Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Certainly not ones to stay in the shadows, THUMPER stir up masses of intrigue and rightly so. What you find with this noise-pop band is a rugged, frenzied approach to their trade, but topped with the ability to execute euphonious tunes. As native Dubliners, they flung the doors wide open, stormed onto the scene, and built a solid gold status, but now it’s time for the rest of us to take heed. And with that in mind, we had the pleasure of hearing of their roots and forthcoming single Topher Grace from lead vocalist and guitar player Oisin Leahy Furlong.
From a humble start of one, the band steadily grew into six, until we got to the THUMPER that we know and love today. This organic process allowed growth and time for their music to develop. Oisin begins, “THUMPER started as a bedroom recording project. I put out three tapes of really lo-fi sounding tunes and distributed them around Dublin. Festival offers started coming in, so the band was formed to play those. Over time it morphed from a solo vehicle into a full collaborative band.” The lads, Alan Dooley (guitar/vocals) Alex Harvey (guitar/vocals) Dav Campbell (bass/vocals) and Stevie D'Arcy (drums) knew each other from music college. The only exception is Shane Holly (drums), who was discovered in their rehearsal room recording his strange songs.
The Lo-Fi movement of imperfect and flawed sound is an immense part of Furlong’s inspiration to create, and with distortion part of the charm, it is the ideal place to fulfil explorative tendencies. “Initially, the notion that I could record and put out the tapes myself came from my love of other lo-fi artists - Daniel Jonston, Moldy Peaches, Julie Ruin, Wavves, etc. I always loved the sound of tape buzz and imperfections; the song is the focal point rather than the technique.” In time, the band moved on but encompassed everything they had found. “Eventually, we craved a more considered approach to production, which we found when Daniel Fox (of Girl Band) produced our first studio EP Out of Body Auto-Message, but we always retain that reverence for the songwriting and keeping the song front and centre.” He clarifies.
Piercingly punchy and, of course, loud, THUMPER has caused sparks with Radio 1’s Phil Taggart proclaiming that they’re a band so far up his street they might as well be kicking his front door in. Oisin describes their sound and what makes them characterful: “I guess what makes us unique is how many iterations there have been of what THUMPER actually is. We're indebted to the bands I've mentioned above, but have also had lots of different members over the years before we landed on the one that stuck, each person bringing their sensibilities to the project.” They’ve found their vibe, and they're sticking to their guns. He continues, “During this time, trends have come and gone, so we're fortunate to have never really aligned ourselves with any of those, and basically formed our world around us. The basic elements that go into our sound are a love of noise music, psych and punk rock, and definitely a healthy dose of pure pop like ABBA or the Beach Boys.”
The boys found their feet on their turf. They had a heck of a lot to learn about their world but soaked it up all the same. “We hit the festival circuit around Ireland pretty soon after starting, but we were very green at the time, it's a wonder we got offered those slots at all. Dublin is definitely where we cut our teeth. It's funny looking back because, at the time, a lot of the bands who were gigging around town are the same bands who are now selling out shows all over the world, but none of us were exceptional at the time, there was just a vague sense of diligence and striving to be something we weren't yet.”
Dublin has always provided a rich, musical tapestry, with plenty of heart and soul, and currently, it is exporting colossal successes. Furlong thinks, “The scene in Dublin, and Ireland by large, is thriving at the moment. Ourselves, Fontaines, and Murder Capital may represent one arm of that vibrancy, but there is so much other great music being made too. Irish hip-hop is definitely having a major moment with Kojaque, Mango x Mathman and so many more, and Irish traditional and folk music is also booming - Lankum and Junior Brother both brought out amazing records last year. The one lineage you could trace through all of these acts is a willingness to dig into contemporary Irish culture and display it undiluted on an international stage. It's exciting to be part of.”
Their songs are heavy yet melodic, giving an arresting combination. In the beginning, this would be the result of Oisin’s vision, but now the process is more collaborative for them. “At the start, it was a case of me bringing fully formed songs to the band, but once the line up was solidified it naturally moved towards a more collaborative process. In My Room (released last year) was probably the first song that we wrote like that.” As with all art, there is no right or wrong way of creating it’s about the process too. “Making something completely by yourself is satisfying in one way, but it's almost more rewarding to build something up from the ground as a band. You can all share in the successes or failures."
Brand new single Topher Grace is released on Friday, June 26th, and was devised with the lyrics at the forefront in the voice of someone too deep in it to see the wood for the trees. “It’s a song that sort of slowly revealed itself to me. Initially, I hadn't planned to make it so bluntly lyric-based, but the more I wrote, the more it became apparent that I had too much to cram into a few lines of melody. Once I realised this, I was faced with the terrifying notion of bringing a 7 minute long, spoken word noise jam with no repeated choruses to the band. If you've ever cringed at the sound of yourself speaking on an answering machine, you know what I mean. Ultimately, I tried to harness the sheer self-consciousness of it and deliver something that felt completely honest.” Oisin elucidates.
Just before lockdown due to COVID-19, the boys were giving it their all on the Ad Nauseam tour and managed to get through three-quarters of the destinations. “We finished the full two weeks in the UK and a week in Europe before taking an emergency flight home from Berlin, when Ireland started locking down, and Germany was about to close its borders.” This included a stop off in Newcastle upon Tyne where, true to form, they were freezing but received the warm Geordie welcome. Oisin concludes by thinking ahead to a time where we can roam free once more. “We've had the guts of four months of heavy festival touring pulled out from underneath us, but are channelling that energy back into the studio where we're recording and writing full time, waiting for the gates to open once again.”
Article by Beverley Knight