Photo by Atkin
Welcome to our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series, where if you haven’t bought a ticket to our upcoming live music showcase yet, we show you why you should.
With both our showcase’s opener and headliner now announced, all that’s left is to stitch up our lineup by announcing our main support: and it’s a name who was worth the wait. London-based and Irish-raised artist Finn Doherty will be bringing an electric blend of alternative-pop beats and universally relatable, love-related lyrics to the stage, creating an atmosphere which is sure to both move you, and get you moving. “He put on a hell of a show last night,” Gotobeat made a point to tell me last week, referring to Finn’s recent opening set at the Sebright Arms — and if this show was just a “warm-up” for Finn, as he later told me during our interview, we can rest assured that his set at our STRAND showcase will be roof-raising.
Of course, before Finn and I were to speak about the finer details of his high-energy live performances, I figured it was only polite for us to start our interview with introductions. Finn stands out as a fresh face to the STRAND — and to streaming services alike, with only one song out across his socials to date. However, that one song was good enough to sway me into taking a recorded-music-related risk: and I knew as soon as he entered our Zoom room that I’d made the right choice with reaching out. Beyond his fashionable pearl jewellery, which to me, already said “star in the making” (and which I frankly wanted for my own), his first few answers to my questions already piqued my interest.
“I grew up in a pretty musical family,” Finn says at first, when I ask how he first got into making music. Having grown up with two musically-inclined parents who would frequently perform traditional Irish music in North London pubs, Finn’s first steps into the local music scene came from following their lead — but that wasn’t the only influence he absorbed. “I also grew up on a lot of grunge, punk, indie-rock, and folk music. And I’m really into poetry. As soon as I started learning to write, I was interested in poetry, which fused with my musical background as soon as I started playing guitar, when I was around six years old. So songwriting came to me pretty naturally, and kind of just started happening.”
Photo by Atkin
As if this wasn’t already a very varied list of musical influences, Finn goes on to talk about another genre which has inspired his more recent work — and it’s one which comes right out of left field. “The whole hyperpop wave that happened in the last five years was really exciting to me. The attitude of that kind of music has been really inspiring. All of the artists that work in that genre do things as they want to, and on the technical side maybe it’s not traditionally how things are done, but this means you get really interesting results. I’m a big fan of artists like Glaive and ALDN. Someone described hyperpop to me recently as 'the new punk', or internet-era punk music, which I think is a really interesting way of looking at it. I think [my music] does also draw from pop-punk; lots of people from my generation had a pop-punk phase. When I was in my early teens I was a massive fan of Green Day, and I was really inspired by them as well.”
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that hyperpop is one of the global music scene’s hottest new genres, with a boundary-breaking ethos that is definitely resonant with a new punk wave, and a production level that anyone can achieve if they want to. Love it or hate it, you have to admire what it stands for; equally, now I have to ask what Finn’s own music, while not exactly (or at all) hyperpop, stands for, if he approaches his own work with that same admirable attitude. What was the premise behind his currently-released song, ‘You’re Still In My Dreams’, I ask? “That song kind of happened by accident,” he admits honestly, and I can’t help but laugh, my expectations of his answers subverted once again. “I actually wrote it when I was doing a lot of toplining work. There was a period during the beginning of the post-pandemic phase in the summer of 2021, when I was given the opportunity to write a lot of pop music, and to work with some really cool artists. At the time, I wasn’t thinking too much about what I was going to do with the music I was writing, or who it was going to be for. ‘You’re Still In My Dreams’ was the first song in quite a long time where I thought, ‘I really like this, and I could really see myself singing this song’. So I decided I’d keep the song for myself, and build a show [around it], and then see what happened next: and now a whole other project has been born from it. I really love that song, because it was an exciting starting point for a new wave of music for me.”
The related (and fascinating) question of whether an artist should lose critical respect if they don’t write their own lyrics has been a hotly debated point as of late, and I’m keen to know what Finn, as a topliner himself, thinks about it. “I think it's controversial to a lot of people, but I personally have never had a problem with the idea that artists and performers don’t write their own music — that’s been the case throughout the course of the modern music industry. Some of the biggest artists don’t write their own music; performing and songwriting are almost two different industries. I find it really interesting that people don’t like that, and complain about it, but it’s always been that way: if you look at a lot of the artists from the 60s and 70s, it was all covers! Of course there were some artists that were writing their own music, like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to see how many artists throughout history have actually not written their own songs.”
