Editors' Notes Fontaines D.C. singer Grian Chatten was with bandmates Tom Coll and Conor Curley in a pub somewhere in the US when the words “Happy is living in a closed eye” came to him. It was possibly in Chicago, he thinks, and certainly during their 2019 tour. “We were playing pool and drinking some shit Guinness,” he tells Apple Music. “I was drinking an awful lot and there was a sense of running away on that tour—because we were so overworked. The gigs were really good and full of energy, but it almost felt like a synthetic, anxious energy. We were all burning the candle at both ends. I think my subconscious was trying to tell me when I wrote that line that I was not really facing reality properly. Ever since I've read Oscar Wilde, I've always been fascinated by questioning the validity of living soberly or healthily.”

The line eventually made its way into “Sunny”, a track from the band’s second album A Hero’s Death. Like much of the record, that unsteady waltz is an absorbing departure from the rock ’n’ roll punch of their Mercury-nominated debut, Dogrel. Released in April 2019, Dogrel quickly established the Irish five-piece as one of the most exciting guitar bands on their side of the Atlantic, throwing them into an exacting tour and promo schedule. When the physical and mental strains of life on the road bore down—on many nights, Chatten would have to visit dark memories to re-engage with the thoughts and feelings behind some songs—the five-piece sought relief and refuge in other people’s music. “We found ourselves enjoying mostly gentler music that took us out of ourselves and calmed us down, took us away from the fast-paced lifestyle,” says Chatten. “I think we began to associate a particular sound and kind of music, one band in particular would have been The Beach Boys, that helped us feel safe and calm and took us away from the chaos.”

That, says Chatten, helps account for the immersive and expansive sound of A Hero’s Death. With their world being refracted through the heat haze of interstate highways and the disconcerting fog of days without much sleep, there’s a dreaminess and longing in the music. It’s in the percussive roll of “Love Is the Main Thing” and the harmonies swirling around the title track’s rigorous riffs. It drifts through the uneasy reflection of “Sunny”. “‘Sunny’ is hard for me to sing,” says Chatten, “just because there are so many long fucking notes. And I have up until recently been smoking pretty hard. But I enjoy the character that I feel when I sing it. I really like the embittered persona and the gin-soaked atmosphere.”

While Dogrel’s lyrics carried poetic renderings of life in modern Dublin, A Hero’s Death burrows inward. “Dublin is still in the language that I use, the colloquialisms and the way that I express things,” says Chatten. “But I consider this to be much more a portrait of an inner landscape. More a commentary on a temporal reality. It's a lot more about the streets within my own mind.” Throughout, Chatten can be found examining a sense of self. He does it with bracing defiance on “I Don’t Belong” and “I Was Not Born”, and with aching resignation on “Oh Such a Spring”—a lament for people who go to work “just to die”. ”I worked a lot of jobs that gave me no satisfaction and forced me to shelve temporarily who I was,” says Chatten. “I felt very strongly about people I love being in the service industry and having to become somebody else and suppress their own feelings and their own views, their own politics, to make a living. How it feels after a shift like that, that there is blood on your hands almost. You’re perpetuating this lie, because it’s a survival mechanism for yourself.”

Ambitious and honest, A Hero’s Death is the sound of a band protecting their ideals when the demands of being rock’s next big thing begin to exert themselves. ”One of the things we agreed upon when we started the band was that we wouldn't write a song unless there was a purpose for its existence,” says Chatten. “There would be no cases of churning anything out. It got to a point, maybe four or five tunes into writing the album, where we realised that we were on the right track of making art that was necessary for us, as opposed to necessary for our careers. We realised that the heart, the core of the album is truthful.”

SONG
I Don't Belong
1
4:31
 
Love Is the Main Thing
2
3:53
 
Televised Mind
3
4:10
 
A Lucid Dream
4
3:53
 
You Said
5
4:36
 
Oh Such a Spring
6
2:32
 
A Hero's Death
7
4:18
 
Living in America
8
4:57
 
I Was Not Born
9
3:49
 
Sunny
10
4:52
 
No
11
5:08
 

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