Dominic McGuinness of The Bohicas
Though The Bohicas signed to Domino Records about 2 years ago, in the meantime they’ve been maintaining a steady incline through singles and live performances. But that’s not to say the Essex band is content with resting on their laurels. The band has been featured on BBC Radio 1, and they have released three videos for their upcoming debut LP The Making Of, out August 21 on Domino Records. We had a chance to catch up with guitarist and vocalist Dominic McGuinness about the band leading up to this seminal point, what the future holds, and why there’s no doubting what kind of band they are.
Northern Transmissions: Hi Dominic, where are we catching you today?
Dominic McGuinness: I’m in Ireland. My whole family are from Ireland. I saw in my calendar that I had four days to do nothing so I thought I’d get on a flight and see my cousins. But yeah, I’m currently in a little town called Portstewart, it’s on the Antrim Coast in the north of Ireland and they’ve had awful weather, they’ve had a load of fucking rain but today… it’s sunny. And it’s everything that this town deserves. Wonderful place. I’m down by the beach at the moment and I’m throwing tennis balls and frisbees with my cousin.
NT: Brilliant, sounds like a great break after all the touring you guys have been doing.
DM: Yeah, like I said. We had four days of nothing so I was able to drop everything and get on a flight.
NT: You guys are on the homestretch now, your album is coming out August 21st. How do you guys feel about that? Is it excitement, are there nerves coming out because this is your first record?
DM: Yeah, no it’s excitement. It’s nothing but excitement. The singles that we’ve done… we’ve released a handful of singles, and we’ve been playing the album live in our sets since about the start of the year. So if anybody knows any of our music and they’re coming to see us they’re only gonna know about ten minutes worth at most, if any. So it’s like, we’re playing for 45 minutes sometimes, and you’re asking a lot of the audience to kind of keep ploughing through because there’s so much stuff that they don’t know. But when we play the singles there’s been a wonderful reception, and I just hope that energy, that momentum carries on when the album is released. Hopefully there’s some more recognition amongst the crowds when we play it. Because it’s wonderful when you see people singing along, or that they dance a certain way to a certain tune, it’s when you can see the fruits of your labour kind of happening. If we can make a connection the same way as the singles do, we’ll be in heaven.
NT: I can imagine that would make it exciting for you guys. Your album that you’re releasing is called The Making Of, and you were talking about playing shows live, and you guys have built a bit of a reputation for yourselves by having a lively performance. But with the release of this album, is there any kind of pressure that you’re establishing some kind of identity for yourselves? Where does that title come from?
DM: I don’t know, I mean it just means the world to us that we get to do something that we truly love doing. Like, together, creating and performing music. But it’s entertainment and it’s light hearted and, you know, a bit of escapism from the norm or whatever you do. But it’s just important for us to do it right. so if it seems lively and energetic I think people will see that we love what we do. But in terms of forging some kind of identity, we’re just doing what we do honestly. And I’d like to think that people appreciate that, instead of there being some kind of mythology or story about it. Because we’re just school friends who enjoy making music. And that’s all I’m currently capable of doing, I’ve got no ideas or concepts, no ethos or anything like that. I just enjoy being in a rock band, and I enjoy listening to rock bands. And hopefully our music connects the same way that listening to bands connected with me and my friends.
NT: Well that is the best part of the simplicity of a rock band isn’t it, that you don’t necessarily have to do all that. There’s the freedom to develop these large ideas if you want, but at the end of the day you’re just going up and knocking out a few songs and having some fun.
DM: Exactly. And I’m not against the mythology, because I fall for it all the time and I think it’s wonderful, the fiction of it. I remember when I first came across The Strokes when I was 13 or whenever, and I’d never been to America, and so to find this band that was the perfect-sounding thing for me at the time, and they’re these New Yorkers, and they just look sort of like film stars, they sounded awesome, the songwriting was gorgeous. And it just seemed very mystical because A) they’re coming from the other side of the planet, B) they were playing music that for some reason really connected with me and C) I was a bit too young to go and see them live. So whatever I read up on them I took as gospel. It was like I had this belief and I loved the whole romanticism of it. I can’t do that with my band because I’m crap at lying and I haven’t got anything interesting to say about how we came together because we’re simply schoolmates that enjoy playing music.
