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'If You're Bored of This City'... You Won't Be After Finn Doherty's EP Launch Show

Photo by Alec Jafrato, provided courtesy of Finn Doherty

I catch Finn Doherty in the basement of Hoxton Cabin right at the end of his soundcheck. It’s a trendy little venue - a capacity of sixty, I’m told, if you’re feeling ambitious. Upstairs, there’s fake ivy draped over the bar, wood carvings on the ceilings, and bartenders glide in and out from behind a beaded curtain to serve customers Cuban-inspired cocktails.

Nevertheless, he’s not due on stage for a while yet, which means everyone has time to grab a bite from the neighbouring Vietnamese restaurant, and I have time to learn more about the project he’ll be performing later in the evening.

‘If You're Bored of This City’ is Finn Doherty’s first full EP, finally released in full on 10th May after more than two years in the making. I ask him if he really is bored of this city - London, where everyone always says there’s so much to do. “I came up with the concept about a year ago, at a time when there were loads of conversations around cost of living, and when young people were having a lot of discussions about the struggles of being able to enjoy life in London. Myself and a lot of my friends were feeling like we just had to work to live here, and didn't have any expenses or time left over to be able to go out, or make art, or even see friends. We were quite literally becoming bored of the city. It was very tricky.”

At the same time, he tells me that there’s more behind the title than meets the eye. “There’s a metaphor there as well. When I'd written KMU, which the EP title comes from, it was speaking a lot more to a time in my life when I was struggling in what was a very abusive situationship. It was wrapped up in a lot of drama, addiction, and other topics which are touched on across the project. I also became bored of the city in that sense, because it had become the battlefield for all of this terrible stuff that was going on.”

Album art for 'If You're Bored of This City'

The EP sounds incredibly personal, I tell him, and he agrees. If that’s the case, how does he feel about other people hearing it?

“I think my entire creative process is very selfish and introverted, and I really don't consider the audience until a very late stage in the process. So at the inception of all of these songs, it was purely cathartic. It felt like I needed to get my feelings off my chest, and just have them somewhere else other than in my head. I’d gone through such a fundamental life experience, which I really struggled to overcome and make any sense of, that the process was just a complete therapy for me.

“So, when I remember that other people are listening to these songs, it can be quite weird - especially when it’s my mum! The first time she heard ‘Figure It Out’ was when I played it at a show that she was at, and there's a really iconic photo of her with her fingers in her ears.”

Although Finn’s mum might graciously bow out from listening to some of his songs, I’m certain the same won’t be said for the rest of the crowd coming down to Hoxton Cabin this evening. Having seen Finn perform live twice now, I can tell how much his audience always loves it - and how much he does, too. “Live events are so informative for how my songs end up being produced in the first place. The recorded songs on this EP have only ended up the way they are now, because I've been playing them live for the last two years.

"Back then, they were all very different in terms of arrangement and production, and even structure in places. You can really get a lot from an audience when you're playing songs to them in a room, and you can easily get a feel for what works and what doesn't. We’ve changed all sorts of things since then, like extending a chorus, or cutting down a section of a verse. That’s why I'm such a big fan of trying to play songs a lot live before they come out, and before they're finished.”

But now, of course, all seven songs are finished - and I can’t wait to hear them performed live, in order, for the first time. Before that, though, we return to Hoxton Cabin to find Finn’s opener, Magnus Brandt, setting up to kick off the evening.

“I met Magnus at the end of July last year when we did a show together,” Finn informs me. “He’s part of a collective called Sewerbratz, which involves a load of amazing artists. I was really into his songs. Based on the music he’s put out recently, and the way he performs, I thought he’d create a really great vibe to open the show. His music is mellow in places, it’s dark, it’s moody - it’s got this youthful angst about it which I really love.”

Despite him saying this, when Magnus greets me with a smile and a firm handshake, I would never guess that he and ‘youthful angst’ could be talked about in the same sentence. I ask him if he’s nervous. “Not at all,” he says, which might be one of the only times anyone has said so when I’ve asked them that. “I just see it all as good fun, really.”

