Happy, Low-Fi People: An Interview with Paul Donohoe From TV People

In times of late, Dublin has offered its lion's share of bold, dusky, and poetic outfits, possessing the attitude that coolness isn’t a concern, actually rendering them cool in the end, free from effort. That invisible, invigorating energy the city is famed for makes it easy to charm the world with your wares, and seizing their place in the movement with both hands is uprising quartet TV People.

“We've gigged in every nook and cranny we could worm our way into in Dublin. We only started playing live in 2019, so we've learned a lot in a short time by playing in different bars and clubs around the city. Everyone we've ever been playing or working with has been extremely helpful and nice, and I think that's why the scene is doing so well at the moment. That culture of support in the city definitely inspires you as a band to try to take it up a level.” Explains vocalist and guitar player for the group the Paul Donohoe, where an eloquently extensive conversation followed for us.

A couple of years in the making, the group grew steadily and organically. Paul met Len Roachford (guitar) in college and, during that time, formed their respect over their healthy music obsession. “The two of us used to jam together on our guitars for hours every day, and it eventually got to the stage where we knew we'd need a drummer to achieve the sound and dynamic we wanted. Len got talking to Brendan Clarke online and arranged a meetup. I remember we all instantly clicked when we met and played together. The three of us jammed a couple of times a week for the next few years. We weren't taking the project overly seriously at that point. Everything was very loose and jam-oriented.”

“I think that time was greatly important for us in terms of defining our creativity and our writing process. We usually still write in that free form, improvisational way today. After a few years of rotating bassists, Bren eventually asked Rob Kavanagh to join the band in 2019. He came into the project at a time when we were starting to change our ambitions of what the band could be. The four of us quickly realised that there was incredible creative chemistry between us when we played, and everything took off from there,” he remembers.

Their music tastes and preferences have naturally evolved as they matured. When Len and Paul were introduced, they admired lo-fi indie rock bands, such as Twin Peaks and Palma Violets. “Bren would have introduced the two of us to similarly lo-fi bands like Whitney and Let's Wrestle. We were all really drawn to the rawness and warmth of lo-fi recordings, and we've definitely tried to emulate that in our music and sound. When Rob joined, he brought a lot of bands like Pixies and Radiohead back into the band's regular listening, so they've influenced us too. In the last few years, we've all been drawn back into the early 2000s garage rock bands that we loved as teenagers. The likes of The Strokes, Interpol and The Walkmen have definitely fed into the tunes we've been writing for the last while.” Paul enthuses.

For their sound, the lads are conscious not to overthink, and take pleasure from the buzz of what may grow from a seedling of an idea; it works best for them. “We usually write very improvisationally with both instrumentation and vocal melody as we feel that this helps us to write in a way that's unique and interesting for us. Generally, I think that our sound is characterised by rhythm centric song progressions with meandering lead lines and slowly building vocal phrases. Every song is different; you never want to write the same song twice, so we try to change it up every time.”

I had a captivating chat with Oisin Leahy Furlong from Thumper (adore them) about Dublin's eclectic scene not long ago and the joy it possesses, especially at the moment, in terms of musical exports. Paul airs his views on the matter: “We're big fans of Thumper too! I saw them at Electric Picnic in 2019, and they put on a deadly performance. Their new single is great as well. We're very fortunate to be based in Dublin. Before the current COVID madness, you could go into town on any night of the week and see such a wide variety of original and local music."

"That extends to all parts of Ireland as well really. There's great music coming out of places like Dundalk, Galway, Cork, Limerick, and everywhere in between. I think that there have always been amazing acts in Dublin; it's great that there's a bit of a spotlight on the city at the moment. Pillow Queens, Kojaque, Lankum, and Silverbacks would be some of my favourite Dublin acts at the moment, and they're all completely different sounding to each other, which is a testament to the diversity of the city's music scenes.”

