Rapidly rising through the ranks of the Irish music scene are the Dublin garage rock fourpiece Otherkin. The band are fresh off the back of gracing the stage at Reading & Leeds and the Electric Picnic. With their debut album OK about to surface, I had the pleasure of having a chat with bassist David Anthony and drummer Rob Summons.
The inception of Otherkin goes back to 2010 when David and Conor Wynne (lead guitarist) who knew each other from school met Luke Reilly (vocalist/guitarist) in college. The three of them spent a summer in Toronto together, a trip which proved to be an inspiration. David says “we ended up spending half of the summer playing music on our porch… we got home and thought we should start a band.” The project was fully set into motion when they found Rob from an online forum in 2012. The band name comes from a subculture that socially and spiritually identify as partially or wholly non-human. Rob and David assured they are not part of this subculture.
At a time where there is a palpable absence of guitar-driven music from young, vibrant bands, Otherkin are an exception. The band shares a love of Queens of the Stone Age, the Clash, Ramones and Nirvana. Rob feels they have “slight elements of grunge, punk and indie.” They loved the energy of modern skate punk bands like FIDLAR and grew up with noughties indie rock. Otherkin are aware of how the musical landscape has changed in the past decade; “the whole indie rock revival has gone – stuff like grime and hip hop has replaced it” says Rob. David agrees that nowadays “the largest rock bands are heritage acts… we are definitely trying to make sure that rock n’ roll comes back into the frame.” Rob says that “for a lot of bands, their live performances are pretty boring; that flair has been missing.” Otherkin really thrive when playing gigs and the songs are written with a view to them being played live.
The quartet have put out two EPs so far – The 201 and The New Vice. However, their debut album is a major feather in the cap for the band. “It’s the amalgamation of years of writing music” Rob explains. “There are some songs which are 3 or 4 years old.” David says “we took time to write OK – it’s one cohesive piece of music of music that represents Otherkin.” The record is a ride through modern day anxieties replete with relatable themes such as betrayal and being messed around by somebody. Otherkin don’t hide away from social commentary although they do not consider themselves to be a political band. “There are a lot of songs on the album that address issues close to home, here in Dublin such as drugs and homelessness” according to David.
To get their creative juices flowing, Otherkin retreated to rural Irish farmhouses, writing a lot of OK in them. Rob says “we locked ourselves away in a place down in Cavan down for a while”. They were free of any distractions such as the Internet. “We just wanted to really force ourselves into isolation and see what came about” David explains. “Half of the album was written in a music room in Dublin; the rest of it was written in the middle of nowhere.” There was an element of cabin fever for the band.
Accompanying their song, Otherkin have striking music videos – artistic and memorable ones. The colourful video for “REACT” features a man in a suit, gradually expanding in size, prancing around the band. The video for Yeah I Know” contains a dark, callous murder scene filmed in monochrome. In Rob’s view, Otherkin are a very visual band. He points out that the band are highly aware of their appearance. They are normally clad in black and white. The relationship between music and music videos has changed significantly since when Rob and David were growing up. David describes the situation – “there is more chance to go viral now but at the same time the era of music television is gone.”
Otherkin have been amassing recognition on a global scale. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich played “Yeah I Know” on his Beats 1 show twice in a row. They were included in NME’s Radar section, which has, over the years thrown up acts that would go on to achieve fame. Otherkin have been given a taste of large crowds as a support act for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fall Out Boy and Guns n’ Roses at Slane which was a magical moment for Luke who is a local resident of the Meath town. At a time where rock music is in need of a facelift or revival, Otherkin could be the ones to save the day.
OK comes out on September 29 on Rubyworks Records. Otherkin will play an in-store gig in Tower Records the same day. On December 15, they will play at the Button Factory.
Adam Bielenberg – Music Editor