This, I soon find, is an understatement. The girl next to me almost cries laughing during his set, somewhere between him pitching his voice two octaves up for an adlib, and repeating a phrase in Portuguese at the end of one of his songs, which he tells the audience is how they say “I love your beautiful blonde hair”... Apparently. His music is amazing though, as moody and mellow as promised, and I’m fully on board with it the whole way through. “I understand his vision,” I find myself saying to my plus-one, multiple times throughout his set. “This is probably the best live performance I’ve ever seen.”

That is, until Finn Doherty takes the stage, and I have to knock Magnus one spot down the podium. Joined by Joey Robbins on drums and Miles Lavelle Golding on the synth, Finn runs through the audience and onto the stage during the glittering keys which open the EP on ‘Intro’. It’s a song he had described to me as having been designed to open the live performance before making its way onto the recorded project, and with how expansive and atmospheric it is, I can see how.

Photos by Alec Jafrato, provided courtesy of Finn Doherty

While Finn transitions effortlessly from ‘Intro’ to ‘Long Nights With Your Eyes’, which form two parts of the same song, I consider how impressive it is that he’s been able to make a predominantly electronic EP sound so full for a stage. A live drum kit makes a lot of the difference, and so do the embellished drum parts which Finn and Joey have carefully worked out before the show.

‘Drop My Guard’ and ‘KMU’ are next, whose lyrics are already well-known to everyone standing at the front. For a small venue, the energy is remarkably high, and it’s no doubt a testament to Finn’s reach that they know the words before the EP has even hit streaming platforms.

That being said, Finn doesn’t always need complex instrumentation or catchy choruses to keep the audience’s attention, which strikes me when he plays ‘Your Love Won’t Take Me Home’. He performs completely alone, on an acoustic guitar which isn’t even hooked up to an amp. A hush descends over the crowd, who spends four minutes completely spellbound.

“That song’s about falling in love with a straight boy,” he says once it’s over, which breaks the hold it has on them as they laugh. “Not a great situation, and I wouldn’t recommend it.”

He then moves on to ‘Figure It Out’, to which no one at all puts their fingers in their ears, and after that there’s only - to my shock, and to everyone else’s - one song left in the set, before they ‘Call It Off’. As for the title, well, you’ve guessed it. “‘Call It Off’ is the final confession to the other person that something has to change, and that whatever’s happening has to end,” Finn had told me, noting that it might be his favourite song on the EP. “It’s a hard decision to make, but it’s one that has to be made, so it’s bittersweet. It’s a really beautiful song, but it’s really sad, and it’s very special. I think it’s the perfect conclusion to the experience, really.”

He’d been talking about the EP, but I find it also applies to the live show. While Finn sings the call-and-response part of the chorus, a repetition of ‘Call It Off’ which the crowd emphatically chants to, I consider how it’s maybe the most responsive call-and-response I’ve ever seen. “During the last half of that song, I got quite emotional,” Finn tells me later. “It was surreal. The EP has been such a long time in the making, and I’ve come so far personally since then. It’s been a journey through a lot of really low, dark times, and it was really special to be in a room full of people singing that song with me. Four or five years ago, when the experience I had was first happening to me, I never would have imagined that this would be where I’d end up.”

Photo by Alec Jafrato, provided courtesy of Finn Doherty

Nevertheless, it’s clear that even though the EP has finally been polished into its final form, Finn’s journey with the project is only just beginning - especially when he clearly has so many fans who love seeing him live. “I’m looking forward to doing it again. We've got another release party lined up in Norwich in a couple of weeks, and then a few shows through the summer, so the schedule’s already filling up. I also really want someone to take me on tour as well, so hopefully that will happen at some point! As soon as I came offstage, I felt like I wanted to do it all over again, and that’s a big part of why I love doing this so much.”

With Finn Doherty about, it seems almost impossible to get bored of whichever city he’s in. As for me, I’ll no doubt remember the show as one of the best gigs I’ve been to, to date - that is, until it’s inevitably surpassed by his next one.


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