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Track-by-Track: The Coronas Run Down ‘The Best Of The Early Days’



The Coronas in Sydney
The Coronas in Sydney

As they continue to stay busy, curating a batch of new songs for their loyal fans, The Coronas are looking back before they look forward. The Irish group recently dropped their new compilation The Best of the Early Days. Released before the end of last year through the band’s SoFarSoGood record label, the album features twelve tracks lifted from their first three records. It’s the very best of the best, along with one new song, the album closer “One Last Time.” The compilation comes at a good time, tracing how The Coronas have evolved over the years since their humble beginnings. It’s meant to be a treat for fans and help close the book on this chapter of the band’s career.

While fans of The Coronas enjoy this compilation, the band is hard at work on new music. They are currently in the studio writing and recording. Along for the ride to assist is producer George Murphy, who has worked with The Specials, Ellie Goulding, and Mumford & Sons. The band is recording at Eastcote Studios in London, where they have a certain level of comfort from recording there previously. This will be their eighth studio album and kick off their career’s next phase. Not that they plan to make any drastic changes to their sound. But it’s important to close the book on The Corona’s finest hour thus far.

Joining us today for an exclusive track-by-track is lead singer Danny O’Reilly. Read on as he enlightens us about the creative process and how these songs took shape.

1. “Addicted To Progress”

“‘Addicted’ was one of the earliest songs we wrote for the Closer to You album. We recorded and released it while we were still in the studio, before finishing the rest of the album. I remember us writing it together in a house in Wexford, and it coming together pretty quickly. The dance groove from (drummer) Conor (Egan) and (bassist) Knoxy (Graham Knox) was immediately fun to play, and as soon (former guitarist) Dave (McPhillips) added the riff, we knew we had something special.”

2. “Listen Dear”

“We had a rough, slower version of ‘Listen Dear’ on a demo with two other ballads, ‘Warm’ and ‘Faith in Faith,’ when we started work on Tony Was an Ex-Con. I think Conor had gotten sick of me showing up with slow song ideas because as soon as we began fleshing this out as a band, he hit the intro shotgun snare drums, and we were away. It became the first single off the album. At a time when we needed a strong follow-up to ‘San Diego Song’ and ‘Heroes or Ghosts,’ it did really well for us.”

3. “Grace, Don’t Wait!”

“Written on a roof in Chicago in 2006, ‘Grace’ embodied the influence of the bands we loved at the time. The Kooks and The Killers were singing songs of optimism and excitement that we adored as students trying to make music. I’m 90 percent sure that I robbed the chords from a Justin Timberlake song, ‘My Love,’ that we had covered.

“We were so green we didn’t even use click tracks in the studio back then. The album version is quite slow, but we used to play it a good 50 percent faster live, which was so much fun. Our naivety was part of the charm of the Heroes or Ghosts album.”

4. “Someone Else’s Hands”

“The bulk of this song was written in Wexford for the Tony album in late 2008/early 2009. The four of us would lock ourselves away in a little house and, if we could drag ourselves away from intense games of Mario Kart or FIFA, we would occasionally write something we were proud of. This was one of those.

“The song was lacking a proper ending, so we tried to just cello-tape in this other bit that I had written a few weeks earlier. I think it was Knoxy who suggested we try them out together, and even though they have different tempos and different keys, it worked. I must give a special mention to the string and horn arrangement by James Hallawell, which sprinkled on magic.”

5. “San Diego Song”

“This was written almost tongue-in-cheek. We thought it might end up being a cool B-side, but I reckon the reason it connected with people was because although it wasn’t serious, it also wasn’t contrived. We were students living on instant noodles and cheap alcohol for a summer in America, and writing about that connected with more people than we ever imagined.

“As soon as we played ‘San Diego Song’ live, without it even being released, it got a reaction that told us we were on to something. A Dublin radio station, FM104, got behind it, back when radio support could literally make a band. A couple of months later, it was the last song of the night in a Dublin nightclub called Copper Faced Jacks. The strange thing was that we were still the students dancing to it in Coppers, in disbelief that people knew our music. Love it or loathe it, ‘San Diego Song’ gave us a foot in the door, and, in fairness to us, we didn’t take it for granted.”

