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Practice makes perfect

David Hennessy spoke to Fionn and Oisín from Dublin band Late Night Pharmacy about their new song inspired by Elon Musk’s treatment of his ex- wife and getting mistaken for Ed Sheeran/ Prince Harry.

Late Night Pharmacy’s new single Practice Wife was inspired by a quote from Elon Musk’s first wife and is the first release since the well received Can’t Sleep Without Paracetamol.

The band are continuing to establish themselves on the alternative rock scene.

Just before the pandemic, they were one of four Irish bands selected to participate in the TiLT Development Deal, in collaboration with Totally Irish 98FM.

As a result, The band played a show in the Button Factory and recorded two songs in Temple Bar’s renowned Sun Studios.

More recently, the band worked with producer Aidan Cunningham (The Blizzards, Overhead the Albatross) to produce and mix three songs. The band released these five songs as singles over the course of 2021, receiving coverage and airplay on 98 FM, Hot Press and Golden Plec, among others.

The band successfully returned to the live arena by playing sold-out shows in the Button Factory and Whelan’s in September and October 2021.

In August 2022, the band released the single Is It Because, which they commemorated with a sold-out headline show in Whelan’s.

Last Friday they played Workman’s Club in Dublin with support from Orchid Feeder and Eskimo. Additionally, the band has a double headliner show at Wigwam on August 26th, sharing the stage with Orwell’s 84, and featuring Anie Valentine as the supporting act.

We chatted to guitarist Fionn Murray and bass player Oisín who told us the song is written from the perspective of a woman being left for a younger model.

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“It was a column written by his (Elon Musk) ex-wife,” Fionn explains.

“She said that it was her perception that he’d used her as a practice wife or a starter wife I think was the phrase she used just to sort of essentially perfect his husband technique.

“I just liked the idea of that so we sort of wrote the song from the perspective of a woman in a similar situation.

“She once said to Elon Musk, ‘I’m your wife, not your employee’.

“And he replied, ‘If you were my employee, I’d fire you’.

“I was like…”

We think Fionn says ‘God’ but it is drowned out by his exasperation.

Oisín continues: “It’s a funny one.

“It’s taking that funny little quote from her and just expanding that into a whole idea of satire, what it would be like to be someone’s practice wife, a metaphor

like driving a banger of a car before you go and get your beamer or whatever.”

Like the previous single Can’t Sleep Without Paracetamol, Practice Wife is written from a different perspective.

“It’s funny,” Fionn says. “Because we recorded these two singles at the same time and they’re both actually from a female perspective.

“Most of our songs are not really personal, they’re more about characters or ideas or things.

“The music for that (Can’t Sleep Without Paracetamol) was actually written by Michael our previous bass player before he moved to the UK.

“It’s the first song he actually wrote for the band.

“I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually pretty good, it’s a shame you’re leaving’.

“Then Rob, our singer, wrote the lyrics just from the perspective of a girl whose boyfriend is cheating on her, just based on people he’d spoken to.

“It was from a female character’s perspective.

“I think most singers, when they write lyrics, tend to write from their own perspective but I think when you write from the perspective of a fictional character, it gives it more of a narrative feel.

“I don’t see any reason why a man couldn’t write convincingly from a woman’s perspective.

“There’s lots of great books.

“I was just talking about that book The Secret History (by Donna Tartt).

“It’s a great book written by a woman from a male perspective and it feels completely convincing.”

Oisín adds: “You’d never guess. It feels genuine.

“It’s also quite a fun exercise as an artist.

“It’s a cool way to think about things, just a basic thing of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and, ‘What would they think in this kind of scenario?’ is quite interesting as an artist to do.”

You are a band made up of four guys and I guess that’s why it may seem strange to some but why should that matter? The important thing is that the emotions you’re writing about are authentic..

Fionn says: “Yeah, obviously if you tried to write from a woman’s perspective and you’d never talked to a woman before, it’s not gonna come off as genuine. It’s not gonna be convincing, you know what I mean? You really have to draw on what you know, and what you’ve heard and what you’ve listened to in your life for it to be authentic.”

The last single did great things for you, didn’t it?

Fionn says: “Yeah, we got played on 2Fm for the first time, so that was the first time we’ve made it onto the state broadcaster which was really exciting. Pleased with it.”

It is unmistakable that Practice Wife has a heavier and angrier sound than the previous songs which is notable coming after Can’t Sleep Without Paracetamol.

Fionn says: “We always write the music before we write the lyrics and in this in this case we were like, ‘This is a very kind of angry, noisy, aggressive song and the lyrical theme needs to reflect that’.

“We mix it up a lot. I don’t think we really stick to one sound that much.

“It jumps back and forth, we’ll have a few pop songs and then then a kind of noisy post punk sort of song.

“We like to vary our approach a little bit.”

On that note, who would you like to sound like? Who are your influences?

Fionn says: “When people ask me, ‘What do you sound like?’, I usually say Interpol because probably Interpol/ Joy Division was our starting point.

“But outside of that I think we draw a lot on American emo bands like Jimmy Eat world or Death Cab for Cutie, hardcore bands like Converge or Refused.”

