Exclusive Interview with Delorentos’ Kieran McGuinness
How music is shaped by places
It doesn’t get any more rock ‘n’ roll than playing in a cattle mart for thousands of screaming fans in Mexico. For Irish band Delorentos, this is one of many highlights over the group’s 13-year history. Guitarist and vocalist Kieran McGuinness took time out his schedule to sit with the Gurucast to chat about the band’s songwriting, touring and all the places in between that inspired them.
The second season of the Gurucast has come to a close. It’s been an amazing experience and we had some superb guests! Our last one is no exception. Keeping in line with the musical theme from this week’s episode, we spoke to Kieran McGuinness of one of our favourite Irish bands, Delorentos.
Exclusive Interview with Delorentos’ Kieran McGuinness
Dublin-based rock band Delorentos are known for their infectious indie hooks and harmonies. The band have been stalwarts of the Irish music scene for over a decade now, having formed in 2005 in Dublin. Over the years, the band were defined by their pop-sensibilities but three years and two contrasting European countries later, the band debuted their new musical direction with their fourth album True Surrender.
The group’s members are from the various parts of north county Dublin: guitarist and vocalist Kieran McGuinness is from Skerries, vocalist and pianist Ronan Yourell is from Malahide. Drummer Ross McCormick and bassist Níal Conlan are both from Portrane.
Kieran said that for the long-time friends, it was a lads holiday to Toronto in 2005 to visit Níal that solidified their friendship.
“It was the holiday of a lifetime”, Kieran told the Gurucast. “It felt like after that trip, we were a band. We were so tight then. Then we started to write music and sure that took a while…”
By the time their critically-acclaimed debut album In Love with Detail was released in 2007, the band had grown their fanbase in Ireland and abroad with a series of EP releases, live shows and regular features in “ones to watch” columns. Their early days were spent playing in familiar Dublin venues like Whelan’s bar, with the band hustling to fund their early releases.
The unsigned band played the Irish festival circuit with standout performances at Oxygen and Electric Picnic in 2006. While this was undoubtedly a milestone for many up and coming Irish bands, Delorentos were able to tour relentlessly over the next year with larger bands in Toronto, New York City and played at the coveted South by South-West festival in Texas in 2008.
However, following a series of mishaps for the band in 2008 – a record deal falling through, the collapse of their distribution company and a general music industry unwellness- Ronan decided to leave Delorentos and the band broke up. Luckily, two months later they had formed again and went on to release their second album You Can Make Sound in October 2009 and the band kicked off a series of tour dates around the country.
Kieran explained how much of an influence location has had on the band’s songwriting and recording. “Location is definitely important,” He said. “One thing that works for us is that we’re all sequestered somewhere. Life is busy and annoying and you can be at the mercy of other people.”
Life is busy and annoying and you can be at the mercy of other people.
For the band’s third album Little Sparks, the guys retreated to the picturesque town of Tinahely in Co. Wicklow. There, the guys would live among discarded cups of pot noodle and shut the world out for a few days to record the album. The work paid off: the album received largely positive reviews and won them the Choice Music Prize in 2012. They played a string of international shows in New York, Toronto, Moscow and Memphis, Tennessee in support of the album.
Kieran recalled a particular tour highlight being a televised performance at SOS festival in Murcia, Spain in 2012 which was played during the interval of a Barcelona-Real Madrid football match.
“We were third or fourth on the bill. One of the songs ‘Care For’ was the song the festival used on the ads. And people were singing that song when we played like it was ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Mr Brightside’ and it was just a supernatural feeling.”
Other standout moments included the aforementioned gig in a “cattle warehouse” in Guadalajara, Mexico to 5,000 people. There was also the street festival Memphis after St Patrick’s Day with people dancing on a Greyhound bus, decked out in green beads and naff shamrock accessories.
According to Kieran, each band member works alone for a period of time to write songs, then the band will convene and decide on the album’s material. For their sixth album True Surrender, the band met up in 2015 in Northern Spain to begin their usual democratic process of picking the songs they would record for the album.
Kieran described the location as ‘amazing’. He said: “[It was] incredibly clear. You could see miles and miles into the distance, walk through the vineyard…[we] walked back at night through the dusty roads. It did feel like you were away from everything. It felt like we had time to unpack the songs.”
Unfortunately, the band decided that the material they had recorded over the five days no longer represented where they were at in life.
Kieran said they wanted a sound of where they were in life. He explained this as a natural maturing, with family commitments and one member living abroad. After all, Delorentos celebrated 13 years together in 2018. It’s a surprising feat and you could the number of other Celtic Tiger-era bands that are still making music on one hand.
“This is our fifth album. We’re all in our 30s. Níal has a kid, Ro is living in London and commuting back,” Kieran explained. “When you get into your 30s and you start to amp your life, then the songs take on a different meaning. They become introspective.”
Instead, it would take another three years before the band felt ready to release the more soulful True Surrender. The band went back to the drawing board, this time in Attica Audio in the tiny village of Termon in Donegal.
“It’s quite remote,” Kieran said. “It’s on the edge of this huge expanse of land which was where the evictions happened and through that valley is where the old railway used to go. It’s a very evocative place.”
Here, the band crafted what Kieran called the songs that they felt ‘had answers’. Their latest album was certainly a departure from the jauntier, pop-rock sound that the band was associated with for a long time. After all, it’s “The Secret’ that blasts from the radio to introduce The Ryan Tubridy Show when the Irish nation is usually getting their first cup of coffee in the office.
When True Surrender was finally released in April 2018, Kieran said the band were pleasantly surprised that their sound was met with open arms. In a four-star review, the Irish Times said that the band “Delorentos nonetheless deliver a feasible overview of how to put right those dreaded things that go wrong.”
Listen to the interview over at the Gurucast!
The band are now in the middle of a tour, with upcoming dates in Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny London and Berlin. Be sure to give the full interview a listen below to hear more about Kieran and the lads’ travels, including an eye-opening trip to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
If you want to listen to our exclusive interview with the Delorentos’ Keiran McGuinness, then tune in to our podcast! You can give it a listen over at YouTube, iTunes or Soundcloud!
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