Interview: Don't Worry

Words by Maddy Howell

Since their formation in 2014, Essex-based indie rockers Don't Worry have firmly established themselves as a staple outfit within the DIY scene. With a string of self-released EPs and an equally impressive touring history, the quartet have also swiftly become ones to watch within the wider UK music world. 

With their debut album, 'Who Cares Anyway?', released earlier in the year, the foundations have been set for a band with an evergrowing potential and a perfect platform to showcase it on. We caught up with frontman Ronan Kehoe in the midst of their UK tour to chat about record labels, touring life and the perks of merchandise.

Burn After Writing: For anyone who is unfamiliar with Don’t Worry, who are your biggest musical influences?

Ronan Kehoe: We grew up listening to a lot of different music, mostly 90s and 00s indie and alt-rock. We like bands like Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr., but we listen to heavier stuff too, and some music that isn’t guitar-based at all. Basically, imagine if Steve Malkmus from Pavement and Mike Skinner of The Streets got together and tried to write Oasis songs.

BAW: You recently released your debut album, 'Who Cares Anyway?', through Specialist Subject Records, how has the reception been?

RK: It can be tough to know from within the band. The press we’ve got has been wholly positive, and people on social media and at the shows we’re currently doing seem excited about the new record. So the receptions been good!

BAW: What sparked the decision to work with Specialist Subject on this release?

RK: We’d been admiring Specialist Subject from afar for a few years. Dan from Fresh put us in touch with Andrew and Kay who run the label, they liked our record, then we met up and everyone got along really well. So when they offered to put the album out it was the obvious choice. We couldn’t be happier to be working with them.

BAW: The record was also produced and mixed over in the USA by the incredible Bob Cooper. What did working alongside him add to the production process?

RK: This album is the 3rd thing we’ve recorded with Bob, so we’re good mates now, which means the working relationship is very comfortable and runs smoothly. We wanted to try some new approaches this time, like recording the bones of the songs live, and Bob was happy to accommodate. He’s also got a whole bunch of nice equipment to play with. Bob’s one of the hardest working people we’ve ever met, and we’d certainly recommend him to any band looking to make the jump to proper studio production.

BAW: Don’t Worry’s lyrics have always offered the perfect balance between raw emotion and more shrouded metaphorical expression. When writing about personal experiences, does it ever become difficult to share those emotions with an audience?

RK: Thank you very much! We write lyrics about all sorts of things, some of which are very personal. Occasionally we might write something down and then question whether or not we wanna keep it there. But once a song is finished, any such insecurities usually disappear.

We’ve always tried to retain a sense of mundane humour in our lyrics too, and we think that’s very important. When we’re performing the songs in front of an audience, to be honest, we’re not usually thinking about the subject matter, at least not to a point that makes us uncomfortable. We’re just focusing on trying to get them across how we intend to. Performing songs in front of people is actually very cathartic for us.

BAW: You recently released a music video for the album track, Who Cares (U Care). Could you tell us a little bit about the filming process for that and the ideas behind the video?

RK: We literally filmed it in an hour. We just came up with a silly idea that would be cheap and easy to execute but hopefully still interesting enough to look at. We’d love to make some more glossy videos one day if we ever have the budget. But for now a park bench and a packet of chips will have to do. Who Cares Anyway?

BAW: You’re also in the middle of your most extensive UK tour to date, including your first time up in Scotland. How did you prepare for this run?

RK: Crazily, these are actually our first full band shows of 2018! We took quite a lot of time out to prepare the album correctly and also to spend some time doing other things in our personal lives. And after all that we’ve been very excited to play live again. Aside from obviously smashing out a whole bunch of rehearsals to make sure we’re ready for the stage, we’ve also been trying to improve ourselves in other ways that will benefit how we feel on tour. Ronan’s been doing loads of cycling. Dick’s quit smoking. Everyone’s been eating better. Is rock 'n' roll dead?

BAW: Prior to the album release, you also headed over to New York to play your first show outside of Europe for Sofar Sounds. How was the experience of playing to a completely new audience in that setting?

RK: It was a really great and unusual experience. It was a stripped back acoustic set with only half of the band. Sofar Sounds shows are always in unusual venues and they always sell out. Ours was in a fancy apartment in Manhattan and it was very busy. American audiences are different from European ones, but everyone seemed to enjoy our set and they were all laughing at everything we said, either because we’re completely hilarious or just because we were the novelty British guys with the funny voices. We’d love to go back to America as a full band some time.

BAW: Throughout your time as a band you have always seemed to put a lot of effort and care into your merchandise, with bundles and exclusive items always seeming to accompany each release. Why is this side of your promotion so important to you as a DIY band?

RK: We love design and we love clothing. We design some things ourselves but we also have some friends who are absolutely brilliant, particularly Sam’s younger brother Harry and his girlfriend Abbie, who recently opened Snootie Studios in Harlow, Essex. We really enjoy using the band as a platform to showcase and share this side of our creativity.

On a more frank level, until very recently we’ve been a completely DIY band, and without the money we’ve made from selling merch we never would have been able to do any of the things we’ve done - the tours, the recording, the releases, the whole thing. Get money, get paid! 

BAW: As an active band in the DIY music scene right now, who are some other bands who you think your fans should be checking out and supporting?

RK: This list of bands aren’t all necessarily from the same scene, and DIY can mean different things to different people. But here are some bands we think are well good and that could do with your support: Fresh, Eat Me, Muncie Girls, Lightcliffe, Dym, Good Guy Clarence, Wild Cat Strike, Pen Name, Honey Pot, Discount Lindas, Epona, Nervus, Trev, Long Body.