Fighting With Wire

We catch up with Derry rockers taking on the world - and winning

‘It’s been a hectic six months – we’ve been everywhere!’ Not that Fighting With Wire’s effervescent lead singer, Cahir O’Doherty, is looking any the worse for wear when I catch up with him and bassist Jamie King in Belfast’s Mandela Hall. Tonight the hard-working Derry band are set to headline the first night of at the three-day NI music fest ‘A Little Solidarity’.

O’Doherty describes 2008 for FWW as ‘kinda like a weird dream’, and well he might. The rock three-piece began the year as just one of a handful of bands-who-might on the Northern Irish scene, but see it out with a five-album deal with Atlantic Records in the bag and the ‘gushing’ praise of BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe ringing in their - and everyone else’s - ears.

So how does a band go from gigging around town to signing for Atlantic? ‘It was really out of the blue,’ admits O’Doherty. 

It all began when FWW put their music on a website called Shadowglobe. 'It’s like a social networking thing but it’s also a radio station that just plays unsigned music,' O'Doherty helpfully explains. Here their brand of fast, punchy rock music - heavily influenced by 1990s' American bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet and Fugazi – caught the attention of the website's founder, Andy Ashton.

Ashton, who once ran XFM in London, was soon spreading the gospel according to FWW to some of his famous friends: 

‘Andy knew Zane and... he knew Craig Coleman, who’s the CEO of Atlantic Records in New York. He [Andy] loved our stuff and introduced Coleman to the band and Coleman loved it. And he introduced Zane Lowe to the band and Zane loved it,’ says O’Doherty.

‘They both contacted me at the same time.’ Though initially he questioned the authenticity of his new fans. ‘I thought ‘someone is taking the piss’.'

O’Doherty’s initial scepticism wasn’t to last long. Within weeks Lowe was playing the band’s debut, Man Vs Monster, on heavy rotation and FWW were living the high life in New York on Atlantic’s tab.

‘We went to New York, we did the showcase. They loved the band live, they loved the album… [Derry/London based label] Smalltown America was already going to put out our record. So we sort of had everything laid out anyway, but Atlantic just stepped in and said ‘we want to be involved’ and they offered us a record contract and publishing deal.’

FWW may have come a long way in a short space of time but the band still keep in touch with their roots – and are pleased to be back in town to show ‘A Little Solidarity’.

‘Rory Friars, from And So I Watch You From Afar, had come up with this idea last year and had asked would I be interested in helping out. I was like ‘of course, we’d love to play it’. Then all this kicked off for the band and we didn’t know if we could play it. But turns out we’re free and of course we’re here. We’ve always been big supporters of Northern Irish music and will continue to be,’ O’Doherty says.

Recognition – critical and commercial - has come relatively late for FWW, and O’Doherty believes that they owe their success to a refusual to compromise. FWW wear their refusual to follow the vagaries of a notoriously feckle music industry as a badge of honour.  

‘We’ve never succumbed to any fad. We’ve always played what we’ve been playing. We’re old!’ laughs O’Doherty. ‘We don’t follow any fashion trends. I mean I’m still wearing the same coat for the last seven years!

‘I think the honesty in our music and the way we present our band says that. There’s no bullshit with us. I think people have reached the point now where they just want some honesty, some good songs and a band to rock out a wee bit instead of ‘who’s got the drug problem?’, ‘who’s got the haircut?’, ‘who wears the tightest jeans?’, ‘who’s going with what supermodel or what shite actress trying to be in the band?’'

There’s no danger of FWW falling into the old rock ‘n’ roll traps where they travel to next – a remote cottage in Malin Head, County Donegal to write that crucial, make-or-break second album before hitting the road again in January. 

2008 showed that Fighting With Wire have what it takes to be contenders. In 2009 the gloves will be off. Let's hope the Derry lads have what it takes to deliver a knockout blow. 

Fighting With Wire play support to Biffy Clyro at Belfast's Mandela Hall on 14 December.

To listen to an interview the Fighting With Wire click here.

Peter Geoghegan