Oisín adds: “I was gonna say Jimmy Eat World is a huge one because it’s just sort of that idea of having sweet poppy vocals, soft male voice, emotionally delivered but then a lot of heavy riffage behind that at the same time.”

You started playing music early, didn’t you? Fionn says: “I started playing the violin when I was four, so I was classically trained. And I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 15.

“I think I probably bring a little bit of a classical approach in terms of just chord choices or scales and things like that.

“Oisín was classically trained as well. He started off with the cello.”

Oisín adds: “Yeah, I think it lends a lot to doing that kind of thing.

“It’s funny, it’s two complete opposite ends of the spectrum but when you’re brought up doing classical and then you also just get into sort of experimental metal, you just end up having two very different spheres from which you can draw to do more interesting stuff with music, often in similar ways.

“You get a cool pool of things to draw from, an interesting combination.”

Fionn started the band in 2017 and is the only original member left.

Oisín says: “I only came in the end of last year.

“I’d been following the band for ages and been to all their shows and a big fan of what they were doing.”

How did you navigate COVID as a band?

“We got a bit lucky actually as a result of COVID,” Fionn says.

“Because September 2020 we got selected for this thing called TiLT Development Deal.

“There’s a college in Dublin called the Sound Training College and they run this thing every year where they pick four bands and those bands get to record two songs in a studio as an opportunity.

“We were sort of guinea pigs for the students in Sound Training College essentially so that they could practice all the skills that they’ve learned.

“We were going into the studio, Sun Studio in Temple Bar which is a really world renowned studio.

“Love the Way you Lie by Eminem was recorded there, loads of big names pass through there so we got to go there once a week, every Tuesday evening for six months and it was great just get out of the house.

“And also December 2020 the Department of Culture had this thing called the music industry stimulus package, so they awarded funding grants to bands to do some recording in recognition of the fact that they couldn’t play live.

“So they gave us a few bob to do some recordings, so we did some recording in January 2021, so it was great.

“We potentially got five songs recorded completely for free.

“So in some ways COVID was actually kind of a bonus for us.

“It worked out pretty well.”

What’s next? “We’re in the middle of writing at the minute,” Fionn says.

“We have three or four songs in the pipeline and probably want to record them maybe before the end of the year, then take it from there.”

Is it true that you get mistaken for Prince Harry quite a lot, Fionn? “Back in 2017 almost every time I left the house, someone would point to me and say, ‘Look, it’s Ed Sheeran over there’.

“I was in Galway and I went into that pub where they filmed the Galway Girl music video and someone turned around and said, ‘Jeez, lads. Look, he came back’.

“But in in 2018, I lost a bit of weight and ever since then, it’s been mostly Prince Harry.”

Oisín adds: “He does actually get it all the time.”

Don’t you get Domhnall Gleeson, Oisín?

“Me and Fionn look really alike.

“I’ve never gotten Prince Harry because my hair is usually quite long but I do get Ed Sheeran as well far more often than I ever get Domhnall Gleeson.

“Four times in my life someone said Domhnall Gleeson and to those people I’m grateful because that’s a compliment, saying I look like Ed Sheeran- He’s a very talented man, but it’s not a compliment.”

Why is it so not a compliment?

“It’s just you’d rather get Domhnall Gleeson than Ed Sheeran.

“It’s not a huge insult but Domhnall Gleeson is just better, you know?”

Ed Sheeran concert London Irish Centre Christmas appeal
Fionn’s lookalike Ed Sheeran.

Aside from being told you look like him, are you fans of Ed? “He wouldn’t be our kind of thing but I think anybody would have respect for his craft and admiration for him doing his thing,” Oisín says.

“I do like the way even to this day he does his show just acoustic guitar and loop pedal, I do think that’s really sick.

“I think his sound has actually gotten away from those busker roots

“I mean the songs he puts out Shape of You, you don’t even hear any guitar in that, it’s just synthpop whereas his early stuff was just acoustic guitar.

“But at least the live show is still that raw.”

“It is impressive,” Fionn agrees.

You’re a band made up of three Dubs and a Belgian with drummer Bastiaan van Nijlen, does that mean there’s a bit of a culture clash? “I think the Belgian kind of humour

is a lot more dry than the Irish humour,” Fionn says.

“But no, I don’t think there’s much of a culture clash.

“I’m trying to think how many nationalities we’ve been through in the band.

“Our first singer was half Indian, our second drummer was Canadian, our old bass player was from Northern Ireland so it’s been a revolving door of members and instruments and nationalities so no stranger to it.”

Do you play any sports or have other interests?

Fionn says: “I started playing GAA because I started playing GAA when I was about 5 and I stopped when I was 12 because I hadn’t improved at all in the intervening seven years.

“I tried to play GAA but not for me, I don’t think.

“I’m running the Dublin marathon in October in aid of Focus Ireland.

“That’s the main thing I’m doing outside the band, shaking my tin can for donations.”

Although the band have no specific plans to play in the UK at the moment, Fionn says they would “absolutely jump at the chance”.

Late Night Pharmacy play The Workman’s Club on Friday 28 July. 

Practice Wife is out now.

For more information, click here.

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