Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Denny Doherty, frontman of upcoming Donegal band the Plea. Denny and I chatted about the band’s debut album, Jim Morrison, and those comparisons to U2 and Bono.
The Plea started off as just Dennis ‘Denny’ and Dermot Doherty, brothers from Ballyliffen, Co. Donegal, before evolving into the unit they are today with the addition of Paul Toland and Gerry Strawbridge. The brothers originally were a covers band, paying tribute to T-Rex and the Doors while gigging in London. However, despite those origins, Denny has no plans to revisit the past: “We haven’t played a cover in ages, only at family get togethers, that kind of stuff. We’d rather just play our own songs now.We did the covers for ages, and enjoyed it. I still put on those albums – T-Rex and the Doors. I mean they’re some of my favourite albums.”
The Doors are a big influence on Denny’s music and the band, with the singer even being compared by some listeners to Jim Morrison. “LA Woman is my favourite album. Dermot is a massive Bob Dylan man. I like the classics, anything with a bit of passion in it. Morrison for me, was a great singer, because he could croon like Sinatra and then all of a sudden because he had a great band behind him, could explode with this howling wolf kind of scream. It’s very truthful. When I listen to him I believe him. That’s what matters to me when I listen to music. I have to believe it almost immediately or it doesn’t take me in.”
Dreamer’s Stadium isn’t actually the first album the Plea have recorded. Having been spotted playing live, the Dohertys were signed to an American label who wanted them to record an LP in Boston. However, Denny and Dermot didn’t like the finished product, and the record was shelved. “They wanted control over everything, a say in the way the album was made. We just weren’t happy, and lucky enough we got out of it. R&S, the label we’re signed to now is much better. Renaat [Vandepapeliere, co-owner of the label], he’s very flamboyant, eccentric kind of guy, but he’s steadfast. He’s one of the first people I met who has as much, if not more, belief in the music as us. We’re really happy with him and Sabine [Maes, his partner]. It’s more intimate, more of a family kind of thing.”
Denny and Dermot write all the bands songs, but work by themselves before bringing the tunes into the studio. “Dermot and myself write all the songs. We can’t write together, we tried that once or twice, but it doesn’t work. We have the basics of a song each, and then change it. It’s brutal open honesty, that’s the way we work together. He’s my brother, he won’t be offended. If one of us is offended, we’ll just go off for an hour, and when we come back it’ll be okay.”
The album was produced by Chris Turner, who has worked with the Verve, the Rolling Stones, U2, and many other bands. His career highpoint would have been producing Urban Hymns with the Verve. “Chris came through Renaat and David Boyd [former Rough Trade label boss and manager]. Boyd gave him the demos and he liked it, we met him, and he said yeah. I love the sound he gets, Dermot calls him the spaceman, it’s all open. If you listen to some of the Verve stuff, they’re incredible. I hear different stuff every time I put it on. He’s not one of these people who says ‘sit down, do this, do that’. I don’t think me and Dermot could work with someone like that. He listens to you and suggests things. He has this big pedal board, I’ve never seen anything like it. Dermot exploded when he saw it. So him and Dermot spent a lot of time experimenting with these different sounds.”
Turner has worked with U2, and many people (including myself) have compared the Plea to Bono and company, particularly because of Denny’s vocal style. “U2, I love the band, but I was never trying to emulate Bono. It’s just the way I sing. For a while in Boston, I think I sang with an American accent. But I listened to the demos and thought ‘fuck that’. So I was trying to find my own voice. Bono kind of goes for it you know, the way I feel, if you can hit a note, hit it. I don’t mind the comparisons, if it gets people talking about the band, if it gets people interested, that’s fine with me. And if they don’t like it, then that’s fine too. Some people might say I sing like Bono, but for me it’s more of a combination of Little Richard and Jim Morrison. Definitely a lilt of John Lennon in there. And Lennon took the lilt from Buddy Holly. There’s only a certain amount of chords on a guitar. I mean everything has been done in some way before. We’re happy with it.”
The Dreamer’s Stadium is out May 11th on Planet Function Records. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to it, and it’s every bit as good as the lead singles indicate. Could well be the soundtrack of many an Irish summer. The Plea will be performing live at The Westport Festival on Sunday June 24rd. check out www.westportfestival.com for more details.
Watch The Plea ‘Praise Be’