Friday afternoon in a back garden next to Bushy Park in Terenure. Coffees have been drunk, pastries eaten. Rosie, a beautiful rescue dog with a big fluffy coat, is running about looking for attention. A two-year-old girl is also running around looking for attention - her daddy's.
Graham Knox, the daddy from nearby Rathfarnham, is talking shop with Danny O'Reilly and Conor Egan, from Harold's Cross and Terenure respectively. This is the first time they have been in each other's company since March when the lockdown began. They have a lot to talk about. They have a new album, True Love Waits, coming out in two weeks. Danny was on primetime American TV last week talking about the bad luck of the band sharing a name with the pandemic that is playing havoc with the world.
The trio were born within a couple of weeks of one another in 1985. "He was two weeks old and I was a day old when we first met," Danny says of Graham. They all went to school at Terenure College, around the corner from where we are sitting. (Danny went on to study commerce at UCD; Conor did music technology in Temple Bar; Graham studied marketing in DIT but dropped out and went to Pulse College.)
At school, they initially formed a band called Kiros. In their final year, Danny, Conor and Graham formed The Coronas, and then, after the Leaving Cert in 2005, went to Vancouver for a holiday. There, they met up with a young fella from Monkstown, Dave McPhillips.
The Coronas, with Danny on guitar and vocals, Conor on drums, Graham on bass and Dave on lead guitar, played their first show in Whelan's in Dublin in early 2006. Jim Lawless - whose house we are in today, and who is fostering Rosie with his girlfriend - went to school with Danny, Graham and Conor. He has managed the band from the beginning.
Asked what was it about The Coronas in 2005 that sparked his interest, he says: "I'm not entirely sure! I think it was the chance to do something different and work with some close friends. It was exciting and fun and much better than studying!"
And what is it about The Coronas now that still inspires Jim?
"I think it's how ambitious the lads are and their sense of teamwork," he says. "They're so driven and put their all into every aspect of what they do. It's really impressive to watch and is both a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of."
Under the July sun, the school pals-turned-bandmates are shooting the breeze about everything - from shocked first ladies to almost dying on the autobahn.
"There was the time our bus driver in America had a bit of a mental breakdown and almost killed us," Danny reminisces. "We had to abandon the tour bus with all our gear on the side of a highway."
"On one of our European tours, another bus driver fell violently ill," remembers Graham ('Knoxy'), "but refused to admit it. There were a few close calls on the autobahn but it came to a head when he swerved into a gas tanker and knocked our wing mirror off which flew around and broke our windscreen and we almost died."
"Myself and Knoxy have had a few funny incidents over the years," says Conor. "Like, falling asleep in Manchester Airport waiting for an early morning flight home, only to wake up having missed the flight and proceed to try to exit the airport in a sleepy daze thinking we had made it to Dublin Airport without boarding a plane…"
"We've had some great times on the road," says Danny. "There was the time Knoxy and Conor couldn't find our hotel in Cologne; both their phones were dead so they just walked around the city all night having adventures."
"Then there was the time a terrible global pandemic happened," adds Danny with a wry smile, "it crippled the live music industry and its name happened to have an unfortunate likeness to ours."
Talking of his most embarrassing moment, Graham recalls with a grimace: "I touched Michelle Obama's bum by accident and she turned around and asked me if I was okay." (This was when The Coronas played for then US president Barack Obama and the first lady in May 2011 in College Green in Dublin.)
Danny: "I said 'Hello Melbourne' to a Sydney crowd - that still makes my skin crawl thinking about it."
Conor: "I picked up a vomiting bug before a gig in Bundoran many years ago. I kept it together for most of the gig but near the end I couldn't hold it back any longer. The last few songs I was puking into a bucket behind the drums. I didn't miss a beat, though."
They are in reflective mood today. Graham's earliest childhood memory was a holiday in Courtown in Wexford in his grandparents' holiday home; Conor's was his parents "having a big party in our house when I was pretty young".
For Danny, who has spent the lockdown at his parents' other home in Dingle, it was a "family holiday in France when I was about four". As for their first memory of each other, Graham has known Danny "since I was a few days old. He's just always been in my life. Our parents were best friends."
"My first memory of Conor," Graham adds, "is the two of us on the sideline of the GAA pitch in Bushy Park where we were both subs, around 13 years of age."
Danny: "I played football with Conor in primary school. He was a solid corner-back. I've known Knoxy from when we were even younger. He introduced me to tear-away tracksuit bottoms. He was always the fashionable one."
"My first memory of Danny is people asking him for his mom's autograph in our school yard in primary school," Conor says, referring to singer Mary Black. "And myself and Knoxy were always keeping the subs' bench warm for our Templeogue GAA team."
"Mam is great fun, an amazing cook, definitely the matriarch of the family," says Danny. "I got her love of performing for sure."
