The Rock City archives: 2014

Little Matador, Rock City Basement

  • Saturday 29th March 2014

Little Matador rock. Their self-titled debut album, set for release by Fiction Records in early 2014, is an aggressive, sassy, incendiary collection dissecting love, loss, rejection, redemption, death and re-birth... all the important stuff.

"I've always wanted to do my own record," says frontman Nathan Connolly, who discerning readers may recognise as the guitarist of Snow Patrol. "I wanted to make a record with bite and conviction, swagger and integrity, a fresh, gritty, honest, modern rock album. And Little Matador is that record. It’s me out in the open, raw and exposed... and it's everything I hoped it would be."."

"The guys in Patrol were hugely supportive. Every musician wants more opportunities to create something different, and this feels like the right time for me. Little Matador is about trusting your instincts and having the confidence to act upon your convictions. People might have perceptions of who I am, based on what they know about Patrol, but this is the first time that people will hear exactly where I'm coming from."

In order to realise his vision, Connolly set about assembling a select team of collaborators, drawing upon musician friends who shared his love for visceral, committed rock 'n' roll. In Dublin he sought out drummer Paul 'Binzer' Brennan and bassist Gavin Fox, a crack rhythm section whose collective CVs incorporate stints in Idlewild, The Frames, Bell XI, Turn and Concerto For Constantine. Portland, Oregon's Troy Stewart, a member of Tired Pony and The Windsor Player, was recruited on guitar, and the line-up was completed with the addition of LaFaro guitarist Dave Magee, formerly Connolly's sidekick in his very first band, Belfast alternative rockers F.U.E.L. In 2012, the new-found union entered a Dublin rehearsal studio for the first time.

"I'd handpicked this band and I knew who I wanted straightaway, but there's nothing worse than going into a room with some of your best friends and realising that it's not really working," says Connolly. "The chemistry has to be right. I was just hoping that it would gel, and it completely did. We did three separate weeks of writing and then I was like 'Let's go do a record.' We had an energy and connection that I knew would translate into a great album."

Recorded with producer Sam Bell in Metropolis Studios in London in 2013, Little Matador, the quintet's 11 track debut album is an urgent, impassioned and undeniably thrilling snapshot of a band getting high on volume, fuzz, adrenaline and a shared passion for heart-stopping, breath-robbing rock 'n' roll. By turns vengeful, desperate, venomous and exhilarating, it’s both a raw and open-hearted documentation of a traumatic period in Connolly’s personal life and a rousing, empowering call-to-arms for dreamers and schemers endlessly questing for new horizons. From the opening stomp of Stitch Yourself Up to the tear-stained kiss-off of Leaving Anyway via the cathartic snarl of Liar Liar and the hit-me-with-your-best-shot defiance of Gimme All You Got, it’s an eclectic, vital and utterly compelling collection, which manages to sound timeless and modern all at once.

“I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Clash, Pixies and Nirvana, the music that I assumed everyone loved,” says Connolly. “So when it came time to make our record we went in there like, 'Right, here we are, this is it...bang!' without over-thinking what we were doing or being too self-aware of the references or influences on there: we just let it all come out because that's who we are. We can't pretend to be something we're not, because people will see through that. But I didn't want it just to be a homage to all those legendary groups: I love bands like The Kills, Queens Of The Stone Age and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs too, and the point was to make it fresh and raw and dirty, the sound of a band playing in the room. And I think we managed to bottle that magic.”

Ahead of the release of Little Matador, the quintet are taking their music to the people. Having racked up club shows in London and Dublin and performed with Nine Inch Nails at Belfast’s Belsonic Festival in August, the road beckons. And Connolly is excited about what lies ahead.