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Sunday 18 November 2018

‘As soon as we signed the record deal the band was poisoned’ - musician Andrew Brennan

In 2001 Dublin teen band Melaton were hailed as the next big thing, but a year later they were dropped by their label. Musician Andrew Brennan reveals the impact of that experience and how he bounced back with Pursued by Dogs

Pursued by Dogs
Pursued by Dogs
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

On the eve of sitting their Leaving Cert in 2001, the five members of Dublin band Melaton found themselves at the centre of a bidding war between four major music labels – Universal, Warner, Sony and German label Edel AG.

It was the stuff of dreams for the teenagers, who ultimately opted to sign to Sony UK.  However, things did not work out quite as they had hoped and the experience has had a long-lasting impact on their lives, guitarist Andrew Brennan tells Independent.ie.

“We got flown over to London, signed up, put up in a fancy hotel – all the usual clichés, trappings, whatever – came home a week later, did our Leaving Cert, and I didn’t do great, surprisingly,” says Andrew, who is now 37.  “I just didn’t think it mattered.  I didn’t care about it.  I thought the stars have aligned and this is happening for us now.  I did honours for most subjects in the Leaving Cert and just took pass papers on the day.”

Melaton were flown to the UK and put up for three months in the house where Radiohead had written OK Computer, “a mansion in Bath, England, an incredible place”.  They supported Elbow, Ian Brown and JJ72 on tour. Drowned in Sound described their EP, Falling Star, as ‘early U2 shot through with the haunting impact that first made us treasure Jeff Buckley’.

Pursued by Dogs
Pursued by Dogs

"Things happened to us in a very serendipitous way.  When you’re at that age, when things like that happen, you view them in a very Hollywood way.  And we were like, ‘This is it! We’re going to be one of those stories!  It’s going to take off for us!” says Andrew.

The band  was tasked with writing three radio hits and Andrew feels the pressure to produce these songs was the beginning of the end.  “It completely compromised our creative process.  Everything we started to produce started to sound different.  It wasn’t good.  We stopped working as a unit.  The whole thing just kind of disintegrated.”

He adds, “As soon as we signed the band was poisoned.  It fell apart over about two and a half years.”

Sony ultimately dropped them.

“It went from, ‘Yay, this is the greatest thing ever!’ to getting to a point where it ended and we felt like we were finished,” says Andrew.  “Most of my friends were about to finish college and I didn’t even have a Leaving Cert.  I was 21 and it really felt like the world was ending.  And it was the end of that world.  You had to kind of imagine a new world and build it from scratch.  That was s***, as you can imagine.”

It was devastating, so much so that Andrew flew to Thailand immediately after they were dropped and “lost my mind for about six months”.  Luckily, he met his future wife there and, with her help, says he managed to “keep it together” mentally, but he didn’t pick up a guitar again for another two years.

“For me personally, and the rest of the lads, we didn’t want to do anything else.  We didn’t want to do medicine in college and this was taking us away from that.  There was nothing like that.  This was our vocation,” he says.

“So to be that young and that kind of deluded, for want of a better phrase, and for it all to fall apart quite dramatically and starkly and literally have the rug pulled from under you, it was very tough to deal with.”

Andrew began working in a bank, which he describes as an “unbelievable slap in the face”.  “Sunday nights,” he quips, “were rough for a few years”.  The friendships between the band members also suffered as they each walked away from the people who only now served as a reminder of what could have been.

When he did return to music, it was with another band.  After several incarnations they became Pursued by Dogs in 2010.  When they became sick of playing indie music they decided to write “music we could play at house parties” and their indie/dance hybrid style was born.  In 2015 they added a female voice and piano to their all-male line-up with Suzanne Purcell.

“Suddenly we were all people who wanted to do this seriously and to make it work.  We believe in it,” he says, admitting that it took him a while to allow himself to become emotionally invested given his previous experiences.

“I think I’ve more of a foundation in the rest of my life to be brave enough to care now, if that’s not too ‘Dawson’s Creek’!” he laughs.  “The stuff is good enough so we should try something with it, but if it doesn’t work out it won’t be that big of a deal.

“My dad asked me, ‘Why are you still playing music?’, not in an accusatory way, but I said if I was to get anything out of it I’d like to just make an album, hold it in my hand and say that after all these years I did that and there it is.  But even at that point if I had to walk away I’d walk away.”

He got to hold that album in his hand in April when Pursued by Dogs released their self-titled debut.  And he’s already looking forward to their sophomore release, which will feature tracks which better define where they are right now.

Their profile has been hard-earned.  They had a sold out show at the Button Factory for the album launch followed by a small summer tour and Other Voices in December.  They’ve supported Le Galaxie and HamsandwicH.  Even so, they all rely on day jobs to pay the rent.

“We couldn’t do what we do without having jobs.  There’s very little money to be made at our level or even several rungs above and it costs a reasonable amount of money to do what we do,” he says.

“I do know of big name bands in Ireland who have record deals, who play stadiums, who do still struggle money wise.  Maybe that’s because Dublin is an incredibly expensive city.  I think we’re lucky that we all have jobs and that sustains us.  We wouldn’t make any money if we just did music.”

These days his aspirations for the band are perhaps less starry than they might have been in the early days - he wants decent slots on the festival circuit, more gigs at venues like The Button Factory, another album.  His advice to young musicians who might find themselves in a similar position to himself circa 2001 is, he laughs, to “do the Leaving Cert”.

Pursued by Dogs latest single 'Swap Dimensions' is out now. Listen on Spotify HERE

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