It has been three years since Anthony Donnelly has released any music. Many would consider that a long bout of silence in the fast moving music world, but take one listen to Donnelly’s new output under the moniker of FLOOR STAFF and you will understand that his period of silence was necessary. You need only listen to his single ‘Saviour’, or the more recent ‘A Love Sublime’, to hear how his sound has matured, his new tracks seamlessly weaving between slick and understated to a bold electro-pop groove.
Set to release his new EP Convictions on 14th April, we decided to get to know Donnelly and his music that little bit better. After all, he’s set for big things…
Your latest single ‘Saviour’ marks your return after three years away! It’s infectiously funky; can you tell us a little about what went into creating the track and what it means to you?
I wrote ‘Saviour’ quite a while before the rest of the EP and never used it. It seemed a little bit on its own in terms of its content and I didn’t know what to do with it until the other songs on the EP came along and it fit in. Lyrically, for me it stems from feelings of anxiety and stress. When these feelings become really intense you can feel despondent and find yourself wishing you could hand control of everything over to something or someone outside of yourself. Some people find that safety and comfort in deferring to spirituality.
You’ve recently debuted the video for ‘Saviour’, which was inventive, intriguing and disturbing in equal measure! What are your thoughts on the video and were you involved in the creative process?
The narrative came from the visionary mind of Colum O’Dwyer who also directed and shot the video. I showed Colum the track initially and said I wanted to touch on themes like emotional contradiction, restriction and spirituality. I was a little surprised when I read the treatment for the video, and a bit unsure to be honest, but when I listened to the track and imagined the visuals I realized that they could work really well together. The intensity of the images actually compliments the track, which on the face of it is quite a straightforward pop song. Even though the video isn’t directly related to the songs lyrical content I think it helps to jolt the listener into seeing that there are layers of depth there. Colum shot the video entirely on expired Fuji film rolls, about 1700 stills in total which achieved a really interesting and grainy stop motion effect. I really respected him taking a risky experimental approach that was in the spirit of what I wanted to capture.
Your new EP Convictions is set for release on April 14th. It has been a long time coming and is a riot of experimental sounds and slick pop grooves. What did you draw upon during the writing process? What was inspiring you?
The music didn’t flow as easily this time. I knew I wanted to tackle subject matter that was less primal and immediate, stuff that was more difficult to access. I had to work through this utilizing a more strict and regimented approach to writing. The difficulty I experienced creatively led me to question myself a lot in relation to who I was and what direction I was taking. With the first EP just the thrill of recording something I’d written and hearing it back was enough to inspire more creativity. That wasn’t the case this time around and it likely never will be again so this was an important learning curve.
It feels like a more mature effort than your previous EP The Good Luck; how do you feel you have grown as a musician during that time?
I think I’m moving closer towards who I want to be as an artist. Technically I feel I’m a better musician. I never really played piano before but I’ve started playing solo shows this way recently to mix things up and challenge myself. In terms of song writing I feel I’m more confident and willing to take more risks. For example the opening track on the EP ‘Choice’, which began as a house music track ended up with no percussion at all. This is something that was decided during the production stage. I wanted to put it first even though it means you don’t hear any percussive elements until over four minutes into the EP. I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable doing something like that before now.
You’ve previously mentioned that a period of writers block followed the release The Good Luck. What do you think caused it and what did you do to battle through it?
On the first release I didn’t think beyond the writing process until the songs had come. Releasing and performing were afterthoughts for me. This time around I was too aware that people would hear the music, that it would have to be performed etc. The fear of that could have been very paralyzing so I had to counter that by adopting a very regimented approach. I had a period where I wrote every day without fail. I think it also helped that I was working on some other projects here and there at the time. Getting involved in composing music for some short films and theatre shows. This helped to get me out of my own head a little.
Was there a particular song that led spurred Convictions along?
I would say that the opener ‘Choice’ is the song that inspired the artistic direction of Convictions and really set the tone in terms of production. It’s not a song I would have written before and paves the way for a more adventurous and experimental production style throughout. Lyrically the EP follows on from here with that tone of introspection and self-examination.
You utilised an unconventional process whilst recording, incorporating household items such as kitchen knives, radiators, and bicycle wheels. Did the use of such noises steer the sound of the EP into a different direction?
Christopher Barry of AIlfionn recording studio co produced and mixed the EP. From the beginning we were working towards trying to do most things in an unconventional way, and to maintain a general feeling of freedom throughout. Musically we were willing give anything a chance and this led to some of the more unconventional results you mentioned. In recording objects in this way, it wasn’t so much about how they sounded as what emotion they could evoke or how they could reflect the lyrical content of the song.
In recording such sounds you damaged a hard copy of your previous EP, which you were inflicting on the aforementioned items. You felt that it highlighted the irrelevance of your previous work; is it important for you to only be looking forward creatively? If so, why?
My friend Bob Gallagher is a director who introduced me to the work of filmmaker and author/spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky. I was reading up on him at the time. Jodorowsky is a practitioner of psychomagic. With this practice he claims that certain psychological wounds or perceptions developed in life can be healed subconsciously through the acting out of often surreal but carefully prescribed acts in reality. In relation to the hard copy of the EP I didn’t set out deliberately to destroy it, I just needed something to stick in the spokes of the bicycle wheel we had set up to record. It was the closest object to hand at the time but afterwards I realized that it was quite cathartic and that there was a definite feeling of psychomagic about the incident. I do feel it’s important to move forward creatively. I don’t think I’ll ever been doing anything worthwhile creatively if I’m overly comfortable. I think when you are just a little bit unsure of yourself artistically you are likely to be moving in a worthwhile direction.
What is next for Floor Staff in 2017?
I have some new ideas and some new approaches I’m looking to experiment with in the near future. I think I’ll be quicker to introduce unrecorded work into the live shows. I can develop the work further in this way and learn from it while keeping the shows fresh and interesting for my band and myself. I’ll be announcing some shows shortly for this summer and there will be some touring of Ireland and the UK. I want to keep pushing forward with writing and recording with another release before the year is out. I also want to keep pushing on with my composition work for film. I’m finding it really exiting to react to other people’s creativity, trying to help enhance the delivery of their story. Working like this gets me thinking in different ways musically which feeds back into my solo work with Floor Staff.
Floor Staff’s new EP Convictions is out 14th April. Hear ‘Saviour’ and ‘A Love Sublime’ on Soundcloud.