Interview: Chocolate Love Factory

Interview: Simon Hadley.

Chocolate Love Factory are a playful bunch: You’d have to be to proceed with such a moniker. Since their 2010 demo, Biscuit Music – with its chocolate-related cover art – to their debut single ‘Rat Bag/Texty Texty’ – again, notice the confectionary theme – the Northern Irish trio of: Rory Dee (vocals and guitar), Pearse McClelland (bass) and drummer John Quinn have been blurring the boundaries between grunge and stoner: explosive, blistering grooves that rumble with angst and melodic sensibilities.

Let’s start with the obvious: Chocolate Love Factory. Where did the name come from?

Rory Dee: It’s a truly legendary story. We’d got our first gig, and I’d been struggling with a name. I was thinking of going for something like one of Nirvana’s early pisstake names; just until we had more time to think about it. I had ‘Coughing Coffin’ and a few others that were pretty awful.

Then the promoter emailed again, saying she needed all our details, as she had to get a write up in the local paper. My girlfriend was sitting there, and I asked her what she thought we should call the band and, swear to god, Chocolate Love Factory were the first three words that came out of her mouth. We both laughed for a wee bit, and then I was like, “Yes”’. And so, the stupidest name in rock history was born (thanks love!).

Were you surprised by the initial, online positive feedback, to the ‘Rat Bag/Texty Texty’ single last year?

RD: Yeah it was class. We didn’t know what to expect. We thought they were good songs, and well recorded, but we were just doing what we wanted to do: not sparing a thought for what our audience would be. There were a few cool reviews of it and stuff, and then we were listed in Live4Ever’s best of 2011 list, halfway through the year. It was encouraging to see things like that.

But aye, releasing that in one of the big-ish venues over here, the Spring & Airbrake, was pretty awesome too. A truly memorable night, with all the bands we’d played with and loved during that previous year on the bill, and a load of people came out. It was cool to see all the hard work that went into promoting it paying off. Even looking back at some of the videos from that night, the crowd reaction was awesome.

Having followed your output since then, Octavia – the band’s first official EP – and now, ‘Motivator’, embraces grunge aesthetes: raucous choruses moulded into melodic punk-rock. Has it been a conscious decision to move away from your desert-rock roots?

RD: No, not at all.  We like to move forward in the most natural way possible; through jamming and not really thinking about stuff too much. Wherever our guitars want to take us – we’re just the mediums. I want it to be true expression. Also, the addition of Pearse [McClelland] on bass has definitely brought a lot more energy to proceedings. He’s a wee punk at heart.

The new EP isn’t gonna be filled full of ‘Motivator’s – it’s really varied – although, yes, I think the desert-rock sound has definitely taken a back seat on this one.

Pearse McClelland: It was a conscious decision to spend more time and care when writing ‘Motivator’ and the other songs. It’s different from anything we’ve done before, but it’s fun to try something different. Maybe the next EP we do will be free style jazz!

RD: John [Quinn] would go mad for that shit like!

RD: Personally, I become enamoured with things for years. First it was Nirvana and the whole grunge thing. I have a huge catalogue of rip-off Nirvana songs I used to write for ages. Then I started this band while I was obsessed with QOTSA; trying to be them for a few years. It feels like another new phase coming on right now, but it’s not clear what it’s inspired by just yet. A microcosm of a load of new stuff I’ve discovered over the past while. Our own sound maybe? You’ll have to decide yourself!

AU Magazine recently described you as: “one of this small country’s [Northern Ireland’s] best in riff-fuelled rock.” This must fill you with pride.

RD: Oh yes, it’s always cool when you don’t get slagged in reviews! We have a lot of respect for the guys at AU, so to hear them praising us like that is pretty sweet.

PM: When there are bands like LaFaro and The Rupture Dogs around here, who consistently write awesome riffs, then yes, that’s pretty fucking cool!

RD: I know. When there are bands like Lantern for a Gale knocking about here too, it’s a class comment to receive.

I noticed that you played a ‘homecoming show’ in Moy at the end of last year. How supportive have friends and family been since the Love Factory opened?

PM: They’ve been great for us to be honest. I don’t think we’d have the same enthusiasm for what we do, if it wasn’t for them.

Yeah, some of the videos of that night are insane. My wee brother brought down a pile of his friends, and he says it was a memorable night for them all. It was a memorable one for me too: the first live airing of this band in my little hometown. My dad actually got to see us for the first time that night. He really enjoyed it, and that felt good, because he’s one of my biggest supporters, along with my wee brother. To have them finally seeing the show was a special moment. It’s because of friends and family, that we’re allowed to lead a life of complete excess, and keep the whole circus travelling!

Having exhausted the local club scene, are there any plans to cross the water next year?

Yes absolutely! We’ve just had a few set backs getting ourselves together in that regard. We’re itching to get over the pond to play in the UK (and beyond) , but we’re all working pretty shitty jobs, trying to survive at the minute – we just don’t have that extra cash available right now to invest in a van. We’re looking for new jobs, and if we can start getting a bit more money from the band, we’ll be over in a shot.

Ideally though, I don’t want to release our new EP until we can properly promote it with a tour. That might delay the EP until the new year (until we get our shit together!). But also in a way, I’m glad we haven’t made it out on tour yet. Only now, do I feel our live shows are really coming into fruition, and I think we’re starting to show our potential as a live act.

Just having the right songs to put together in a varied, entertaining set; the proficiency to pull off what we want to, and also the introduction of honey – meaning I don’t lose my voice half way through the show! The set feels pretty good at the minute. I’m pickin’ up good vibrations!

Staying on the subject of touring, you recently shared the bill with Junior Johnson. How would you describe his sound?

He’s a great guy, with a bloody lovely voice! He’s got very bluesy sensibilities and is a very talented guitarist. We were all mesmerised by his performance up in the Cellar Bar the last time we played, and we will definitely be hitting him up for a support slot in the near future! He’s also accompanied on a few songs by a guy called Dermot McBride: a complete legend of a man, who knows how to spin a good yarn!

Rory, as anyone who’s witnessed the band live will testify, you’re a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. What’s the most personal song you’ve written?

RD: It’s probably ‘Herbal Sham’ off Octavia. It might not make a lot of sense to some people, but it was a cathartic experience writing that song. The lyrics came easily enough, because they were centred on one silly little situation that was blown out of proportion, in my silly little teenage mind. The music itself was something I worked on for the best part of a year.

I came up with that lovely little arpeggio bit at the start, while lying in bed with a guitar one day: recorded it and thought it sounded really special. Then it was something I’d always come back to and work on. It kept changing and it took ages [for it] to feel right. But I’m happy with how that song turned out. I wrote and recorded it all though, so the band have still to completely understand it’s ridiculous proggy structure, but I’m hoping one day we can do it live!

Finally, as chocolate connoisseurs: Cadbury, Nestle or Thorntons?

That’s a tough one! It’s probably Cadbury for me, although Thorntons is a very close second!

PM: Aw here! Cadbury all the way like!

John Quinn: Nestle, just ’cause I hate you guys.

Watch the video for Chocolate Love Factory’s latest single ‘Motivator’ below: