+ Special Guests
THE PLEA: Denny Doherty (Vocals, guitar, piano); Dermot Doherty (guitar); Paul Toland (bass); Gerry Strawbridge (Drums).
“Music has to have a connection. If it comes in right, it can punch you in the face or feel like an electric shock. You just know it when a song hits you like that, and these songs all have this effect on me. I don’t need a second opinion on that..” – Denny Doherty
Sometimes, trying to analyse the power of music can be pointless – it’s best instead to bathe in the power of the songs and roar your head off to them.
For the giant anthems of The Plea, few rationales are needed. After playing their debut album The Dreamers Stadium, it’s difficult to imagine a time when you hadn’t sung along to Oh Ah Yay, leapt about to Feel It Ticking or felt shivers from the majestic Glass Waltz.
It’s best that the listener luxuriates in the music rather than try to hypothesise, because its makers aren’t going to offer many clues.
As singer Denny Doherty reasons: “The lyrics are extremely personal, and I don’t like explaining them. Would you feel the need to explain what’s written in your diary to a stranger? Not that I’ve ever kept one.” Which may sound diffident but, as Denny points out, no two people get the same interpretations from a painting either.
Mind you, the album’s centrepiece – the seven-minute climactic ballad Windchime – is “definitely not about a whore, as someone told me. But if that’s what in the mind of the strange person who thought that, I’m happy to let them believe it. Once your music is out there, it’s not yours anymore.”
Music comes so naturally to The Plea, it’s even easier to understand their reticence for picking it apart. They grew up in Ballyliffin, Co Donegal, the kind of place where, according to Denny: “If someone’s born, there’s music. If someone dies, there’s music .” Indeed, Denny and his older brother, guitarist Dermot, had a gran who was a promising opera singer. “She had 16 children instead, which put a hitch in that plan, but she still sings in a choir.
“Music is something that enhances life one way or another and I think music has its hand in everybody’s life in some way .”
The Dohertys recruited childhood friend Paul Toland on bass and nicked drummer Gerry Strawbridge from another local band, setting about to make music with as much ambition and as little fuss as possible.
“Everybody is self-taught in the band,” says Denny. “It makes the music freer. Paul doesn’t even consider himself a bassist – he played it upside-down for about five years, but he’s damn good.”
The Dohertys share songwriting duties, though they write separately. As Denny notes: “I don’t want this to sound like the Gallaghers, but if we spend longer than five hours in a room together, we end up wanting to kill each other. But, in the studio, when we’re on the same page we can tune into each other for as long as it takes .
“Being brothers is better in the long run. If I didn’t know Dermot so well, I wouldn’t be so straightforward in talking to him. We’re not wary around each other – if something is shite, we can say it direct.”
It’s a combative, competitive relationship that drives The Plea’s songs to ever greater heights, but their underlying tenderness is captured in the finale of the carousing Out Like A Light, where they take turns to namecheck their favourite albums and songs by The Beatles , Bob Dylan, The Smiths and co.
“It’s nice for both of us to sing that one in harmony when we play it live,” laughs Denny. “It shows how we really feel about each other… before we fuck off to our separate hotel rooms.”
The album showcases the classic raw power of four men playing in a room together, with the scope of The Verve, the swagger of The Rolling Stones and the communal stadium mood of Led Zeppelin. It’s topped off by Denny’s wide-ranging, hypnotic vocals.
“I love how Jim Morrison was able to croon like Sinatra,” explains Denny. “Before The Doors’ music explodes and shakes you.”
The Dreamers Stadium is produced by Chris Potter, who has also overseen albums by everyone from The Rolling Stones, The Clash and The Verve while keeping his enthusiasm by working with new acts like King Charles and The Rifles.
“Chris was so chilled, even though we were in a tiny studio for months,” enthuses Denny. “Chris was able to suggest exactly which guitar pedals to use to recreate the sounds in Dermot’s head. He’s got the biggest pedal rack known to humanity, and Dermot was like a kid in a toy shop throughout.”
It’s been a long haul to get The Plea to release an album, having had the usual hard-luck tales of label deals that collapsed since forming five years ago.
Unusually, they’re signed to Planet Function, an imprint of none-more-dance label R&S, more associated with Aphex Twin and Biosphere than call-to-arms rock. But, as Denny shrugs, “They offered us a proper contract and we trust each other. Renaat and Sabine found our music online and we’ve had great conversations on music and it’s place in both our lives.
“We knew we had met the right people for us – Renaat manages the band and his ego and vision might even be bigger than ours.”
The deal follows years of “all kinds of shit jobs like labouring, and taking the covers gigs at Irish bars and clubs in England and America.” They’d sneak in new songs in the middle of those shows “and they’d always blend in well” – no mean feat for audiences who wanted to sing along to every word to familiar classics.
The meaning behind The Plea’s name is as enigmatic as their lyrics, though not as deliberately.
“Me and Dermot got hammered one night in London and woke up with bits of paper all over the place,” recalls Denny. “On loads of them, we’d scrawled ‘Jacob’s Plea’. No idea why but, whatever the hell we’d been drinking, some bright light came in through the window to inspire us.
“We started out as Jacob’s Plea, but people around town coming to gigs just called us The Plea and we took it from them. Simple as that.”
Having been together for so long, they’ve amassed enough songs for four albums already, but the songs on The Dreamers Stadium are written fresh, simply chosen as “The most personal ones that fit together the best.
“All the album’s songs came together very quickly – they were instant and we just couldn’t ignore them”.
It’s an album that should see the band go some way towards fulfilling their ambitions. Which are? “World domination,” states Denny instantly. “That’s what every band wants, surely?” Not for The Plea the “If anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus” attitude, then. “We’re going to gig like mad, make a second record, then a third, a fourth… OK, we’ve just finished the first record and that journey was unknown, but now we get to imagine the next one
“Getting people to our concerts, have them singing our songs back at us, that’s the best. That’s beautiful.”
With songs this infectious, they can look forward to a contented career. It’s a Plea that’s easy to agree on, with no further explanations needed.
Tickets €8 available from www.wavtickets.ie or call the WAV Box Office [Lo-call 1890 200 078]
AFTER THE GIG
Whelan’s Indie Club w/ Late Bar from 10:30pm.