Graham says of his own mother Roisin: "She is a very kind and passionate woman who loves to enjoy herself. I got my dislike of early mornings and love of wine from her for sure."
Conor says of his mother Anne: "She is fun, loving and always sees the positives in everything. I think I get my love of sports from her."
They are funny and self-deprecating. Asked about the first record they bought, Graham laughs: "I'd like to say The Bends by Radiohead - but it was the Spice Girls' debut album." Blood on the Dance Floor by Michael Jackson is Conor's memory. "Probably because the cover looked cool and it was in the bargain bin."
Danny: "My first single was Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio, just because it was an amazing tune. The first album I bought was the Cranberries' No Need to Argue. It blew my mind."
The Coronas' new album True Love Waits might have a similar effect, for various reasons. As Graham says of the song LA at Night: "There's a little refrain at the end, 'It's gonna be okay', which seems like a pretty simple lyric - but it has really hit home with people in these crazy times in Covid-19."
Last November was a different kind of crazy for The Coronas when Dave McPhillips left the band after 15 years. "In a way, Dave leaving took the pressure off us, because we knew the album was going to sound different without him," Danny says. His departure was "so amicable. He was doing it for us. He could have phoned it in. He could have stayed in the band and just done the bare minimum, been miserable and picked up his wage, and not been engaged in it. He knew that wouldn't be fair on himself, or us."
Was there any anxiety that the Coronas might lose something without Dave, given he had been in the band for so long?
"I had an initial moment of, 'Wow, is this going to be different? How are we going to do this? Shit, is this the beginning of the end type thing?'," says Danny of the day Dave told them in July that he was going to leave.
"And then, after chatting to the boys, I realised that I can actually use this as a new chapter for The Coronas. We knew it was going to be different. Dave wasn't really happy towards the end. It's like a relationship. It's like a marriage. If someone in the marriage isn't happy, that drives the rest of it down. So, when Dave told us and we came to terms with it all, it was a weight off our shoulders.
"And even though Dave would have been the person that I collaborated the most with, from a writing perspective, I just said, 'Alright, I'll throw the rulebook out the window and I'll start writing with loads of different people'. The songs are still born the same way - I will work on an idea and bring it to the lads and we'll finish it and write, arrange it and record it. All of a sudden, I didn't have to have Dave with me. I was writing with whoever - with Cian McSweeney, Cormac Butler, Lar Kaye. It was liberating."
Danny reckons people expect "honest lyrics" from The Coronas. Does that put pressure on him to have to reach deep inside himself with every song?
"I know I am always an honest lyricist," Danny says. Does it annoy him when people misinterpret his lyrics? "No. But sometimes people go, 'Oh, that's obviously about a break-up'. And it might not, actually. It might be about me and Dave growing apart. Or it might be about a break-up.
"Lyrically, the new album is about us as a band, all the changes I have written about before, like Find the Water about self-improvement. Try to remind yourself why you love what you do. Try to be the best version of yourself. Be the best brother you can be. Be the best son you can be. The best boyfriend you can be."
Danny is fiercely protective of his private life, which has often been splashed over the front pages of the tabloids. (Graham is married to Aoife; Conor to Niamh. Danny doesn't want to discuss his relationship.) "You know, take stock of different relationships. All those themes come back throughout the songs I write."
Is he an overly self-analytical man?
"I try not to be."
I ask the others for their view of Danny as a writer of words like, "Is there a wrong time to be alive?" and "When will I know how that feels?".
Graham: "He is very honest, anyway."
"I don't think I over-analyse," Danny says, adding that in person he is "quite light-hearted" but when in the writing process, maybe the "self-analysis part of me comes in, but it is not something I think about all the time. When I write my lyrics, I am nearly more honest than I would be day-to-day in my life.
"In the early days I used to say I needed to watch a few emotional American TV shows like Dawson's Creek or The O.C. to really squeeze the ballads out of me. I do find that the more honest I am - when I'm almost specific with what is going on in my head - they are the songs that people most relate to."
Do his friends ever say to him he is too candid in his lyrics and that he should keep a little bit back for himself?
"The odd time," Danny says.
"A friend of mine when the last album came out," Graham says referring to Trust the Wire from 2017, "texted me: 'Is Danny okay?' 'Why?' 'Look at the lyrics!' 'Jesus, they're dark!'."
"That's gas," laughs Danny.
What is it like when he gets the dark stuff out of his head and into a song?
"It's really cathartic. Sometimes you end up writing things that you didn't even know you were worried about. It doesn't have to be dark. Something that is affecting you or bothering you, or something you want to say. And when you get it out, you'll be like, 'I'm glad I'm singing that now. It's helpful.' Songwriting has always been helpful to me. It is a great way for self-therapy."
True Love Waits is released on July 31, available to pre-order now from www.goldendiscs.ie. For further details see www.thecoronas.net
Sunday Indo Living