Fontaines D.C. is an Irish post-punk band formed in Dublin in 2017. Fontaines D.C.comprises Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums).
After meeting while attending music college, and bonding over a common love of poetry, Fontaines D.C.began self-releasing singles and performing live regularly, signing to Partisan Records in 2018. The band’s debut album, Dogrel, was released on 12 Apri l 2019 to widespread critical acclaim; it was listed as Album of the Year on the record store Rough Trade’s website, voted Album of the Year by presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music, and was nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize.
Fontaines D.C.’s second studio album, A Hero’s Death, was written and recorded in the midst of extensive touring for their debut, and was released on 31 July 2020. A Hero’s Death was later nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards. Their third album Skinty Fia, released in 2022, became the band’s first to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart and Irish Albums Chart.
Since the release of their debut album, Dogrel, in 2019, Fontaines D.C. have risen to international stardom. This year alone they have embarked on a mammoth world tour, performed an electric set on the Reading and Leeds main stage and have recently been announced as the support for Arctic Monkeys on their 2023 North American tour. Yet their early tunes were firmly set in the city of Dublin, the band’s home at the time. Throughout Dogrel, Chatten sings vividly of life in the Irish capital, his site-specific descriptions and social commentary serving as an intoxicating setting for tales of heartbreak and ambition.
The opening track ‘Big’ instantly blasts open the record with the brilliant first line: “Dublin in the rain is mine / a pregnant city with a Catholic mind”. The capital is supposedly fertile and full of opportunity, yet its newfound sense of social liberalism clashes with entrenched traditional Catholic views. Bear in mind – it was only in 2018 that abortion was legalised in Ireland for up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, signalling an existent yet painfully slow change of attitudes. With its defiant punk sound, the song declares its rebel spirit – borrowed from traditional Irish music – that will pulsate throughout the rest of the album.
Each track continues to explore the complexity of Irish identity, as well as the risk of being consumed by nationalism. In the singalong banger ‘Boys in the Better Land’, Chatten describes meeting an obsessively anglophobic taxi driver who only smokes Irish cigarettes and “spits out Brits out”.
Whilst the band do not venture too boldly into themes of class and poverty, they do criticise the pressures of capitalism and infatuation with money around them in ‘Too Real’ and ‘Chequeless Reckless’. The romantic finale of the album, ‘Dublin City Sky’, presents a love for a partner that is almost inseparable from a love for Dublin itself. The song is reminiscent of The Pogues’ ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’, with its swaying 3/4 time and crooned tale of being in the company of a woman in a rainy city. This mutated Irish love ballad concludes a thoroughly Irish story.
Skinty Fia is an Irish phrase which translates to English as “the damnation of the deer” and the album’s cover art features a deer, plucked from its natural habitat and deposited in the hallway of a home, illuminated by an artificial red glow. The Irish giant deer is an extinct species and the band’s thoughts on Irish identity are central to Skinty Fia.
While Dogrel was littered with snapshots of the Dublin characters – like the cabbie in “Boys In The Better Land” – and A Hero’s Death documented the dislocation and disconnection the band felt as they traveled the globe on tour, on Skinty Fia Fontaines D.C. are addressing their Irishness from afar as they recreate new lives for themselves elsewhere. For a band whose hometown courses through their veins – “D.C.” stands for “Dublin City” – the album finds them trying to resolve the need to broaden their horizons with the affection they still feel for the land and people they’ve left behind.