Fontaines D.C. released their debut album, Dogrel, in April 2019 and received critical acclaim for their raw poetical portrayal of modern punk. This year, they released Sold For Parts, a documentary detailing the process of writing, recording and performing their highly-rated album.
Produced by Collective Films, Sold For Parts documents the vulnerability, rawness and emotional fluxing of Fontaines D.C. The mixture of isolated vocals, recording of songs and live footage of performances, means we don’t see an array of sides to Fontaines D.C. Instead, we get a deeper glimpse into who they are and learn that they put everything into writing, recording and performing. The power of frontman Grian Chatten’s voice is made extraordinarily clear here. The monotonous, raw articulation enlightens the entire experience of Dogrel, outlining the realness in the lyrical, vocal and instrumental essence of Fontaines D.C. The whole persona surrounding the act is sincerity, and they are very real political poets of the modern age.
An interview with their UK tour promoter, Dan Roberts, recalls the lyrics, “charisma is exquisite manipulation and money is the sandpit of the soul”. With references to capitalism and the masking of certain aspects of society, Sold For Parts cleverly contrives that realness is the most important aspect of creation, and Dogrel is a collection of poetical insight into modern society.
A pivotal scene in the documentary is in London 2018, where we see the members of the band going into an off license to buy beer while Chatten’s interview is voiced over this impeccably normal task. There’s nothing fancy in this documentary; a dark street with five heads-down figures rolling their cigarettes all dressed in long dark coats like a scene out of a 60s kitchen-sink drama. An off licence, grotty backstage of a venue, a rooftop terrace, a staircase; normal, non-glamorous places.
When asked, “Do you feel vulnerable?”, Chatten replies, “Yes, very very very much so.”
He relays having to walk out of the studio listening to his vocals because there are virtually no effects on them, and the vocals stand out from the instrumental. The fear of exposure is strangely admirable to witness throughout. The sensation of early punk is emphatic, being a part of something so close to who you are but the overwhelming notion of losing a part of you holds you back.
Fontaines D.C. are stylistically a modern-day Joy Division; each listen breaks your heart purely because they are speaking so directly to you, and every word is honest. An imperfectly perfect portrayal of using their own confusion to aid those who don’t know how to manage their own.
Chatten’s uncomfortableness with producing such raw material is a running connection throughout the documentary as he pours out that, “It makes me want to quit every week because it gets to the point like, ‘how am I going to share this with anyone else?’”.
And that’s what makes Fontaines D.C. so impeccably punk — their poetry. A unique artform of punk lyrics that shouldn’t fit in with the punk persona but are somehow so at home. When Chatten recites the lyrics of ‘Too Real’ as a poem, we then hear those same lyrics incorporated into a song, taking on a greater level of poeticism when immersed in punk. A true juxtaposition of societal restrictions and a true representation of “charisma is exquisite manipulation” — not everything is as it seems, as punk and poetry are supposedly worlds apart. Yet for Fontaines D.C., together they are both at home.
There is an overriding emotion when ‘Roy’s Tune’ sees out the documentary. “You must let your guard down as much as possible and having a guard up and having an ego, you’re just locking yourself in that wall. Just bleed all the time, bleed who you are all the time, don’t hold back,” says Chatten, a look of relaxed seriousness on his expression that makes it all look possible.
The sole purpose of Sold For Parts is to document the struggles but the triumphs of Dogrel, and provide an insight into the people who created it. “That’s what Fontaines D.C. is, just built on love for one another”, smiles manager Trevor Deitz.
Vulnerability and emotion intact, Fontaines D.C. are only at the beginning of creating their punk poetry empire.
Words by Erin Allwood
This article was originally published as part of The Indiependent’s May 2020 charity magazine, which is still on sale and is raising money for the British Lung Foundation. Find out more here.