I Don't Belong

Album: A Hero's Death (2020)

Songfacts®:

  • This song finds frontman Grian Chatten reacting to threats against his individuality. There are two sources of his feelings of alienation: Chatten getting engaged to his longtime girlfriend in August 2019, and the success of Fontaines D.C.'s debut album, Dogrels. He explained to Stereogram:

    "I was stepping into a really serious relationship for the first time in my life, and there was that fear of losing myself in that. There was also the greater threat I recognized, the adulation and the feedback and critique of our music and our band, and the expectation of our music in a way. I think I'm very susceptible to people-pleasing. I often end interactions feeling kind of dirty because I've forced myself into saying things I don't believe, or into acting happy or energetic or whatever. That sickness kind of built up and this tune came out of that."
  • Musically, A Hero's Death finds Fontaines D.C. departing from the post-punk sound of Dogrels. "I Don't Belong" was the first demo the band made for their second album, where there was a lot of improvisation during the recording. It resulted in something mellower and more atmospheric than the band's previous material, with a cleaner production.

    Guitarist Carlos O'Connell told Stereogram: "I definitely felt the excitement of this being something new as we were walking around and listening to it. I think that's what happened more on this record than the other one; there's more space for improvisation. Not necessarily melodically or harmonically, but in terms of dynamics and extra sounds and atmospheres. There's a lot more that happened in the moment of writing and recording."
  • The band's bassist, Connor Deegan III, directed the music video remotely from his home in County Mayo, Ireland. He shot it on location in Skerries on the Irish east coast where frontman Grian Chatten is from. Deegan explained to Mojo magazine they had a whole different video shoot planned in London, but they spent all their budget on "A Hero's Death." Then all the COVID restrictions hit, so the band had to figure out how to do something remotely from back home in Ireland.

    They decided on a visual with Deegan directing and Chatten as the star. "It would be cheaper for a start," he laughed. "But I had to learn how to write a script, a short list, and talk to the cinematographer, the editor. So we did the shoot and... It didn't work out at all."

    Deegan learned from his mistakes. "We regroup. I explained everything in way more detail. Then it turned out as I'd imagined. I was hoping to bring out the pensive feel of the song, a lost feeling. Shooting in Skerries where Grian is from, the beach environs reflect what's going on in his head. It's trying to tell a parallel emotional story to the lyrics."
  • Explaining the story that's told in the video, Deegan said that Chatten's character "goes on a walk, passing by all these places. He's telling us this dramatic story that slowly grows as the verses go on. At the start you do and you don't really get a sense of the anxiety or negativity to come. It's buried under the surface.

    At the end he submerges himself, completely consumed by his inner thoughts finally coming out into the world."

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