Having seemingly dropped out of the sky in the last few months, 202s are Mike Glennon and Steve Melling, a duo who spent the guts of the noughties in regular rock bands but who found themselves drawn more and more towards synths, loops and krautrock as time went on. Two years ago they began recording what would become their self-titled debut, eschewing the well trodden route of playing the capital’s venues to get noticed, instead concentrating on creating something special in the studio. The album is currently getting a shedload of attention and well it might. Minimalist in places, raucous in others – there’s harmonica, glockenspiel, programmed beats and even a little Carly Sings to enjoy.
After getting a Guinness instead of the Smithwicks we ordered at the Library Bar in the Central Hotel, State did the very Irish thing of not complaining and then talked to Steve and Mike about their debut record, doing things back to front and whether being compared to Primal Scream is a good thing or not.
The album has kind of landed out of nowhere because the 202s have been pretty much a private project thus far, why the lack of live gigs?
Mike: I guess the two of us wanted to keep the line-up simple. We had a good idea between us of what we wanted to do; we’ve been mates for a long time so we knew we were both on exactly the same page. We’d been in plenty of bands together and the last one we were in was an attempt to do something a little bit like what we’re doing now but it kind of just morphed – because of gigging and doing normal things normal bands do – and became a two-guitar, bass and drum band.
You obviously didn’t want to go down that road again.
Mike: Never again, we felt like we’d been playing music for a long while, been in bands for a long while and we still hadn’t made an album and that’s ridiculous. It was like an artist who’d never had an exhibition or a film-maker who’d never gone beyond a 30-second short. It was crazy really and all the other things can get in the way.
Steve: I think when you’re doing mainly gigs it could be two months of gigging before going back to a track and doing some recording, then there’s always other issues keeping you away from the studio, we flushed that out.
Mike: I mean we’ve been in different phases of making music together and we’ve done that in different ways. I mean we’d also done stuff where we’re living in different cities and we might only get together for a few days and do a few loops and stuff at home. We’ve done stuff where one summer we just went to Europe and busked our way around, so we’ve kinda made music in lots of different ways and we wanted to bring all that stuff together. Especially the kind of loopy stuff we’d done at home, that before the 202s we’d never been able to incorporate into anything else. Some of the first stuff we started with in 2007 was taking old recordings and doing drum loops and basslines over it and working it through.
How did Le Son Du Maquis (French indie label which 202s are signed to) get involved?
Steve: We had a couple of tunes and some ideas on our MySpace page that were up maybe a year before the album was finished. They picked it up from that.
You didn’t have to go hunting them down then?
Mike: Nope, they were demos more than anything. We weren’t looking for a label, it wasn’t on our radar. It was just the opposite really, we really just wanted to take a -we’re going to do what we want to do’ approach and we weren’t thinking further than recording the next tune.
It all sounds ridiculously relaxed.
Mike: Well, I know things appear as if they were easy but it kinda wasn’t either. We wouldn’t have been able to do that had we not done other things for ten years prior to doing the 202s. It’s all that which has put us in the position to be able to do this; it wasn’t like we just woke up, bought instruments and made an album.
Steve: The label isn’t really involved in Ireland anyway – they pressed the CDs and sent them over to us and that’s kind of the end of their involvement in Ireland. They’re promoting it and doing the PR in France, we’re kind of doing everything else. Like they’re pretty chilled, as we recorded they just said -keep us posted’ and then when we were finished they listened, liked it and said -yeah we’ll put it out’.
Steve: It’s all incredibly French. The things you automatically expect from labels like them asking for photos of the band or asking if we’d come over and play to them or whatever; there was none of that is was just that they liked it and wanted to put it out. When you compare it to other record deals it does sound crazy alright though.
Back to the album and there are a few curve balls on there, -Pressure’ starts like something from Shaft and ends up sounding like a darker moment on Lost Souls.
Mike: It’s actually the first thing we did, with just a groove at the beginning and for ages just referred to it as the blaxploitation one, it felt really exciting to us to make a blaxploitation song and yeah it did go somewhere a little darker and cinematic. It’s probably the one that’s most out on its own of the nine tracks on there.
Primal Scream have been mentioned a lot in reviews of the record thus far, particularly in relation to vocals. Big fans?
Mike: I was a big Primal Scream fan when I was a kid and the big thing with them is that it’s not just about the music they make but they turned me on to a lot of other music as well. I’d read interviews with them and they’d be goin’ on about Sly Stone, Funkadelic, or Hank Williams and all sorts of things. They weren’t the traditional influences you hear rock n’ roll bands talk about usually.
Some people seem to think they’re a bunch of vampires though, getting in talent when it suits.
People have always said that, maybe they’ve had a lot of flukes getting in talented people. But’¦ going back to influences, when we were kids and you had Beastie Boys and Ill Communication, bands like Stereolab arriving out of nowhere, it was a real eclectic era and bands were just kind of dipping into everything, rejecting normal influences. You had Stereolab experimenting with exotica almost, Spiritualized getting into krautrock and there was just so much of that going on. We’re -90s kids really. There was a lot of cross pollination.
Speaking of influences, there’s a whole raft of bands you’ve been compared to thus far; has anyone got it completely wrong in your opinion?
Mike: Well someone said we sounded like The Blue Nile which I just don’t’¦ for the life of me I just don’t get, though our drummer Barry claims he knows what the dude is talking about. Mystery to me though.