At the start of last summer, Dantevilles released their debut EP, and seemed to have the world at their feet. Then they disappeared. Their self-titled debut release is a real calling card, capturing in the stu- dio everything that has earned them a cult live following across the north of England since their formation in Fallowfield four years ago (“we’re still demoing on the same shit laptop!” laughs singer and bassist Connor McNicholas). The melodies are sharp, the guitars pleasingly jangly, and at the centre of it all is the vocal back-and-forth between McNicholas and singer-guitarist Jamie Gallagher - the pair have a onstage dynamic that recalls Pete Doherty and Carl Barât in their Libertines pomp. The reviews were positive and their launch show at Soup Kitchen packed out. More dates were lined up for November, but the band had tapped into a rich songwriting vein and didn’t want to put work on new songs on hold. Accordingly, they shelved the gigs and headed into a new rehearsal space on the outskirts of Piccadilly. They brought with them a new drummer - semi-pro footballer-turned-sticksman Alexis Panidis - and changed label, signing with new imprint Lovers. They share a producer with the Manchester indie titans, in the form of Joe Cross, also Courteeners’ live bassist. When Beatstream meets Dantevilles shortly before Christmas, they’re gearing up to show the world precisely what they’ve been up to, with their most enthralling material to date ready for either release or recording.
What have you been up to since the EP was released back in May?
Connor McNicholas: We’ve basically been taking time away from gig- ging to get some new material down. Jamie Gallagher: For a long time, it felt like we had a period of random gigs here and there, which was stopping us from writing solidly. We ended up cancelling everything we had lined up so that we could take a step back. It’s a more mature decision than we would’ve taken in the past; four years ago, we would have gone out and played 100 gigs and tried to fit the writing in between. This time, we knew it would be benefi- cial to get the songs written first. Alexis Panidis: It was a big decision to postpone the gigs, but it’s worked out well.
How was the reaction to the EP?
CM: Really good, actually. We got some decent festival slots - we played at The Great Escape in Brighton and at Kendal Calling, amongst others - and the write-ups were all positive. It’s just that the EP felt like a case of getting it out there as soon as we could so that we could start working on the next thing, especially with Alexis joining us on drums. Our old drummer played on the EP, and no offence to him, but he wasn’t as in to it any more as the other three of us. I think, without us knowing, that might have come across on the EP. JG: Now, we’ve all got new instruments, we’ve moved to this new re- hearsal space, and everything feels fresh. The focus is on homing on the actual sound, figuring out what worked last time and what didn’t, and just trying to do what we want to do - not what other people want us to.
Did you have an idea of what you were working towards when you started out on these new tracks?
JG: Not really. We’ve always written in a way that has one of us come up with an inkling of an idea, and then the rest of us run with it. We’ve got a new tune called ‘bloomin flowers’, that’s going to be the first single. CM: The lyrics & melody were written at a writing session in the studio in pretty quick succession, whilst listening to another idea we were working on, and the tune really came to life when the drum section in the chorus was introduced. It was just nice to be able to prioritise the new songs, and not worry about what was going into the set for the gig the next night. We’ve got five or six new songs now, and that was only possible because we could tinker with them over the course of a few weeks and months. We’ve been chipping away and experimenting that whole time. We’ve kept the set nice and tight, too, but it was liberating to not have to worry about a run of gigs until the new year.
What’s the plan for releasing the new material? Will it be ready to go by the time the tour comes around in March?
JG: We’re going to be releasing a few singles over the coming months. CM: As always seems to be the case with Dantevilles, we never have much luck, and our producer, Joe Cross, has been touring the UK ex- tensively for the past month or so - he plays bass for Courteeners. We managed to get two and a half songs down with him before he went out on the road, but we’ve got a lot more written and demoed. Now that he’s back, hopefully it’ll be full steam ahead. JG: They’ve come together really nicely. We had time to relax and let them sit for a while. We used to get really over-excited about new songs - “this is the one!” - and then it’d fizzle out. Now, there’s a new confi- dence, and we’re happy to play around with the ideas - there’s no one set way that they have to be played and structured.
