A Thursday afternoon in the Workman’s Club, and new supergroup Little Matador
make their entrance. Fronted by former Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly and
including members of bands from Idlewild to Bell X1, they seem relaxed and in good
form ahead of the launch of their debut eponymous album. So how did Little Matador
ﬁrst come about? “[We formed] about two years ago now but we’d always talked
about doing things, bits and pieces.” claims Connolly. “We all knew each other from
a long while back (when we were less hairy) so we found the time to get together
and start writing and fooling around and see if anything came from it”.
Anyone familiar with Nathan’s previous band Snow Patrol may be somewhat
surprised to hear the progression to a convincingly raw, blues-inﬂuenced rock n’ roll sound, but the Belfast native insists there was no agenda in creating what he refers to as a ”brutally honest record”. “For us it was just really honest, our only idea was that we wanted to make a rock record, that was my my idea from the start and I knew it would go that way. Pretty much it was just the sound of us in a room, and that’s what happened. It was hugely collaborative, much more than I even anticipated, which was great”. Bassist and former Idlewild member Gavin Fox agrees. “A lot of it was just pure chance, from getting together, writing in a room together, and then actually going into the studio and making the record, it took a completely different turn. It was kind of exciting, to listen back to the demos musically, and it sounded great, but it could of gone either way. For me it was like listening to a record I’d never heard before.”
The band seemed to have relished the whole creative process behind the album describing it as “fun” despite the obvious time constraints associated with being in different bands. As Connolly states, they “managed to not ‘over-think it’. However, when quizzed over whether he prefers this style of music compared to what he was doing before, he is less forthcoming. “No, maybe its where my heart is in some respects, but we all collectively and individually listen to music and records and this just happens to be what we make. But it does get my rocks off, for sure.”
The album’s rhythmic, alternative style has seen Little Matador compared to a
number of contemporary bands, including the Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys,
something which Connolly is obviously proud of. “All those bands we’re big fans off
and people keep referencing them which is great to be put alongside bands like that
or even being mentioned in the same sentence”. However, he is insistent that the
similarities have no bearing on the material, “I think our inﬂuences will come through regardless, we were all listening to lots of different things. We started making the record in January last year so we weren’t thinking anything other than getting in and making a record so we were kind of in our own bubble. There was no conscious effort to be part of a scene.”
Fox expands on this point. “I’m not really up on contemporary music so I thought it was very strange, the timing of this, that people put us in with this ‘new wave’ of rock and roll. I wouldn’t listen to a band, or anyone, going in to make a record, I don’t think its healthy. If you go in like that you’re gonna end up ripping off a load of people.”
With their tour starting in the UK the band are obviously excited, particularly about their upcoming Irish show at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where they will support Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro. “It’s gonna be fun night so I can’t wait for that”. Connolly says of the Dublin gig. “Weirdly when we were writing I was staying in Kilmainham, when we were rehearsing, so it’ll be great to come back to it’s gonna be a great night. If you’ve ever seen Biffy, they’re just incredible live, whether it’s 50 people in a club or festival crowds, they’re pretty thrilling.” With upcoming festival appearances at Sea Sessions, Reading & Leeds, and Sonisphere in Knebworth, to look forward to the band insist they are fully prepared for what awaits.
As Connolly reiterates “I think festivals for this band are going to be, at this stage, a great thing for us. We’re still winning fans, we’re still presenting ourselves and most people haven’t heard the music, or even heard of the band, so I’m looking forward to getting into that scene with our peers and heroes and doing what we do.” Former LaFaro guitarist Dave Magee agrees, “We haven’t toured loads, but we’re starting to get to a point where we know what we can accomplish live and how far we can push it so we’re fairly conﬁdent we can hold our own.”
These are clearly exciting times for Little Matador then, but what advice do the
band have for other musicians looking to start out. “Fuck off and don’t form a band!” facetiously declares Fox, “we don’t need the competition!” His thoughts are backed up by Magee and Connolly who both praise the level of talent coming through in Ireland at the moment, which they describe as “scandalous”. “It’s true” claims Connolly, “theres so many 16 year olds coming out, making brilliant records and there’s no way we were anywhere close at that age. Its exciting, thrilling, they’ve got it sorted. I think its just the generation we’re living in, they’re so much more on top of things than we ever were”.
Despite their alleged concern over the younger, fresher bands appearing in
their rear view, Little Matador have some words of wisdom for any of their
contemporaries looking for some new inspiration these days. “It does sound like the
heavy rock thing is coming full circle again. I know there’s a lot of people who aren’t afraid to start a rock n’ roll band” claims Fox. “Theres a load of bands like Bats and Adebisi Shank, And So I Watch You, so just more of that please!”. Both Connolly and Magee concur on this point, highlighting the need for honesty in music which they deﬁne as “one of the most amazing things you can have in music”. As Magee concludes “whatever comes out of you, comes out of you. You just have to keep writing and if it’s different to what it sounded like before, that can only be a good thing”.
Little Matador is out now.