Photo by Atkin
Nevertheless, Finn asserts that the music he’s writing now is a lot more personal — and this is something I can attest to, having now heard one of his soon-to-be-released songs, which is set to be launched in March. According to Finn, it’s part of an upcoming project; the same project which has grown from the seeds sown by the ‘You’re Still In My Dreams’ single. “This upcoming song is the first chapter of a story that I’ve wanted to tell for a very long time. I’m really excited about it, because it builds on what people have heard already in a really interesting way. If you’ve seen me play live, you will have already heard a lot of the music [to be released]; people keep saying to me, ‘When is this going to come out, I really want to listen to these songs!’. I’ve just had to take the time to get it right, but it’s coming, and I’m excited for it.” If you weren’t already sold on coming to Finn Doherty’s set at our showcase, what better reason could there be than to listen to exclusive music that won’t make it to Spotify for an unspecified amount of time (but which I’m sure is more than worth the wait)?
To return to what Finn already does have available to sink your teeth into, though, I decide to turn to the music video for ‘You’re Still In My Dreams’, where the singer sports a bold smudged eyeshadow look, walking about an abandoned warehouse with heartbreak in his eyes and a bunch of roses in his hands. It’s the music video of every aesthetic Tumblr blog’s dreams (title drop not intended). With our other two artists, Livia Rita and Good Future, having already emphasised the need to attract audiences' eyes during a performance as well as their ears, it seems that curating a certain image is just as important to Finn Doherty. “I think the relationship between image and music is a really important one. I try to let it be quite a natural give-and-take, and not try to force one thing to be born from the other.” However, the aesthetic for this particular music video was far from planned. “As for the black eye makeup, we did it on [the music video] set, because I was really ill when we recorded that video, and I had really puffy eyes. We hadn’t really planned to do any makeup, so while I had some with me, we didn’t have a proper mirror, or any brushes… So I just sat in the car and smudged it all over my face.” The DIY ethos and technically unpredictable production that hyperpop and pop-punk stand for all seems to be coming full-circle now, I tell him.
That being said, despite the last-minute nature of this particular look, I never would’ve guessed that was the case — Finn seems to own it in a way that just works, even if the behind-the-scenes story of the music video shoot was much less glamorous than it ended up looking (dodgy lighting, extremely dusty warehouse, and all). After all, as he sums up in his own words, it’s not just about what you wear, but how you wear it: “A long time ago, I was told that when I was performing, I should make sure not to look like a member of the audience who’s just gotten up on the stage to fill in for someone. For a long time I didn’t think about that too much, but naturally [as I got older] I started to take a bit more of an interest in fashion and general culture, and I became more comfortable and confident in myself. Then I became a bit more excited about what I was going to wear on stage, and in videos.”
Photo by Atkin
Now I know we can expect a carefully-curated outfit from a Finn Doherty live performance, but what else will be on the cards? “Blood, sweat, and tears,” Finn says, helpfully emphasising the ‘and’. I can only hope the Old Blue Last has a fully-stocked first-aid kit. Not to worry too much, though, because offsetting all the carnage will be “a very cute band of musicians standing behind me — killing it, because those guys are great". And finally, "I would also expect the unexpected,” he says, as if I haven’t already been doing that for half of our interview together.
I’m hoping that the answer to my next question will be what I’m expecting, though. I ask Finn how he’s feeling about performing at our showcase, and I’m glad to find out that I wasn’t mistaken. “I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t played with either of the other artists before, so I’m really excited to see both of their shows. And we [Finn and his band] performed one of our favourite shows last year at the Old Blue Last, so I’m excited to go back and play there again. We’ve only done one show this year, and we kind of treated it as a warm-up, so it’s great to be getting things moving again.”
I’m sure that the STRAND showcase, although a special night indeed, will just be one date on the calendar for what’s sure to be a big year for Finn Doherty: so I ask what else he has planned for the rest of 2023. “Lots more music! People have been saying to me for too long now that they want to be able to listen to more of my music [via streaming]. We’re also in the process of shooting and planning more videos at the moment, so there’ll be loads of exciting stuff for people to follow. I’m also having conversations about finding new ways to communicate with the people who listen to my music. So I think it’s going to be a really exciting year.” For my part, I can hope that the STRAND Magazine can play a part in helping Finn start some of those conversations.
Be part of Finn Doherty’s growing community by getting yourself a ticket to our STRAND Magazine X Gotobeat Showcase on March 25 at the Old Blue Last, Shoreditch.
The artist’s responses have been minimally edited for the purposes of clarity and concision.