But I think Kings of Leon had a great kind of vibe about them when they started out because they were kind of from another planet, seeing that band and the posters, all that sort of stuff, they just looked and sounded mean. Threatening. But then that doesn’t necessarily mean they are mean and threatening. But you look at it and you fall for the whole package, and it’s just airtight when you look at it, and you listen to the lyrics and the way the drums are played. It’s a great thing and I don’t have anything against it. I just don’t think it’s in me, and my friends and my band to have that kind of spin on what we do. I’m just trying to be honest.
NT: There’s a lot of that, for sure. You mentioned you guys were just “a couple of schoolmates,” as I understand it you guys have been together since you were 11 or 12 years old.
DM: Well, kind of, yeah. There’s four in the band, but three of us met in secondary school. So we would have been about 12 or 13. And I’d never come across a drummer up until I was that age, and I was like, “Fuck.” Man, I didn’t know anyone who had anything to do with a drum kit. It’s such a big fucking cumbersome, loud piece of equipment. But [Brendan] had one and he was really good at it and he liked the same sort of music as me but also other stuff I didn’t really know at the time,like Nirvana and he was into Queens of the Stone Age before I was. So he knew this kind of heavier stuff.
But yeah we’ve been playing in all sorts of bands since we were about 13 or whenever, but The Bohicas didn’t really come together until 2013. There was a lot of writing, and we were playing a lot, but we didn’t know musically who we were. So in the rehearsal room when we came across songs like “XXX” and “Swarm,” we felt like they had an identity to them and they felt very natural to us, so we felt like we weren’t kidding anymore. This is our thing and we can do this. So it was based around trusting your gut and your instinct. And that’s what the songwriting kind of orbits around on the album as well.
NT: You mentioned “Swarm.” You guys have a new video for that song with a lot of riot imagery in it, even your guitar has this kind of wailing siren sound coming off of it in the main hook. Is there anything related to that you’re writing the lyric “don’t take off and join the swarm?”
DM: No, there’s no heavy deep meaning behind any lyric that I write, simply because I haven’t got the intelligence to back it up. For me, the music comes a lot easier than the lyrics, and all I’m trying to do when I write lyrics is trying to make sure I don’t write a really shit one. Because a bad lyric can really ruin a song. So, “Swarm” kind of rhymed with the line before, but it’s a good word as well. When you write it out you can imagine it as a comic book title or a hero name, or a villain’s. So I just thought it was a cool title.
NT: It’s interesting that you said the music comes easier than the lyrics. Like I said before you guys have a bit of a reputation for a lively performance, and I think you’ve done a good job of translating that onto a recorded sound. Was there a concentration on getting that energy down on tape when you were recording?
DM: Cool. Yeah, that’s how we play, and that’s our favourite bands play. So when we got together to track all these songs, we did it all together in a live room. We work it out naturally like that. When we perform there’s no triggers or backup tracks or anything, what you see is what you get. And that’s what a rock band should be. We like singing, we like those Beach Boys harmonies so we try our best at doing that sort of thing. So we recorded it live, and we overdubbed the vocals just to make it shiny. We didn’t want to release a lo-fi scuzzy thing, it still needed to be high quality.
NT: On that note, you recorded the album in two different studios and we three different producers. Was that a conscious decision or just circumstance?
DM: Yeah, the label kept presenting us with opportunities to meet these producers and it would be stupid to ignore any of that, because you need these people and you realize they’re extremely talented and they’ve done so much. And they really understood what we were about and what kind of music we wanted to created. So we met with them and they all brought their own thing, and it meant a lot to the record. It was a very natural, organic thing where we all mutually understood what we all wanted out of this album. And in the mix of it there were contradictions, if you think of it there’s four band members and three producers, there’s bound to be some scheduling issues.
NT: You said it was the label that set you up with these talents. You signed with Domino about two years ago now. How has that been for you?
DM: What Domino’s done, and what I’ve been very grateful for, is they signed us very early on. And they were very patient with the songwriting, and the development of the band. Because when they signed us, they were really only going on a handful of gigs that they’d seen, and they were very optimistic about the songwriting. They saw something that interested them and they just let us chill out and find our feet. They were very patient, even though we weren’t. We felt like we were always ready to record, because there was a lot of writing, a lot of rehearsing. But they sat back and let us develop as a live band as well as creatively. And I think they were right to. At any given moment in the last 3 years we could have released an album, simply because there was that much material in circulation. But I’m very grateful for that.
NT: Five favourite records to listen to right now?
DM: Okay, I’ve got…
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
The Band – Self Titled
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
The Beatles – Abbey Road
Christopher Owens – A New Testament
The Bohicas’ The Making Of is out August 21st on Domino Records.
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