Danny O'Reilly from The Coronas on new single and album, cancelled shows and sharing a band name with a global pandemic

Dublin pop rockers The Coronas were always going to have a tough time of it during the Covid-19 pandemic. David Roy quizzes frontman Danny O'Reilly about 'brand management', cancelled gigs, delaying the release of their new album True Love Waits and their new single Lost In The Thick of It

The Coronas in their new three-piece incarnation

HI DANNY, how are you coping with lockdown?

Not too bad, it is weird, though, and I'm sort of ready for it to be finished. It's been a mad time but it does seem like we've turned a bit of a corner now and all is OK with us, thanks.

How does it feel to know that you're finally going to be releasing the band's sixth album True Love Waits on July 31 after having to postpone it due to the coronavirus pandemic?

We're really proud of it and we're happy to get it out there. Originally we were thinking that gigs might be coming back towards the end of the summer around September and so maybe we should hold off until then so we'd be able to promote it, but at the moment it doesn't look like they're gonna come back properly any time soon.

So, we just sort of felt it was right to get the album out there. We finished it late last year and we've already released four or five songs off it [including current single, Lost In The Thick of It]. In the meantime, we'll do what we can to promote it and then when the album comes out in July hopefully we'll be able to do some sort of promotional gigs.

We're trying to think outside the box, like maybe doing some smaller acoustic gigs with social distancing and filming them to go up online or something like that. Then we'll see what happens later in the year – we've rescheduled tours I'm still not sure will happen this year. We're meant to be going back to America and the UK in October/November but I'm not holding my breath for those ones.

So we're going to see if we can do a bit of writing now to have some new songs ready and get a head start on the next album.

Tell us about the new single Lost In The Thick of It, which is a duet with Gabrielle Alpin – how did that come about?

It's been getting a good reaction already. I went over to Brighton to just write together with Gabrielle and her fiancé Alfie, who's in a band called Hudson Taylor. I stayed with them for a weekend and we didn't really make any plans of trying to write for anyone in particular, we were just writing and having fun.

We recorded a rough demo of what became Lost In The Thick of It with just Gabrielle doing the vocal, and when I got home I sort of fell in love with the song. I added my vocal an octave lower under hers and sent it back to them sort of like "what do you think, lads?" and immediately they came back to me to say they thought it worked really well.

A lot of duets these days are people almost singing against each other almost, or a sort of call-and-response type thing, but this worked as a continuous duet. I had the idea that maybe it could be like the old Snow Patrol song with Martha Wainwright Set The Fire To The Third Bar, which I love. Gabrielle is a deadly singer and a deadly writer as well, so we're really happy with how it turned out.

What was it like performing it live with her at Vicar Street back in December?

We got a great reaction and it was so nice to have Gabrielle there to sing it with us. It was great fun and we're hoping to do it again – we were meant to have our own festival [Nowhere We'd Rather Be in Bray, now cancelled] in August and Gabrielle was on on the bill, so we'd already made plans to have her come and sing it with us at that. Hopefully we might eventually get to do it sooner rather than later.

What can you tell us about the album, True Love Waits?

We recorded it in three different sessions last year with three different producers and then brought it all together with an amazing producer in London called George Murphy, who kind of oversaw the whole thing and made it a cohesive piece of work.

It sounds like us – it is still 'Coronasy' – but I think the songwriting has definitely evolved. Dave [McPhillips] our guitar player left the band last year as well, so I've been writing with a lot of different people and then we've been working with different guitar players and musicians. Like, there's some brass on there and backing vocalists which we haven't used too much before.

The Coronas with original guitarist Dave McPhillips (far right)

When Dave left, we sort of opened up the Coronas' family to collaboration a bit more – and I think it's really worked. Initially when Dave told us he "just wasn't feeling it any more" and wanted to leave, I was a bit concerned that it might be 'the beginning of the end'. But then we had a chat about it and decided that it was maybe just another turn in the road that could lead us in a different direction.

A change can be as good as a rest and a bit of a 'work ethic' came over us, especially from a creative point of view. As soon as Dave told me he was leaving last summer I just started writing loads, about everything: about us as a band, about him leaving. I suppose that's probably how I deal with all my break-ups, and this one is probably the longest relationship I've been in!

But it's not like we've broken up as friends, because I still get on really well with Dave – he played on the album too and I'm sure we'll play with him again at some point in the future.

What's it been like being The Coronas during the coronavirus pandemic? You even tweeted Corona beer for advice at one point, which went viral.

We did, but sadly they never tweeted us back! We sort of wanted to take the p*** out of ourselves about the whole thing a lot earlier, but it was sort of a developing serious situation and you can't really belittle something when people are actually dying.

On the other hand, it would have been weird if we'd just totally ignored it – to keep on releasing music and say nothing about it would have been even stranger. It's one of those things where we just don't know if our unfortunate name will have any sort of negative effects, or positive effects for that matter. Our label people are telling us that our streaming numbers have gone up a lot recently, so you're kind of thinking "I wonder is it just to do with coronavirus?"

It's just a weird situation right now, for everyone – our name just adds that little extra layer of weirdness for us. It's like, 'what's in a name?' – and it wasn't even a great name in the first place to be honest!

:: True Love Waits is released on July 31, pre-order via Lost In The Thick of It is out now via all streaming platforms.

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