Swords, County Dublin
To sell out one of your country’s most treasured venues is a feat for any band, but to do it at your first gig is the mark of something truly special. Dublin’s Only Rivals did just that in August, when a few months after their first practice they took to the stage at a packed-out Fibber Magees in Dublin. For the four Irish lads that make up the band – vocalist and guitarist Stephen Arkins, bassist Sean Reid, guitarist Jason McTernan and drummer Ally Doyle – it was the start of something special, but also the turning point on a journey that’s years in the making.
Back in 2008, three-quarters of them were playing to a sold-out RDS Arena down the road supporting Paramore in their old guise of Home Star Runner. Having released an album on the now-defunct local indie label Blastspace Records, their name drew in the crowds across Ireland and made them local cult heroes in their native Dublin. But after a period of stagnation and increased embitterment they split in 2010. Three years of separation and soul searching led them to regroup in June of 2013 and they’re back with a new name, and a new perspective.
“Home Star was fun, but towards the end we thought we knew everything,” begins Only Rivals frontman Stephen Arkins. “We thought we knew what we were doing. But we didn’t really have a clue.”
Having left the band abruptly in 2010, Stephen has spent the last three years searching for other musical endeavors, but never found the right match. What happens between Stephen, Sean, Jason and new drummer Ally when they’re together in a room is what drew him back.
“I never thought for a second I’d be back playing with some of these guys again,” Stephen continues. “I tried to start other bands and jam with other guys, but there was nothing there. We have such good chemistry I can just feel it. At that first practice we wrote our first song and it just felt right. It was instant.”
In September 2013, Only Rivals unveiled their debut track ‘Borders’. With Stephen’s snarling vocal, a driving bass and an unforgiving chorus, it’s a statement of what’s to come from the Dublin four-piece.
Their debut EP is set for release in February 2014, and each of the tracks is an anthem in waiting. ‘History’ is a fast-paced, charger of a song that showcases the phenomenal pace of drummer Ally, while ‘When I Die’ has a bounce to rival the very best. Taking straight-talking pop-punk hooks and mixing them with the honesty and warmth of Lower Than Atlantis or Deaf Havana, lyrically it reflects on the band’s growth since the days of Home Star - ‘If I were you for a day, I would convince myself to change, I could always call your bluff before anyone else could,’ Stephen bluntly addresses his former self in ‘History’.
There’s no dwelling on the past here, though, because Only Rivals are set to hit the ground running in 2014. And for Stephen, Sean, Jason and Ally, this time they’re giving it everything.
“This isn’t just a hobby for us,” Stephen concludes. “It’s all or nothing this time.”