49th & Main: An Ode to The Unbridled, Unshakable Power of Friendship

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Every week in the First On program we present a damn cool artist that you will see at the opening of the account for your favorite performance. A dance-pop duo from Dublin talks about the spontaneous recording process and how their connection helped them cope with the disaster.

Ben O’Sullivan is sipping his first Guinness of the Day at Humphrey’s, a local bar in Dublin’s attractive Ranelagh neighborhood, when the cursed topic of the pandemic first enters our conversation. “Well, my isolation was a little different from everyone else’s,” he says with typical humility. That would be putting it mildly.

For 18 months, O’Sullivan didn’t talk to anyone. In addition to his visits to the Dublin hospital twice a week, the 24-year-old producer holed up in his parents’ attic, spending days and nights feverishly working on his craft, and then sitting and watching videos with people from the outside world. sing and dance to the songs he composed.

Shortly before Christmas 2019, he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, an extremely rare blood disease that leads to chronic fatigue and a high tendency to infections. “I went to a party and ran for the bus,” he explains to NME, describing the night his life changed. “I fell and hit the floor, cut my hands and face, and they just wouldn’t stop bleeding. We couldn’t figure out why. The next day I went and had blood tests and they couldn’t believe it.” He pauses. “They said I shouldn’t be alive.”

 

Receiving such a sobering wake-up call ultimately had a galvanizing effect on O’Sullivan and his bandmate, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Paddy King. Having only officially started working together as a genre—changing fit for the 49th & Main dance floor six months earlier, forced time at home – King, like the rest of us, joined O’Sullivan in self-isolation just a few months later. – I urged them to hurry up with recording and releasing their music. By the summer of 2020, the sultry, soulful groove “Catching Eyes” and the indie house “Don’t You Like It?” scored millions of auditions, and 49th & Main never even graced the stage together.

Talking to the two of them now, apart from the relief that a simple pleasure, like a couple of drinks together in the pub, is now completely normal again, you feel that the true weight of the impact of the last two years has not yet been completely exhausted. hit home for 49th & Main. King speaks with admiration of the strength and perseverance that his close friend demonstrated overcoming dark periods, and since he was one of the few people who could keep in touch with him at that time, the connection between them is obvious. .

“The reaction to the music at that time was amazing,” O’Sullivan reflects. “When all you can do is sit in your bedroom, but you see videos of people singing all the words, it’s like: “Oh my God, that’s great.” It keeps you moving. I look back on that time with some love; despite the fact that it was a complete hell, there are also good memories.”

The treatment that O’Sullivan has received means that he can lead a normal life again, and the timing is perfect. After their debut EP “Neon Palm Trees” in 2020, they signed a deal with Counter Records, an imprint of Ninja Tune [Black Country, New Road, Kelis, Bicep], this summer’s follow-up EP “Must Be Nice” expanded their sound. exponentially, ranging from piano house and indie pop in “Up to Something” to “Never Gonna Stop”, one of the most persistent and exciting dance tunes of 2022, which again earned the duet’s deserved comparison with Fred… and Jamie xx. Now that the world is open to them, the duo is brimming with enthusiasm to finally connect with the fan base they barely had time to meet.

49th & Main are about to embark on a future they could hardly have imagined when they first met at their boarding school in Kilkenny more than a decade ago, although even then, at that young age, they were both already showing signs of promising musical talent. . One of the representatives of the first generation who learned to play music through YouTube tutorials, King learned to play guitar in his early teens and by the age of 15 was already playing street concerts, while O’Sullivan was already creating his own electronic music at the age of 10.” I’m sure everything I did was terrible, but I downloaded the software and figured it out,” he says. “It was fun, it was something no one else was doing. EDM was popular at the time, I was just trying to copy what they were doing. Awful.

There was one fleeting summer when they were 16 when they flirted with the idea of working together on music —it stretched back to about the time when O’Sullivan borrowed a beat for one of King’s original tracks inspired by Hudson Taylor — but beyond that unsuccessful session, the collaboration didn’t crystallize until the two became part of a larger group that went to Vancouver for work in the summer of 2019. Staying in an apartment at the intersection of 49th and Main in the city, they began to work together in earnest.

“Our first song, ‘Habits’ [from Neon Palm Trees], was when we thought, ‘Oh, cool, we really did it, we made a song that sounded good!'” says King. “That’s when we realized we might have something. And then we just did it over and over and over again.”

By the time of their eventual live debut in December 2021 at Whelan’s in Dublin, the site of Jeff Buckley and Arctic Monkeys’ legendary early gigs, they were one of the biggest names in the city and creating an atmosphere as they prepared to take the stage. this night was explosive. Their quickly assembled fan base was bristling with wild, manic energy, enhanced perhaps by the fact that they had recently been released from their own blockages. “We went out early and heard everyone going crazy,” recalls O’Sullivan. “It was like they had nothing else to do?! It was very surreal, as if we were strangers here.”

But 49th Street and Main are very suitable here. With their first UK and Ireland tour starting in December, including gigs at London’s Electrowerkz and The Academy in Dublin, those memories of endless days stuck in dusty attics and in hospital waiting rooms may finally begin to be replaced by unforgettable nights they’ve had well and truly. earned.

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