Francis Jones meets Paul Finn of great Irish hopefuls The Flaws
LISTEN to The Flaws: No Room
January 2007 and Tony Clayton Lea, writing in the Irish Times, concludes a live review of The Flaws with the following statement, ‘Frankly, you have to see these young guys to get a glimpse of how good Irish music could be in 2007’.
Clayton Lea’s review anticipated the many articles which would follow, critics haemorrhaging superlatives in their rush to describe the mighty sound of The Flaws.
Given that the Carrickmacross four-piece has yet to release their debut album, such opinions could be seen as typical music press aggrandisement. And yet, seeing them perform live, listening to the clutch of singles, you can’t help feeling that the grand proclamations have more than a kernel of truth to them.
The band themselves, regardless of what is written or said, are determined that expectations will not exceed them.
‘When someone tells you that you’re great the immediate reaction is to feel flattered, but at the same time you do feel ever-so-slightly nervous,' explains frontman Paul Finn. ‘You start thinking ahead, wondering how the whole thing is going to pan out.’
On the evidence of current single, ‘Sixteen’, the band has little to feel nervous about. A brooding indie-rock number with ‘a lot of melody, a lot of guitar and fantastic rhythms’, ‘Sixteen’ evokes the spirit of 1980s alt-rock icons whilst managing to sound utterly contemporary. It is typical of The Flaws.
‘We take our influences from bands like The Cure and The Smiths,’ confesses Finn. 'However, we then try and create something from those influences that is truly us. The guitar playing, the vocal and so on, they bind the music together and make it so identifiably The Flaws.’
The various constituents come together to create bittersweet vignettes, songs in which Finn relays his heart’s desires and devastations.
‘I write most of the lyrics. I know it’s a cliché, but a lot of the lyrics on the album are about the loss of love, basically concerned with a terrible break-up I went through about two years ago. It was such a huge weight pressing down on me, affecting everything. One minute you’d be having a conversation with your mother and then before you know it you’d say, ‘oh, my heart.’
However, time proves the greatest rehabilitator. With just the occasional love-lost backwards glance, Finn has moved on. And, as a consequence, the band’s subsequent material is more varied in its emotional observation.
‘Increasingly I write about other things. That was simply my state of mind at the time. Still that hurt proved an underlying theme, albeit tempered with a little bit of hope. These things have certainly been expressed before, but I think that the way we relate them, the phrasing, is a little different.’
The Flaws much vaunted difference, their ability to distinguish themselves against the indie-rock hordes, will soon receive a first, significant test. Scheduled for a late 2007 release, their debut album is one of the most anticipated Irish releases of the year. With recording nearly completed, Finn is in confident mood.
‘There's material on there that gets the hairs standing on the back of my neck. And when that happens, you know you’re on to something. Hopefully everyone is delighted and then we can just get on with the next one. Even if the response wasn’t as positive as we’d hoped we’d just want to be getting on with writing and recording the next album. This is what we want to do. It’s what we’re good at, regardless of what anyone else might say or think.’
Working with acclaimed producer Gareth Mannix at Grouse Lodge Studios, the band decided that rather than merely replicate their live sound, they would take the opportunity to create a properly finessed and fine-tuned studio record.
‘Live we’re limited to two guitars, bass, drums and vocals, but with the record we’ve been able to bring some additional instruments to the sound. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’ll be able to incorporate those elements into our live show. There are a lot of cool sounds going on, filters going through kits, little touches that make the songs more interesting for the listener.'
The result is an album that the affable frontman describes as a ‘headphones record’.
‘Everyone in the band loves listening to music through headphones and I see our album as being a headphones record, there are little notes hidden here and there, sounds panning left to right, the kind of things that reward repeated listens.’
Whilst we will have to wait for the full Flaws’ ‘headphones’ experience, local fans can content themselves with catching the band live, in Derry, on their forthcoming Irish tour.
‘We’ve played a few places up north before, mostly in Belfast, Auntie Annie’s, Lavery’s and as support to Editors in Mandela Hall,’ recalls Finn. ‘We’ve never played Derry before, but we were speaking to a lot of the bands who have, Delorentos and the likes who told us that not only is it a great spot, but it’s an important one for music. We’re looking forward to it.’