Full credit where and when it’s due to Dublin-based rock band, The Laundry Shop: they get knocked down but they get up again. They get knocked down some more, and they get up again even stronger, even more resilient and committed. We know everyone loves to hear a story such as this – it has the heady tang of a boxing movie, where everyone roots for the downtrodden and misunderstood hero figure – but who’d want to live it except those committed types who make music that moves your heart and head?
The Laundry Shop’s 2009 debut album, Grandstanding, may be an artefact of the past but it remains a notably underrated Irish rock album by virtue of the brazen approach it takes: it delivers the kind of sandblasted, widescreen rock music Irish bands just don’t offer anymore. “I’ve always thought that we had a very American rock sound,” says lead singer and main songwriter Stephen Robinson, “and that we should get over there as soon as possible. On the basis of the critical reception to Grandstanding we got a lot of acclaim, and as result of that we got a performance visa to America.”
First stop? Los Angeles. The city of angels, however, proved a tough nut to crack; the band gigged around, people became disillusioned, the line-up chopped and changed. Demo recordings were sent out to various industry bigwigs and producers, and within a short period of time, Robinson got a call from Dan Korneff, co-owner of House of Loud studios in New Jersey, and one of the producers behind Paramore’s 2007 Riot album, as well records by the likes of Papa Roach, Taking Back Sunday and Blondie. The immediate response from the band? “We packed up the van and drove across America for six days, landing in House of Loud studios, where we did the album with Dan.”
In 2011, new tracks from The Laundry Shop’s forthcoming album, Exit At Salvation, was showcased to some major record labels, but, says Stephen, “the line-up live wasn’t as good as it was on the record, and so we didn’t sell it well enough.” Where once The Laundry Shop might have been perceived as a band in flux, there is now no doubt as to their composure. The songs on Exit At Salvation – enveloped and underpinned by a keen understanding of what makes contemporary rock music well and truly rock – are borne out of emotional conflict, at the core of which is the fragmentation of a love affair from which no one comes out smelling sweet.
Human, emotional connection is why bands such as The Laundry Shop are still involved in the often frustrating but ultimately incredibly fulfilling process of making great music. “I want to strip it right down to that,” says Stephen. “I want to totally embrace performing. Just get in a van and play and play and play for as many people as possible… Involvement in the music industry, the nature of record companies sniffing around, is great, but you can end up in a kind of purgatory. You stop being a band, which means you don’t connect with people.”
There is little doubt that Exit At Salvation will establish The Laundry Shop (which also includes bassist/co-vocalist Tanya O’Calaghan and drummer Geoffrey French) as a type of rock band from Dublin that almost doesn’t exist anymore. “It has become almost comical that the perception of Dublin and Ireland is of singer-songwriters,” notes Stephen. “There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but Ireland needs a rock band, and that‘s where The Laundry Shop comes in. Hopefully, Irish radio will get in behind us and give us some love. It’s time. It needs to be done.”