holohan.
The days of music labels are dying out. Is this a good or a bad thing for Irish music? What do you think will replace them?
I don’t think they days of labels are dying out, sure the model is changing along with the consumption of music but I still think they do great work in breaking artists into new territories which is so important. It’s easy for anyone to upload a song to YouTube or Spotify but it’s not easy to find a new audience.
You seem to have a diverse range of influences, can you name a few?
This album stretches across different genres, the first single We Met At A Party is influenced by Pop Punk, the second is a ballad, more in-line with One Republic. I definitely spent time studying the work of producers while recording this record and learning from techniques they implemented. Butch Vig, Rob Cavaollo etc.
What gives a band longevity and substance? Is it just having a series of good tunes, or is it more complicated than that?
Music. Music is everything really. That’s why I spent so long working on this record because it’s easy to set up a fancy Facebook page and get a song up there but it’s no use unless you’re 10 steps ahead of yourself at all times. If an artist can continue to produce music they’re passionate about I think that will organically resonate with their audience, whoever they are or whatever genre it is.
What is the song or album that made you want to make music?
Listening to crappy punk bands as a kid, Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, Blink etc… Seeing tapes from the Warped Tour and thinking, wow, this exists?
What influence has your radio past had on your current career?
I am very lucky to work in radio and getting paid to do something I enjoy. It’s certainly a huge insight to show business and how things work on the other side of the record, also as a new artist how consistent you did to be in delivering your product (music).
What are your favourite festivals to play at? Are there any you prefer to attend as a punter?
I have played all around Ireland over the years at the various festivals that happen – I haven’t played Longitude yet, seems the sun always shines on Marlay Park so hopefully we’ll be on the bill next summer.
What genre of music would you banish from the earth forever?
I wouldn’t banish any genre of music from the earth forever but I wouldn’t be disappointed if I never heard UK Garage again.
Given all the music you must have listened to day in- day out, can you pinpoint any characteristics of modern Irish music? If you have to write an ingredient list for a contemporary Irish song, what would it contain?
Contemporary music seems to be predominantly bands, drums and guitars with a folk sound, it’s great to see new artists like John Gibbons and those guys Hare Squared doing different things.
Alive or dead, what musical artist would you most like to share a stage with?
Elvis Presley but in 1960’s USA. And I drive to the gig in a Cadillac.
When you write music, do you start with a blueprint of sorts? Or do you let the song evolve organically?
No blueprint but I do write all the music first. It’s handy being able to engineer sessions now so I know where to take things I have in my head.
Some music is best heard in the car, some music is best heard in your bedroom, some music is best heard live. Can you give a serving suggestion for your music?
Oh man, I would say live. You have to see Ronan Nolan drumming live. He is incredible. However, we put a lot of work into the production so loud in the car is also a good choice!
What was the first album you bought and how much was it?
The first single I bought was Firestrater by The Prodigy. It was on tape. I didn’t know it was cool but sounds great now. I also owned Spice World. Just saying.
What extinct animal would you bring back from the dead?
Brachiosaurus. Those huge dinosaurs with the long neck. Would have to be a dinosaur wouldn’t it?
Is the voice an instrument? Or is it merely a conduit for the lyrics?
It’s absolutely an instrument. First thing my vocal coach Sinead Flynn told me was that. It needs to be taken care of and it’s easy to practice as well because you usually don’t forget it.
Keep an eye out for Apella!