How many songs are going to be in the new set?
JG: We’re actually at the point where we can drop a few. CM: There’s a lot to pick from now. I was just saying to Paul before you got here - we’re trying to find a consistent sound now, so that by the time the set’s ready, all of the songs will really complement each other. We just need Alexis to get his arse into gear and get his new kit, and we’ll be ready to go. It’s his fault if it all goes to pot!
Has it suited you so far to just release singles as and when they’re ready?
JG: I think so. It’s exciting, because we don’t know exactly which route we want to take, but what we do want to do is build up content. Music videos, live videos, and so on - it’s just a case of making sure that we do it with the right songs. CM: We’ve recently changed our label, too, and it feels like things are going to be easier to agree upon with them. I think whatever comes next will be easier than the last EP felt.
How is the new material sounding relative to what you’ve released so far?
AP: Some aspects are heavier, I think. Parts of it sound puncher and more rhythmic. There’s more cohesion than before, and everything sounds a little fresher and more original. JG: Dantevilles will always sound like us, because it’s always going to be me and Connor playing and singing together. That’s the one thing that’s similar to the older stuff - the split vocals, the harmonies and the melodies. Us sharing the lead parts - that’ll always be there, until the day we die. CM: And who knows when that might be!
There wasn’t a conscious decision to change anything up, then?
JG: There never is. We’d never come in here and say, “this needs to sound like that.” We just turn up, plug in, and when somebody starts playing something, the rest of us will try to jump on it. We never have genre in mind. We’re not going to start making west coast rap.
Are the lyrics continuing in the same vein on the new songs?
CM: Pretty much. Jamie and I write them, and usually one of us will write the whole track. Once we’ve figured them out, we’ll think about who’s voice it suits more, and they’ll take it on. We’re not very political - we don’t try to shove our opinions in people’s faces. We’re quite lovey- dovey; we write a lot about relationships and sex, I think. JG: It isn’t corny, though. There’s a band who keep popping up as sponsored on Instagram at the minute, and they’re awful. The song that I keep hearing really makes me cringe, because they clearly haven’t thought the lyrics through. Mine tend to be literal and Connor’s more metaphorical, but we put a lot of effort into them either way.
Have you already made plans to get back into the studio with Joe?
CM: Yeah. We’re working towards an end of February release for the first single, and we’ve got a couple more songs that just need a little tweak here and there. Those ones are sounding top. The good thing about Joe is that his studio is in the centre of town, so we can finish work or what- ever and then head straight over to his place. If just one of us needs to go in to work on a guitar part, it’s easily done. JG: He really backs us, and believes in us. He just seems to see some- thing in us. CM: We’re a sleeping giant! That’s what we call ourselves.
Could some of these new songs end up on your debut album?
JG: Maybe four or five of these, and then eight or so new ones. CM: I would’ve said one or two. In three months, we might have a load more songs. JG: This could turn into a brawl! CM: We’re going to start working towards the album in 2019. The EP was us announcing ourselves, the second lot of songs is going to be more interesting as we settle into our sound, and then hopefully, the natural progression is that we have an album out at the end of that.
What else do you have planned for 2019?
CM: We want to play as many festivals as we can in the summer, and then hopefully book another tour, bigger than the one coming up in March - which is on the way to selling out. It’d be great to have a main support slot to a bigger band, too - that’s something that we experienced a little bit of when we toured with Blossoms. Things have often felt a little bit rushed in the past, and kind go stop-start, but I think this year, we’ve got a plan in place and the content to back it up. There’ll be less pres- sure, because we intend to have everything recorded and ready to go. JG: We’ve just had the big change that we needed. The six months leading up to our last drummer leaving were difficult. It’ll be nice to start a new year completely fresh. CM: Plus, Alexis is going to dye his hair red! JG: It’s still Dantevilles - we’re not changing our name or anything. It’s just a case of kicking on from the EP, and I think we’re ready.
Dantevilles release a new single in late February, and play three UK dates from March 8th
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