• The Plea (1) 2011 (Small)
  • The Plea (4) 2011 (Small)
  • The Plea (5) 2011 (Small)
  • The Plea, Ballyliffen, December 2009
  • The Plea, Ballyliffen, December 2009

Sit down with The Plea and they’ll bend your ear about music for hours. They’ll debate their favourite Rolling Stones songs, Hamburg-era versus mid-60s Beatles and whether Be Here Now was better than Definitely Maybe. They’ll describe in detail a Jimmy Page solo and recall the horror of hearing their hero Jerry Lee Lewis play piano with Matchbox 20.

Ask them about their own album, however, and they’ll shift uneasily in their seats. The Plea would rather fans moved by their music dissected their songs than reveal what they meant when they wrote them. They’ll admit their aim is to emulate their idols, although that’s obvious from one listen to X, the Irish quartet’s extraordinary, debut album. X’s addictively soulful, arm-raising rock nods to countless classic acts from the past, but crucially, distils its influences so deftly it sounds as fresh as it does familiar.

On The Odyssey and Send It Out, you’ll hear the chiming guitars and ambitious grandeur of ‘80s U2, but brought up to date with electronics. On first single Praise Be, The Plea haul the bluesy swagger of primetime Rolling Stones in to 21st century with Chris Potter’s shimmering production. Windchime is every inch as heartbreakingly beautiful as The Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work, though it swops pharmaceuticals for suicide. Miracle is brilliant, brash, psychedelic rock with hints of The Who which swerves in to Spanish for no apparent reason, yet somehow makes perfect sense.

At the heart of The Plea are brothers Denny and Dermot Doherty. Denny sings like a cross between a young Bono and A Northern Soul-era Richard Ashcroft. Dermot plays lead guitar as though born on a stadium stage. Both insist they get on, then argue over whose songs are the best. They live ten miles apart in the tiny town of Ballyliffen in County Donegal, Ireland, where they formed their first band in their teens and began chasing a dream to make music as good as the songs that inspire them.

Along the way, the pair relocated in London, earning a crust as an acoustic duo playing T-Rex and Doors covers. They moved to Boston, where they worked as labourers by day and played the city’s bustling, Irish pubs by night. They spent a year in Minnesota after an American major label funded an album recorded in a big budget studio shared by John Mellencamp and – yikes! – Matchbox 20, but was never released. (Denny is at pains to point out that two references to Matchbox 20 does not make them secret fans of the band. Dermot worries his younger brother protests too much.)

In 2009, back in Ballyliffen, inspired by their travels, but disillusioned by record deals that had failed to deliver, the brothers brought in drummer Gerry Strawbridge and bassist Paul Toland, wrote a batch of new songs and posted them on their MySpace page. Interest from labels was immediate, but one offer in particular intrigued them. The founders of legendary, Belgian, dance label R&S Records were so impressed by the songs they wanted The Plea to become their first ever rock signing. After lengthy discussions on Skype, R&S owners Renaat Vandepapeliere and Sabine Maes agreed a deal that would result in the label launching an indie subsidiary, Planet Function , run by former Hut founder David Boyd (who signed the likes of The Verve, Smashing Pumpkins, Gomez and Placebo) on which to release X.

“At first, we couldn’t understand why a dance label wanted to sign us,” says Dermot. “But when we talked to Renaat and Sabine, we discovered we shared a love of lots of music. The main reasons we went with them was that they had so much enthusiasm and so many amazing ideas. And unlike any label we’ve dealt with before, they’ve delivered on every promise.”

Dreamers Stadium was recorded at London’s Metropolis studios with The Plea’s dream producer Chris Potter (The Verve’s Urban Hymns, The Rolling Stones , U2). Its cover art comes courtesy of seminal sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson, famous for his work with Pink Floyd, 10cc, Led Zeppelin and, most recently, Muse and Biffy Clyro. Thorgerson heard The Odyssey last year and says he was hooked by the end of the first verse.

Photographer Jill Furmanovsky, famous for her work with everyone from The Clash, The Stones and The Sex Pistols to James Brown and Oasis, also fell in love with The Plea on first listen. 18 months ago, The Plea sent Furmanovsky some of their songs, simply because they love her photos so much.
“We didn’t expect to hear back, but Jill replied straight away saying she wanted to work with us,” says a still shocked Denny. “We thought she’d ask us to come to London, but she insisted she shoot us in Ballyliffen. She stayed with us for few days and has shot us several times since.”
Furmonovsky was on hand when The Plea recently shot the video for forthcoming single Praise Be in a breathtaking dry dock in the centre of Antwerp. The video, shot in black and white on 16mm film, looks as iconic as The Plea’s songs sound.

“We couldn’t be happier with Dreamers Stadium,” says Denny. “We set out to write strong, uplifting songs that make people feel good and we know we’ve achieved that. Now we just want to get out there and play and, hopefully, inspire kids like our idols inspired us.”

By Lisa Verrico – The Sunday Times