Home > Politics & Current Affairs > A Fag, The Rain and a Few Quiet Words With ‘The Aftermath’

A Fag, The Rain and a Few Quiet Words With ‘The Aftermath’

A FASHIONABLE ENTRANCE

The rain bounced off the protective covering of the roof of Danny Byrnes’ beer garden, a garden renowned for its local celebrities.  On a good day you could catch a glimpse of ‘Bressie’ or Justin Ryan of The Blizzards smoking fags and drinking coffees during breaks from rehearsals in the abandoned nightclub upstairs.

But today it was a different celebrity I was keen to spot. Johnny Cronin, front man of Irish indie heroes, The Aftermath.

As I crushed out the end of yet another cigarette, I thought being late in my choice of career was professional suicide, yet it seems fashionable amongst the stars.

Whilst debating on whether to smoke another cigarette, I heard the familiar laugh of Johnny greeting the bar staff behind me as he rushed over.  Sinking down into the soft leathery couches, he at once began apologizing , something about a taxi.

Shaking hands with Johnny, he quipped that The Aftermath are “actually doing better with the recession… when you’re skint, you drink your dole and wanna listen to a depressing tune”.

FORMING ALLIANCES

Johnny ,along with drummer and older brother Mick were brought up in the small town of Drumlish in Longford.  As teenagers, they left for the bright and shining lights of Leeds in the early ’90s as a recession rolled over the hills and into the towns and villages of Ireland.

It was here in Leeds that as teenagers, they built up a strong and lasting friendship with many now well-established musicians including Nick Hodgson from the Kaiser Chiefs.  Their teenage years were spent performing with assorted musicians under different guises, honing their sound, a sound that has made them like no other act on the Irish music scene.

Some would say having brothers in a band would be a recipe for disaster; after all, you’ve just got to look at Oasis, a prime example of brotherly feuding, but not the Cronin brothers!  Fair enough, “the fights are worse… because it’s our lives that we’ve wasted… we’ve brought ourselves down together, but we’re sticking together until the grave” joked Johnny.

SHATTERED DREAMS

As Johnny and Mick arrived in Mullingar in 2002, a, some would say, famous producer by the name of Mike Hedges [The Cure, U2] was singing Johnny’s praises to the heads of Sony BGM back in England.  Johnny hadn’t even begun to unpack before the label, intrigued by Hedges’ interest in Cronin, had invited him back across the water to London for talks.  But on arrival, Johnny was cruelly informed that he was simply “too fat” to be famous.  This was perhaps the deciding factor, an urge to prove them wrong… and prove them wrong he did.

Almost five years later, a much thinner Johnny Cronin, a debut album charting in at #11, three Top 20 singles, and an ability to sell out venues in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Mullingar has replaced the dejected front man of 2002.  The bosses at Sony BGM must be kicking themselves.

He told me that this was one of the reasons behind their decision to ditch the major record label interest and go the independent root instead.  Setting up their own label, Live Transmission Records, which, along with a handful of singles, eventually saw the release of debut ‘Friendlier Up Here‘.

When I asked him at any point did he feel like he had made a mistake in doing so, he confidently answered no, as he “knows people who were signed to that label at that time, and they’ve been dropped since”.

HEADING FOR THE HILLS

Gathering the required monies and recruiting the remaining band members, Justin McNabb [Guitar] and Martin ‘Sleepy’ Grey [Bass], the musical machine, now christened The Aftermath, built up a large fan base before heading for the hills, the sunny hills of southern France that is.

Hiding out in the Black Box Studios in the first half of 2006 with producers David and Karl Oldum, they recorded half of what, for Irish indie bands, would eventually become one of the biggest success stories of 2007: “Friendlier Up Here”.

Missing the rainy days, The Aftermath returned home, deciding to finish the other half of the album on home ground.  Holing themselves up in various studios around Ireland including their own studio, The Barn Studio in Drumlish and Temple Lane Studios in Dublin with producer Ger MacDonald, they finally finished the album many have waited years for.  Hitting the live circuit once again with relentless touring around the country in the months leading up to the album launch, they slotted into #11.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

As the interview progressed his popularity and impact on the Irish scene became more and more apparent as he ran off a list of famous musicians that have guested on their debut album ‘Friendlier Up Here‘.  Sounding more like a who’s who of the Irish scene, guests included Helen Turner from Paul Weller’s Band [until the Stanley Road Album] and The Style Council.  A hero of Johnny’s, Steve Wickham, played on four of their tracks.  Vivienne Long, [Cellist, Damien Rice] was another musician they became friends with, offering her services to the lads.  While Terry Edwards, of The Tindersticks, came in towards the end and did all the string arrangements, bringing a completed sound to the album.

Friendlier Up Here‘ is one of those albums that can be played from start to finish, a rarity these days, which Johnny puts down to the fact that the songs were written over such a long period of time and features “an awful lot of different styles”.

A SONG FOR EVERY OCCASION

There’s a song for every occasion, whether it’s for that rainy day listening to ‘Overlooking Paris‘ wondering where that ex girlfriend is or singing along to Are You Not Wanting Me Yet? as you swallow that last gin and OJ before heading out to hit the town.

But Johnny “loves them all” especially ‘Joyful/Mystery‘.  Calling them his “different babies”, Johnny’s the worried parent, “hoping they don’t get bullied at school”.  Confirming that the next album will just stay in the one mood, whether it’s sad, angry or depressed, who knows?  But I’m certain that whatever mood they pick, it’s bound to be just as successfully as their debut.

IN THE SHADOW

Regretting those coffees I had drank earlier; I excused myself and made a run for the jacks.  On my way back, I saw that Justin Ryan, of The Blizzards, on yet another fag break, had robbed my seat.  Seeing me coming back, he excused himself and as he walked away, I questioned Johnny on whether he ever found that sometimes being based in Mullingar, did they find themselves being labelled ‘just another band from Mullingar’ trying to be the next Blizzards.

But Johnny reckoned that it isn’t so saying “that’s not such a bad thing to be just another band from Mullingar… They’re brilliant for the town, it’s better for young kids to be listening to The Blizzards than techno…well bad techno anyway”.

NEW DISTRIBUTION DEAL

As the rain eased off, and our time was winding down, Johnny began to tell me what 2009 holds for The Aftermath with plans to tour around England, a place harder to crack as “there’s always another 25 bands who look like The Arctic Monkeys trying to make it” and there’s a trip over to Scandinavia due, where they have landed a distribution deal in Norway and Sweden.

Johnny hinted that with the new album, recording due to begin in mid ’09, there was a possibility of recording yet again in the Black Box Studios.  But this time behind the desk is Noel Hogan, the guitarist of The Cranberries.  As I finish off yet another fag, I’ve run out of questions and time.  But one thing’s for sure…it’s beginning to shape up to be a busy couple of months ahead for The Aftermath.

Never a band to stop, the remainder of the year is filled up with “sexy gigs” including:

5 March: Scribes, Athlone, Westmeath
3 April: The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
4 April: The Glenview Aughnacliffe, Longford
24 April: Whelans (Upstairs), Dublin
8 May: Electric Avenue, Waterford
9 May: Wicklow Arts Festival, Wicklow

The Aftermath – Are You Not Wanting Me Yet?!

Videos:

All I Want Is For You To Be Happy

One Is Fun

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