When he hears a band called The Sundays it reminds him of washing his Dad's car. He's still living at home only now his daily trip is a little longer than the one to Salesians.“I loved being in college but not because of the course”, he says of his time in Trinity College.
“I found it liberating. I loved the idea of being around girls; I went to an all boys school and in hindsight I think that was really unnatural. College was invigorating, though I think it would have been a richer experience if I hadn't lived at home.”He spent a summer in the States and another in Paris. Once he went to Jersey.“I spent six weeks busking in St. Hellier and it was illegal to busk at the time, you needed a licence and in order to get a licence you needed a full time job!So I just did it anyway. It was the first time busking was allowed in Jersey so there was huge interest in it. I was with a girlfriend at the time but the police never asked me for a licence. But when I arrived home a licence came for me in the post.”
He remembers taping Larry Gogan's top 30 hits on a Sunday afternoon. He never valued lyric over music but sometimes bad lyrics were too big a hurdle.“I would have loved certain songs growing up. I loved Paul Simon's Graceland, I would have found that wonderfully colourful and playful. I loved some Police songs that I thought were great in their narrative. Sometimes I just can't get by bad lyrics, or what I consider to be bad lyrics. But if you take a song like Wonderwall which I think is a great song but it kind of means nothing. There is a feeling to the song that communicates something beyond whatever nonsensical lyrics are on it. I love Nick Cave's lyrics, there's a song of his from The Boatman's Call called Are You The One That I've Been Waiting For and he sings 'all down my veins my heart-strings call'. I've loved that line since I heard it. Of my own, I don't really have a favourite. Doing the tour now will be good because certain songs only take on a life when you start playing them live and certain lines take on a life because you can feel a real reaction and a sense of anticipation for them. On the song Next to You off the last album, there's a line that goes 'and those holy souvenirs at Knock that come all the way from China' and there's always a sense that the crowd love singing that line.”
What do you love about music?“It's not really something you can quantify. As a language I think it's something far more communicative and touches places that others don't.”
“I would be quite bothered by bad press”, he says when asked about the reaction to Flock, BellX1's latest album. “I would like to think that I'm immune to it but I would be [bothered]. I would like to think that people like what we do… so other people's opinion of what we do and what I am personally, do affect me. I get plagued by self doubt all the time”.
Are BellX1 successful?“Yea”, he answers. “We haven't achieved success in financial ways, in terms of selling a shit load of records so I don't know how that will affect us, I'm sure it will.”
What is success then?“To make good records, to be able to stand over them and to maintain a sense of hunger about what you do, to challenge yourself about what you do and never become complacent”, he declares.It will be a while before they'll know if Flock sells 'a shit load of records'. Initially success may be measured against their previous album and in that vein Noonan feels that Flock is much less of personal record.“I think, thematically, it's a very different record to Music in Mouth. I used to think, or at least I like to think that there is more coherent theme but there are quite a few themes…Modern Ireland and how we are the first generation in a first world Ireland is quite a strong theme I think. And the ambivalent feelings I have about it, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing and it has taken a lot from our national identity.”
“There are certain songs that have very kind definite meanings. There's a song called Rocky Took A Lover and it's…I used to live in Smithfield in Dublin for many years and there was a homeless guy who lived on our street and he used to sleep outside the back of our house on a wooden pallet and one morning we got up, we used to bring him a cup of tea in the morning occasionally and stuff, we looked out and he had scored, he was lying there with a woman! And he got up and he set up his little mirror and shaving cream on the green electricity box and he started shaving and we had never seen him shave before. It was really sweet and the song is an imagining of a conversation they might have had that morning. He was foul when he was drunk, he was abusive but when he was sober he was lovely and I imagined him having been drunk the night before and her trying to keep him together and then in the morning he was all kind of positive and wide eyed and 'how beautiful life is'. And she's like 'you're a mess, why are you saying this? you don't mean it'. And when he's pointing at the stars and saying 'the three wise men followed that star' and she answers by saying 'I don't believe in Jesus, if there was a God then why is my arse the perfect height for kicking?'”
There's some great wit in the album I say.“I've always liked lines that raise a smile and I feel a great satisfaction when you fall upon a line that will do hopefully do that”, he replies.“He Said, She Said is a rant against Heat magazine [Gossip Magazine] and all that it stands for. Reacharound is quite specifically about Ireland, about the old boys network, the institutions of Fianna Fail, the Garda Síochána and the GAA that thrive on this culture of the cute hoor and this fella who can throw a few shapes and bend the rules generally at the expense of others.”
Are you a romantic?“Yes I am. I like grand, romantic things. I like a good story, I like theatricality in art, and I like grandness. I do have faith in people and think people are capable of good. I think it's a battle but…” he drifts off before imploring the cynicism he finds in himself from time to time.
It's almost time for the food in those Styrofoam boxes.“I love the touring”, he continues. “As a band I think there's a kind of skittish, excitement about today, about getting in the bus. I'd hate to lose that, I'd hate for it to become like work. I remember we toured with Starsailor and for them it seemed to be work.”In a few hours time BellX1 will play the first date of their Flock promotional tour in the University Concert Hall in Limerick.
“It is a privilege to be able to do this for a living”, he affirms. “Sometimes you lose sight of that. When you hear a lot of people moaning about their jobs and saying how they hate their work, I really want to believe that isn't true that they're spending 40, 50, 60 hours a week doing something they hate. That is really saddening. But I think that there's a lot of 'people [who] like to moan'!”
Paul Noonan isn't moaning but his stomach's nearly groaning.He departs to eat. He's just finished an album; he's midway through John McGahern's latest work, Memoir, and he's about to commence a tour of the country. His own beginning, middle and end.