Unusual is one way of putting it or maybe it’s the start of something novel. A band with rock n’roll desires firmly rooted in a rural part of Ireland that appreciates the native stew, early morning starts and practices in a converted turkey shed.
The Flaws, like many another Irish band, have crept onto the radar, growing through word of mouth and popular appeal. A product of hard work, ambition and passion but still dangling insecurely between critical and commercial success. The tributes have been glowing while the band notch up achievement after achievement. A record deal, a well received single, a place on the bill of the Trinity Ball and now a slot on a live 2FM tour.
Except the contract is elusive again. They were signed on a one-year deal with Polydor which ended in 2006. In the meantime they’ve been working on an album, naivete replaced by a growing wisdom and the reality of being in a band with little money. Dane McMahon, the bass player, is leaving this interview to sort out some posters. As he works his way through a stew in a swanky Dublin hotel, he’s worried he might have to work as a labourer in June, just to get some money together.”If you find something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” he quotes the old aphorism.
McMahon quit an engineering degree and the extreme sportsman in him is resigned to boring laps of a swimming pool. He’s hiked in the Alps and walked across glaciers where a slip of concentration could send you 100 metres to a certain death. Guitarist Shane �Bugsy’ Malone left a burgeoning Gaelic football talent behind to play lead guitar for a living. But hey, they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, certainly not working the month of June as labourers.”It’s a wee bit of a sentence sometimes, it’s like you’re just waiting for the red phone to go. Like the Trinity gig we played last Friday, we might only find out about that on a Wednesday but you’re going to want to do that gig. You can’t really commit yourself to other things,” says McMahon.
They’re unusual in that maybe they’re not. Not inaccessible, not distant or dreamy. They’re Irish country lads, they still live in Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan and come to Dublin to create music a million miles removed from both, certainly judging by the plaudits.
Exciting, majestic, brilliant. It’s an impressive roll call of endorsements.
“I love the city for gigs and stuff, we can walk home, no worries about driving or taxis or collecting people.
I’m still a country boy, you still miss getting up in the morning,” says McMahon, who doesn’t hide his Monaghan accent behind an affected tone.”When I started college I went out to Maynooth a few times to see some of my mates from Carrick and they had the new accents already! �Let’s go to the LA’,” he mimmicks his mates, talking as if they were going to the real LA, when it was just a dingy student pub in a town with a university and nothing else.
Other memories of Carrick are of traffic jams and the garbs of a Saturday night, where dress sense went out the window and forever left an imprint in his mind.There’s a strange tradition in Irish towns and niteclubs. It’s a challenge to dress as ridiculously as you can, or at least it used to be that way before the Celtic Tiger poured scorn on the idea. Back in the day, wearing a sports jersey was dressing up, wearing a GAA county jersey was a way to attract attention and by default, women.”The best thing I ever seen when I was younger was drainpipe jeans, big doc martens, a Monaghan Milk cap and a check shirt. The Monaghan Milk cap just sealed it for me, anytime I see tight jeans, doc martens and a check shirt, I just see the Monaghan milk cap.”
Music was a greater draw for Shane �Bugsy’ Malone the lead guitarist. He wore his GAA colours at U21 level for Monaghan and is still talked about as a talent that should come back.”Bugsy, he was committed, he was nearly hounded for three months when he said he was quitting to go and play music, in a small town boys were saying ‘what the fuck are you at?’ There’s nothing in that'”Because he was such an important player with Corduff, I still hear boys going on about him, I was having a swim one day and one of the boys from Corduff was there telling me, ‘he’s seriously missed’ and this was a year and a bit later. They’re still giving out about it, it was a big deal when he left.The GAA is only a certain time span and they treated him like shit anyway whereas he can do this for the rest of his life,” reckons McMahon.Doing it for the rest of their lives will be tough. They’ve yet to make their first album, though it should be out in September, while the single ‘Sixteen’ was released on May 18. A tour of the country is taking up their time in the coming weeks.
For now their time is spent applying the detail, and the finishing touches to the album. Deciding what to add, what to take and what to leave to make it sound as perfect as they can, without losing the creation they intended making in the first place. They’re working with producer, Gareth Mannix, the man behind Republic of Loose and Director.”Gareth’s great, he can do so many things, he has like a magic box! He’d be like �You could do it at this tempo, you could it in this key, you can do this with it.’ There’s no end to it. Sometimes it’s the best, when you get excited about it when you’re writing it to leave it that way because after you play it for about 50 times you start losing the tingle for it. You really have to trust your first thought sometimes.”
How the band came about isn’t much of a mystery but there’s a funny story about McMahon’s arrival.He didn’t know the lads even though he went to school with them. There were a few classes of the one year but their paths never crossed.It was only when they came to college that he met Bugsy. The other three, Bugsy, Stephen Finnegan and the lead singer Paul Anthony Finn, had already been in bands of various guises.At the time they were short a bass player. They were getting the bus back to Carrick from Dublin one evening, the Friday at the end of a college week in first year, and they joked that the next man on the bus would be their missing link. McMahon’s head appeared in the centre aisle.”We’re all in to the Cure and the Smiths, all those sort of guitar bands and then we’d be into the Who and stuff like that as well. We’ve a big mix, I think a lot of bands are like that now. We’re using an 80s sound I think. People put us into the same bracket as the Killers and Interpol. Others put us with Snow Patrol.”
The Who reference makes sense for McMahon even though he didn’t believe his mother the first time she told him.”My mam used to play Baba O’Reilly when I was just about to be born. She told me she’d be painting the house, when I was just in the womb and she was playing all these vinyls, so I must have been bopping away in the womb,” he laughs but it was only when his mother rooted the vinyls out of the attic that he took it seriously.
The Flaws took the name because they liked what it implied. Like The Kinks, there was something imperfect about the title, imperfect about the band, sometimes the flaws are as important as the strengths.After a year with Polydor they hadn’t finished their album and their deal wasn’t renewed.”We were disappointed to get dropped, maybe not pissed off. We were pissed off at first because we didn’t know what was going on but business is business and there’s so many bands out there. We were taking our time to learn. If the album is a year late, so be it. What’s going to happen next year, we could split up or hate each other but at least we’ll have an album we can be proud of.”
It’ll be ready when they’re happy with those flaws.
The Flaws new single 16 is now available through