The Crayon Set – Made up of different colours and influences. Downer Disco out now

The Crayon Set have just released third album, Downer Disco and it’s an allegory for the times, perhaps, albeit not intended when it was written and recorded. It’s damn good, that’s for sure. Album launch gig in Dublin on 7 October.

Dublin-based The Crayon Set specialise in hook-filled, alternative pop. The band was founded by main songwriter Robert Baker and the first line-up of the band released their eponymous debut album in 2013.

It is filled choc-a-bloc with infectious, uptempo indie pop songs. The Irish Times described it as “as catchy as a virus”, which may be a bit unfortunate in the current climate, but you get the idea.

Its follow up ‘Lost Languages’ was released in 2017. The album was in part a tribute to many of their favourite ‘Americana‘ artists. It featured Kate Dineen on guest vocals who went on to become a full-time member of the band. Musician.ie made it their Irish album of the year.

Their new album ‘Downer Disco‘ was released at the end of Sept 2021. It was recorded with producer Stephen Shannon at Experimental Audio in Dublin in 2019. The release was put on hold due to Covid ’19. It is their strongest album to-date filled with their trademark expertly-crafted pop songs & dual girl/boy vocal interplay – this time with added synth-pop & electronic goodness.

We caught up with singer and multi instrumentalist Kate Dineen for a quick natter on Zoom.

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

Kate: As a band, we are based in Dublin, but we’re all from different parts of Ireland. There’s only one of us [George] actually from Dublin. I’m from Kerry, Rob’s from Waterford and Phil’s from Northern Ireland. So, it’s a mix, but we predominantly gig in Dublin.

In terms of what we’re doing, at the minute, the main thing is we have just released our album, which we are promoting and trying to get it out there, trying to get people to listen to it. And we have our first launch gig this week.

P3dro: How is the situation in Dublin at the moment in terms of gigs and people going out?

Kate: It’s really only just starting. This gig coming up will be our first gig as attendees as well as playing. The restrictions were only really eased a couple of weeks ago. It’s still a bit strict, in that we can’t have standing gigs, everyone has to be vaccinated and there’s a limited capacity – it’s 60% that venues can have. But in a couple of weeks time, things are going to ease fully, so hopefully, then things will go back to being a bit more normal.

But it’s exciting to get back out and gigging again.

P3dro: Where / when is the gig?

Kate: It’s in The Grand Social in Dublin. Thursday 7 October.

P3dro: Have you got anything else lined up?

Kate: Not at the minute. We’re just putting the wheels in motion, really. This gig’s been quite sudden, it’s gone from zero to one hundred [quite quickly]. We booked this a long time ago with the hope everything would be open, although we didn’t know at the time what the rules would be.

So, we’ve been focussing on this gig. But as part of that we were lucky, in that we got a grant to do a live video down in Waterford. So, that’s been what’s happening, but the next step is to plan some more gigs from there.

P3dro: Tell us a bit about the band. We know you weren’t there from the off, so how did you get involved?

Kate: The band has been around for a few years now. It’s Rob’s brainchild. He and George were there from the start. The rest of us are newer arrivals. I got involved around the time of the second album [Lost Languages], a previous vocalist had just left, so I joined in to help on some of the recording. Then Rob asked me to stay on, so I did and I’ve been with the band ever since.

So, I’m on a few songs on the second album, then we gigged for a bit and started working on ‘Downer Disco’, which is a project we’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

P3dro: When was the album recorded?

Kate: It was actually finished in 2019, which is actually kind of crazy because it feels like yesterday and 10 years ago at the same time. We were just starting plan the launch and then COVID happened. So, everything was put on a total pause. But because we haven’t been playing it live, it still sounds kind of fresh, even to us.

In the meantime, Rob’s been writing songs, so there are new songs as well that we can push on with.

P3dro: So, you’re already starting on the 4th album just as this one hits the ground!

Kate: Yep!

P3dro: We gather from the press material sent to us that the band is a bit fluid, with people coming in and out for different projects?

Kate: Exactly. And that’s what we really kind of say. The Crayon Set name and idea is that a crayon set is made up of different colours and influences. So, if you listen back at some of the older songs, they’re quite different from wat we’re doing now. It’s an open-ness to people coming in, bringing what they bring, adapting and evolving with it.

That’s really great because it keeps things interesting and gets exciting. If you’re in something for a long time, it can get stagnant and you go back to what’s familiar. So, it’s always nice when someone else comes in and shakes things up a bit, brings new energy to the project.

P3dro: You’ve also played around with different [musical] styles as well.

Kate: Yeah. The first album was quite poppy, straight up pop. The second has more of an Americana feel in a lot of the songs. This one’s quite a synth heavy, electronic sound.

P3dro: The title, Downer Disco sounds like an allegory for these times, but, of course, you didn’t know that when it was recorded.

Kate: Ha! Life imitating art.

P3dro: You held off on releasing the album. Some bands have released as much as they can possibly get out there during COVID as a project and something to do.

Kate: We did release one or two singles during the lockdown, so we had that to keep a little bit of interest going, but it was very difficult when you can’t physically do anything. We thought it best to wait because we wanted to pull back and wait so we could hit the ground running, especially with the new line up, to get ready for the launch. We wanted to be ready musically.

P3dro: Were you able to do any kind of writing during lockdown? Some bands had been sharing chords and things by Dropbox.

Kate: Yeah, Rob did a fair bit of writing. I was not so productive, I went on a mental block for a while. But afterwards, when you start to process these things, that’s when the creative side comes out.

P3dro: What are the plans for the band going forward?

Kate: Hopefully, gigging. Playing live is really exciting and we’re really looking forward to that. And to play some of these songs live, which we haven’t had the chance to do that. That’s the first thing, and then maybe do a little tour around Ireland. After that, see what happens about doing some more recording and evolving the sound a bit more.

I think in another few months the landscape will be different again. Hopefully things will be “even more normal” than they are now. Then maybe we can start looking at going abroad.

P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.

Kate: Oh, that’s hard! I go into these cycles of listening to one thing over and over. I’m enjoying the new James Vincent McMorrow at the moment. He kind of was a singer / songwriter – a classic troubadour – but he’s now doing more electronic sounds. Not unlike what we do, synth heavy.

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