The Coronas’ thirteen-year journey has definitely been unique. With a handful of multi-platinum selling albums and a huge home fan-base, they were just about to embark on a six-month world tour when a certain unfortunately-named virus tried to spoil the party. Thankfully, the band are back with a new single, new album, rescheduled dates, and a point to prove.
‘Light Me Up’ is the new single from the forthcoming album True Love Waits co-written with True Tides frontman Cian McSweeney. The song is a celebration of enduring love, through the good times and bad. It flips from atmospheric to anthemic and builds to a boisterous, gospel finish featuring Cian on backing vocals. Lead singer Danny explains, “‘Light Me Up’ is about being grateful to have someone in your life who believes in you when you’re struggling with self-doubt. I suppose post-lockdown it’s become even more topical – how lucky we are to have loved ones to lean on when the world seems to be turning upside down!”
‘Light Me Up’ precedes the band’s highly anticipated album True Love Waits which is out on 31st July. True Love Waits marks the start of what is now more than a new chapter in the career of one of Ireland’s biggest, best-loved bands, it’s more like a whole new book.
A quartet for thirteen years, last summer The Coronas became a trio when guitarist Dave McPhillips unexpectedly left. Briefly they questioned whether to continue but instead of being defeated, the band grew to see it as an opportunity. ‘When we accepted that we weren’t going to be the same band without him, it was easier to let the songs lead us in ways we wouldn’t have thought of before,’ Danny explains.
‘Rather than replace Dave, we actually contemplated ditching guitars entirely. But instead we opened ourselves up to working with loads of our talented friends, mainly because the songs warranted it, and we had an amazing young producer George Murphy who knew exactly the kind of album we wanted to make.’
‘For the first time we used real brass, there are extra guest backing vocalists, guest guitar players and our first featured duet. From early on, the guys encouraged me to use my voice differently, pushing me to try something that I wouldn’t have done previously.’
Two songs had already been recorded in Los Angeles last February, with Hozier and PJ Harvey producer Rob Kirwan, when Danny, bassist Graham Knox, and drummer Conor Egan pressed reset. But the album only really began to take shape once a raft of new songs arrived. Key to the process was Danny’s coterie of new co-writers.
‘I co-wrote a little on the last two albums and loved it,’ says Danny. ‘This time I was up for anything. I took snippets of ideas to several musician mates, mostly around Dublin and Kerry, to see what we came up with and that’s how we hit on some of the new sounds and different song structures. When you’re five albums in, it can be difficult to write differently on your own – you instinctively return to the same patterns. With fresh input, you’re forced down new paths, and it’s
also great sharing that excitement in a room when you both know that there’s something special in the idea you’ve just created together.’
The title track ‘True Love Waits’ was also written with Cian MacSweeney, frontman of Cork-formed, Dublin-based trio True Tides, one of The Coronas’ favourite bands and their recent support act. Acoustic guitar and bright synths blend to create an atmosphere of dreamy optimism, while the lyrics – ‘fuck that, take a chance’ – could as easily apply to The Coronas’ new outlook as a new relationship. Much of the song is the band’s original demo, recorded DIY in Dublin, before being completed in London with producer George Murphy.
‘We’ve never kept so much of our demos before,’ says Danny, ‘but what’s great about George is he can see the magic in a moment. There’s a spontaneity to that song which we’d have lost by re-recording it. George engineered our last two albums, so he knows us very well. He’d hone in on the vibe of what we brought him. A lot of the songs had odd arrangements and he understood straight away what we were trying to do.’
The unorthodox arrangements helped push The Coronas out of their comfort zone. The release last year of hypnotic first single ‘Find The Water’ was a shock to some, but its success told the band they were on the right path. Beginning with just piano and vocals, then breaking into an intense chant, ‘Find The Water’ soars skywards on trumpets and percussion and has Danny singing so high by the end that he’s all but unrecognisable.
Previous single ‘Cold’ may rival it for surprises. Opening on its stark, prayer-like chorus, it’s a majestic spine-chiller that shapeshifts on piano, percussion and synths. Written by Danny as a pick-me-up late one night alone in Dingle, it’s about decision-making and self-doubt.”How do you know you’ve made the right choice, about anything,” says Danny. “In the midst of so much change, you can question every decision, but what’s the point? It’s our ‘don’t get down’ song. Have confidence and move on.“
Lyrically, ‘True Love Waits’ addresses everything from a new love in Danny’s life, to looking back at past achievements with pride, to dealing with Dave’s departure.
‘Haunted’, one of two songs written with producer Cormac Butler, is a toast to a partnership – with the phrase “haunted” being Dingle-speak for “lucky”. ‘Lost In The Thick Of It’ is one of the album’s highlights, a gorgeous duet with Gabrielle Aplin, written in Brighton with Gabrielle and her partner Alfie Hudson-Taylor. On the celebratory ‘Brave’, The Coronas work in a waltz. The euphoric ‘Heat of The Moment’ they describe as their Richard Curtis love song. By the end of ‘I Think We Jinxed It’, the guitars and synths soar just much as Danny’s vocals.
“We never thought we’d make six albums, or be as excited about music as we are now. It’s great that we’re not trying to compete with anyone else. We’d rather just outdo ourselves.”