The pandemic hit people in a lot of ways and Dan Fagan is one who keenly felt the effects as he dropped a new single on Spotify, lined up gigs and planned to follow up with more recordings only to have all his plans upended by Covid-19. Having started to build a following on TikTok, managing to get featured on BBC introducing and BBC 6 Music he hit the pause button as we all had to hunker down. He’s back with pulsating new single “Killers” and more to follow for 2023, including playing more gigs which by his own admission he never gets round to enough.

Each of these pieces at Inspiration Liverpool starts with picking three tracks, something that is easier than it sounds. As Dan says “I thought ‘what are three most importants songs to me ever?’ But there’s so many years, it’s just not gonna happen. There are songs that might inspire me in different ways, that I like, but I return to these three songs again and again.”

The Clash – ROck The Casbah

We start though with The Clash – “One of my favourite things about the song is the lyrics, everyone knows the chorus, that’s the bit that sticks in your head.”

“I really got into The Clash when I was 17, I have a habit with bands, I really don’t like them but end up loving them. About 14 or 15 I got London Calling and I really wasn’t that blown away by it. It just annoyed me a bit, at the time I wasn’t that into it, but I love that album now. Then I was in HMV and I saw The Clash hits back and there was something about Rock the Casbah that just hit me.”

“There’s so many great sounds, like rock with that punk sensibility. I’m not into basic punk but for me The Clash are the best. You probably won’t find many punk songs with a piano and if you just heard it outright you wouldn’t immediately say this was punk, but this is such a well written song, I think it was written by the drummer, when everyone else was out of the studio and he was just messing around. He wrote this whole thing, with it’s disco-y beat to it and then it’s got Joe Strummer’s lyrics. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to growing up, his lyrics are like something else. It shows you can have a top rock song with a meaning behind it.”

“Most people maybe don’t know there is a meaning behind it but you can have these meaningful lyrics in a hit. I used to really focus on lyrics a lot but over time it’s shifted more to melody, but I’ll write now where I strum and get a melody then apply the lyrics later. Rock The Casbah though has a bit of a story, it’s about something like Sharia law, where they don’t let anyone listen to rock music. It’s about a lack of freedom and the freedom the music can bring. If you listen Strummer drops in references to a few different religions so it’s not too specific.”

“At the time of listening to all this I was in a band with my mates at school, I poured a lot of influence of this into there and whilst I don’t lean on it as much now, I’ve never written anything really like this, Rock the Casbah was still a milestone track for me. I try to take inspiration from sounds though rather than just copy a song or a band, what’s that piano sound? Let’s try something like that for example.”

Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin

“This is someone else I don’t really sound like musically, there’s a bit of Neil Young here, a bit of Pavement. I remember playing it to my brother and him saying “What’s this country shit? Turn it off” I’m not a fan of country, it’s not my thing, but I wouldn’t put this with it, is it just because of the guitar? I think this is a really catchy song.”

“The lyrics again though really touch with something for me. It’s never been confirmed but I do wonder if Kurt Vile has ever suffered with some kind of dissociative mental health issue which I personally suffered with really badly. It’s been a while, I’m doing well now, but I got depersonalisation disorder and you get so anxious and stressed out about stuff. I didn’t realise what it was, your brain just removes itself from life in a way. You do things, you say things and live life and your brain’s in a complete fog. I had months not knowing what was wrong with me. Everything felt foggy, weird and wrong, I came out of that after reading a lot of stuff online, learning how to confront certain things that had caused me to react in that way.”

“Things would happen when I was younger and I shut off , a family member died, I went through a bad break up and I couldn’t just let the feelings happen. I was kind of living in a dream world then it comes to a head and a break happens and you just can’t engage and you feel like you aren’t there. Understanding why these things happen were how I reconnected and that realisation has helped and I don’t suffer with it any more. I have to keep an eye out and keep in good habits of course.”

Then I woke up one morning

Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror
Then I laughed and I said
“Oh silly me, that’s just me”

Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin

“The song though seems to perfectly fit with that though

‘I woke up this morning didn’t recognise the man in the mirror’

He keeps referencing these things, not knowing what day it is, brushing a stranger’s teeth. Then there’s funnier lyrics

‘Then I proceeded to not comb some stranger’s hair
Never was my style’

He’s not recognising it but it’s still him. It’s all set to a catchy up beat song, that’s the thing that inspired me most, it means even with something horrible you can create something uplifting. It doesn’t have to be this horrific thing where every song related to it has to be so depressing, it can be upbeat.”

“I remember the first time I heard Pretty Pimpin, I had a shuffle on and I had to stop what I was doing, put down the Xbox game I was playing, it was touching on so much for me. By the end it felt like the most accurate summary of what I felt yet it was fun to listen to and a great song. I’d recommend anyone who’s suffering to listen to it.”

“It can happen to anyone that kind of thing, to anyone and maybe there’s a conversation to be had about mental health. I wonder what would have happened to me if I’d had those conversations in school, had more awareness of mental health. We need to teach people to not bury it, for me burying it became the reaction to everything, eventually though it comes to a head. This song kind of shows that you don’t have to dwell on things in a negative way. “

Bat for Lashes – Laura

“This is one I return to a lot, you know when you don’t listen to something for a while then hear it again. You’re like ‘oh my god, that song’s amazing’ and somehow you forgot it existed. I think with this song the combination of chords and vocal melody is so emotive. I don’t know what it is with that combination. What it is, it just makes you feel something you can’t describe in words, it’s why music is so good. It’s intangible at its best.”

It’s why music is so good. It’s intangible at its best.

Laura kind of feels like it’s a song about someone I’ve never met but someone I’ve known my whole life. It could be hundred of people I know or someone I’ve never met. If you check out the YouTube comments you’ll see so many people saying ‘this reminded me of my cousin’ or ‘this reminded of my friend’. It’s personal to everyone even though they’re shining a different light on it.”

“Apparently though they weren’t going to include this on the album. The label said ‘we need another song’ and they wrote it on the day. The vocal take you here is the first take they recorded. It’s an amazing vocal take, it’s an example of lightning in a bottle. You record this in a day and this is how it comes out, it’s unbelievable. You can plan and work on something for a year and it’s still no good and then you can just do this in a day and it works.”

“It’s something I’d like to work on more, a lot of my stuff is anthemic indie and I’d love to have time to work on something like this. It’s something lots of people struggle with, having license to go and explore away from what they’re known for. There’s an audience for all music but its harder to break through the noise. Some people use, for example, Tik Tok to great effect to find that audience. I’ve seen people get really organic followings for really unique music. Eventually it always gets latched on to by people out to make money though and it crowds out that organic market.”

“Not all of these tracks are like what I create, I always try to take bits and influences from all over the place. I listen to loads of anthemic indie which is where my sound is, that may be why these tracks stand out to me. I’m a massive Talking Heads fan as well, a huge band for me, but they don’t find their way into my music directly. The writing side of David Byrne though, I love his writing, his stream of consciousness. I look at what he studies and writes, how recorded music didn’t even exist until this last century, it’s mad. He’s got a very unique mind.”

I get the feeling Dan could talk for his influences for hours, and much like he said at the start sticking to three is in a exercise in itself. Dan is back in the studio at the start of 2023 taking many of these influences with him no doubt.

Interview by : Dave Sparks | First published 23rd March 2023.

Catch more of Dan on social media on TikTok , Instagram and Twitter . You can also find his latest releases on Spotify , Bandcamp and YouTube

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