6. “Dreaming Again”

“We’ve always embraced different styles of music. We never wanted to limit ourselves to a specific genre, but rather try to get the best out of each individual song. By Closer to You, our third album, we weren’t showing any signs of getting away from that strategy. The album opens with a heavy blues/rock song and veers into pop, dance, and folk. We had an idea to do a song in 3/4 (or is it 6/8? I’m not sure, but it’s basically a waltz). Lyrically, there’s more positivity on this album than Tony, I think, and ‘Dreaming Again’ captures the joy in yearning for something.”

The Coronas ‘The Best Of The Early Days’ album artwork

The Coronas ‘The Best Of The Early Days’ album artwork

7. “Warm”

“I wanted to write a love song that wasn’t afraid to admit it was a love song. Simple, honest, not trying to be cool or clever. The lads really liked it, and it was they who suggested we keep it bare and simple. It became a lovely moment on the Tony album and, to this day, we still get couples telling us how much it means to them, which is a pretty cool compliment.”

8. “Far From Here”

“After the whirlwind that was Heroes or Ghosts, I remember being in Dingle with the band and them asking if I had any new songs. The pub we were in was very quiet, so I took out my guitar and played them a rough sketch of ‘Far From Here.’ They all instantly liked it (which isn’t always the case!) and so we were away with album number two. The first thing they said was that breakdown/build-up section is going to be great live, and they were right. We always found ourselves trying to write songs that would improve our live set, and we still do to this day.”

9. “Mark My Words”

“By the time Closer to You came out, we had been touring for over four years and felt a bit more sure of ourselves as a band going into the studio. I have fond memories of recording this album in L.A. in 2011. Ambition was still something I continued to write about and, lyrically, both ‘Mark My Words’ and ‘Addicted To Progress’ hinted at that desire to improve. Again, we hoped the big breakdown section would work live, which it did, thankfully. It closed our live shows for years to come.”

10. “Heroes Or Ghosts”

“I liked ‘Heroes or Ghosts’ when I wrote it, but no more than the other songs I was writing at the time. Then I played it to the band and, straight away, I saw their ears perk up. They picked up their instruments to play along, which is always a good sign.

“I wrote the first verse after we came in fourth out of six bands in a ‘Battle of the Bands’ in UCD. And I was devastated, but our manager Jim said to not let it get to me. I really thought we had something going with the band so I wrote about that.

“Over the years, this song has had many life cycles — Irish versions, acoustic versions or crowds singing it back to us. Its importance to our fans has never faded, which is something I’m incredibly proud of.”

11. “Closer to You”

“Written in a house in Dingle, Co. Kerry in early 2011, this song appeared almost out of thin air. We had spent a full day working on another (probably terrible) song idea, and just as we were about to call it a day, Conor started playing the drum beat, and we all fell in on the song instantly. I ran upstairs, scribbled the lyrics during a tea break, and that was it. It remains one of our favourite songs to play live.”

12. “I Choose Love”

“This is another song that was written in San Diego — or maybe just before we went there in 2006. I had scribbled down some stream-of-consciousness nonsense to get me started on the lyrics. Then I just decided to sing them as they were, not thinking too much about rhyme or rhythm. I knew something was interesting about the honesty and conversational tone of the lyrics, a technique that I’ve continued to use over the years. It was, as all break-up songs should be, cathartic for me at the time.”

13. “One Last Time”

“This ‘new’ song was once known as ‘Bonus Night’ and was recorded during the Tony Was An Ex-Con sessions and, in fact, written in 2007. It has never been heard until now. We’ve always loved it, but, at the time, we felt that ‘Warm’ was the album’s acoustic moment and having another stripped-back song would have been too much. It has a beautiful string arrangement by James Hallawell. It’s a Coronas gem that I’m delighted we can finally share with our fans.”

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