When Fontaines D.C. singer Grian Chatten lived with his fiancée in Caledonian Road, Islington, they had some older neighbors who rowed a lot. Their incessant arguing inspired this intimate, accordion-led song.
Chatten's Caledonian Road house backed onto the back of another house where a couple in their mid-70s lived. "They have really, really, really loud, like really loud arguments, the kind of arguments where you'd see London on a map getting kind of further and further away and hear the shout resounding," Chatten recalled to Apple Music. "Like something out of The Simpsons or something like that. And the man would come out and he'd take a big breath, and he'd stand on his balcony and he'd look left and right and sort of exhale all the drama. And then he'd just turn around and go back to his gaff to do the same thing the next day."
As Chatten listened to his elderly neighbors quarreling, he wondered about the difference between old love and young love, hopes and fears.
"The absurdity of that, you know, what we put ourselves through to be in a relationship that causes you such daily pain, to just always turn around and go back in; that double edged sword, that glue trap of love, of relationships," he said.
"I couldn't really help but write about that sort of almost physical mirror that was there," Chatten continued. "You know, am I seeing myself and my girlfriend in these two people, and vice versa?"
Chatton wrote "The Couple Across The Way" quickly and recorded it in his kitchen, playing the accordion and singing at the same time. "That's why the timing is all over the place," he explained to Uncut magazine. "But I really like writing music that isn't tied down by rhythm. Rhythm anchors songs a bit too much for me and I think as someone who primarily focuses on lyrics it's nice to it's nice to have music that shifts around that."
"The Couple Across The Way" comprises six verses from the perspective of the older couple:
Nice to know that you're still caring
Well enough to raise your voice
But if we must bring up the past then
Please don't speak to me of choice
In the last verse we hear their take on the young, nascent love that Chatten and his fiancée has.
Across the way moved in a pair
With passion in its prime
Maybe they look through to us
And hope that's them in time
Chatten's songwriting is often of colorful metaphors, but his lyrics here are straightforward and easy to decipher. "I think it takes guts to pick something and say something about it rather than just conjure up loads of imagery," he told Uncut. "A song like the couple across the way is just about the couple across the way. It's writing about the thing that the light is cast on, as opposed to the light itself."
Fontaines D.C. recorded this song for their third album, Skinty Fa. They originally planned on making it a double album. "One half was going to be the record it is now, the other half was going to be Irish traditional music, or new songs we'd written in the style of Irish traditional music," bassist Conor Deegan told Mojo magazine. "'The Couple Across The Way' was one of those."
The Polocho-directed video sees Grian Chatten longingly playing an accordion on a window sill. There are also scenes of an older couple arguing, and a younger, lovestruck couple.
Guerrilla filmmaker and photographer Polocho also filmed The Kooks' visual for "Cold Heart