Track and third single Nothing More was released September 4th and was produced at two mega yet contrasting studios: Darklands Audio and Abby Road. The guitarist muses over their positive and tailor-made experiences there. “We recorded and mixed Nothing More with Dan Doherty in Darklands Audio here in Dublin. We've worked with him on all of our singles, and he's never left us disappointed. Dan is very good at getting the best performance out of us and creating a relaxed environment. Most of the hard work was done with him in Dublin in terms of tracking and mixing.”

“Abbey Road is famous for its mastering services, and Christian Wright was someone who we thought would be a great fit for us. He has mastered music from the likes of Radiohead, Fontaines D.C., Arcade Fire, and Massive Attack, putting the final touches on the sound, preparing it for full commercial release. Having listened to how polished, warm, and energetic Christian’s previous work sounded, we decided to work with him. It resulted in a nice balance between Dan’s raw, gritty, and energetic production style with Christian’s ability to create warmth, balance, and sleekness.”

The song has a moody denseness that runs through differentiating sections and sees the band come to terms with identity and the struggle of finding a purpose in life. It was written in April during the unknown lockdown period. All isolating from each other, the pals could not meet up to write or play through ideas united as one. “We usually write in a very collaborative and back and forth way in our rehearsal room, so this song was a very new experience for us.

"Like a lot of people, I went into a bit of a downward spiralling headspace during the lockdown. I started out feeling frustrated that COVID had taken away the band, gigs, and socialising from me, and, as the lockdown went on, this started to turn into a more bleak state of mind where I became completely disheartened and unmotivated to do anything.

The lyrics are a reflection of that. They're about being unsure of yourself and who you are and what you are doing with your life. The song is about defining your own life meaning and overcoming uncertainty and existential anxiety.”

With the music and words written alongside each other, the melody presented itself to them first for some parts and others, just music. Paul divulges that the boys did't fancy a traditional structure with verses or a chorus, so each section of the tune differs from its predecessor. “I think this gives each section its own identity and allows the song to progress in a fluid and dynamic way. The song starts in a very ethereal and innocent-sounding way, which matches the naivety of the lyrics. As the lyrics become more defiant and self-assured, the music becomes more aggressive and precise. My favourite bit of the song is the last section, where there's a distinct change of tone and rhythm. I feel it highlights the sense of clarity that comes to the lyrics in that section.”

Effective use of light, slick editing, and crackling footage bore similarities to the video Hard To Explain by the band’s previously mentioned influence The Strokes. It was shot around the Kilmainham and Rialto areas of Dublin, where Bren is residing. Proving to be a tight-knit community, Paul adds that it was Bren's brother, Rob Clarke, and housemate Conor McLoughlin who directed and filmed the piece. “It was so cool to work on it with people who we all know so well and who are really close friends. We rented out a 1979 Audi for the car shots, which was a bit of craic to drive around."

"We had the camera stuck onto the bonnet; it definitely got a few looks from Bren's neighbours! I think we're all fairly comfortable in front of the camera at this stage. It makes it easier to be yourself on film when you're being shot by people who you're close with though, which is another reason we love to work with Rob and Conor.”

So box fresh are TV People that they are yet to experience the frantic, wild throws of a first tour. The plan was to play a few places around Ireland and the UK last year, but COVID put a harsh end to that. We consider a celebrated memory instead: “I remember our gig supporting Twisted Wheel in Whelan's as being one of my favourite gigs so far. It was a fun sold-out crowd, and we all had great craic with the lads in Twisted Wheel after the gig. Our headline show last summer in the Grand Social in Dublin is another great memory for me. It was really early on, and we hadn't written a lot of our current setlist yet, but seeing so many people turn up to see us was certainly a feeling that stuck with me as special.”

Playing further afield from Dublin in 2020 was not an option, so all that TV People can focus on for now is creating. Donohoe ends our look at his band by putting one foot in front of the other. “Making music together has been the only thing stopping us from losing our minds throughout the last few months, so we're going to be keeping it going for as long as lockdown lasts. Hopefully things will start to go back to normal soon, and we can get back to gigging and hopefully make a trip over to the UK for a show. Aside from that, we'd love to release a more long-form recording project, so we'll be looking into that over the next few months.”

Article by Beverley Knight