Dublin four piece Girl Band are about to release their second album ‘The Talkies’. Keith Goldhanger meets up with them to find out more about it.
We begin our conversation with an apology.
An apology that the first thing we want to know about Girl Band’s second album is how they made it. Brand names of equipment are not necessary. This isn’t one of those fat colour supplements people buy at train stations before a long journey that never gets read by chin stroking wannabe musicians therefore answers such as ‘yes we have shit loads of pedals’ will probably satisfy us before moving on to other stuff.
Some of the best music some of us can fall in love with usually begins with a reaction that will stop you doing whatever it is you’re up to and can sometimes be followed by a sense of intrigue as to how the people involved in the making of it ever managed to achieve such a result. The conclusion one can come to once hearing the follow up to 2015’s ‘Holding hands with Jamie’ is to recognise that Girl Band are a four piece that all contribute equally to the sound they produce however how they manage this with so much noise and clutter around them is anyone’s guess.
I suppose we could just ask them what the fuck they’re doing.
We meet them in a pub on a hot barmy Monday evening where one of us has a list of about forty questions to ask them. We don’t even get to question number two which is fortunate considering we’re sure you don’t really want to know the names of their pets. We had a chat about stuff we’re all really interested in and that at the moment is the new album.
Alan (Guitar), Daniel (Bass) and Adam (Drums) could be any three blokes sunning it outside around a West London pub named (presumably not) after a mid 70’s band who sang Hotel California however Dara (Vocals) we do recognise despite the sunglasses. He’s the front man who holds a lot of these tunes together whilst the other three manage to deflect each piece of music seamlessly into five or six different segments whilst still convincing the listener the song surrounding our ears is still the same one. A bit like the way The Chemical Brothers tunes sound like they were made it could be said but with guitars and great shouting. This new release is a monster of an album that leaves the listener short of breath by the end.
So how the dickens do you manage to achieve this without it sounding rubbish then ?
Adam (Drums): ‘ It’s a collective thing, Daniel can play drums, Dara can play drums and Alan can play drums in his head so the others can play in time without me anyway. I don’t play drum fills, I keep it all simple ….
Alan (Guitar): ‘….. sometimes we hit new pedal settings whilst messing around and things just happen. We take photos of these settings for future reference, record what we’re doing and match it up with something else we’ve done. We record about 50/60 demo’s as we go along for each song and eventually learn how to play these songs live in one room. These aren’t songs you can sit down on a stool and play acoustically. The big thing at this stage is the physical feeling we get whilst these pieces are played as one and once we get recording properly we’re not concerned if the finished product ends up sounding different (which they often do) from how they began’.
Daniel (Bass) : ‘The New album was recorded in Ballintubbert House, a Stately home just outside Dublin. We had a lot of rooms to record in and we’d overdub the drums with more than one kit and in more than one room. We built the studio in the house, played the tunes live then added more noise, took stuff out and tried to keep moving around the house using different rooms such as a stone cellar that had some great natural reverb.
I’m not usually that interested in asking bands how they make music usually because it can be the most boring subject in the world but hearing ‘The Talkies’ has suddenly made me interested. How much sheet metal did you get through on this record ?
Adam: ‘ Not exactly sheet metal but I have quite a few old cymbals stacked on top of each other and the odd flattened truck hubcap that flaps around when you hit it, once we get into a groove it will usually coincide with Dara’s head nodding and adds his vocals to keep everything in it’s place when necessary.
Dara (Vocals); It can be difficult to sing over noise but we demo the whole thing as we go along and it takes time, we all sit around a room experimenting and every now and then, usually when I’m nodding my head the four of us realise that we’ve found a bit that needs preserving that we document until we can lock it in with something else we have. Three songs from the new album we’ve aired live now. ‘Shoulderblades’, ‘Going Norway’ and ‘Amygdala’ (basically a one minute long, one riff song that slots in with everything else on the album smack bang in the middle). We’re ready to play more of these tunes now, the album comes out at the end of September and then we’re off on a short tour in The US and Europe’.
How much of this equipment do you take along with you when you go away?’
Alan (Guitar) : ‘All of it, and we’ll be up to scratch with all our (new) pedal settings by this time too. If I buy a new piece of equipment I tend to spend a lot of time working out myself what it does as I have no patience to go through a manual. I’ll just take it out of the box, switch it on, turn it up, plug it in to the nearest thing to me and take photos of the settings that sounds good.
The album sounds very disciplined. It’s tight, intense, ferocious, sometimes a little unsettling yet also witty at times and With Dara’s convincing vocals or the simple repetitive beats from the kit holding everything together It’s a collection of music that the listener will find compelling enough to want to have on repeat for weeks on end until they can become as accustomed to the songs as the musicians who made this album that some of us would have categorised as a noise album a few years ago are themselves.
Daniel: ‘ I’m lazy and hate editing so it has to be tight when we play it – everything has to come in bang on time when we jump back into a piece. We don’t half arse it, we get it right live so we don’t have to edit anything (which we didn’t on this). The necessity to stop playing completely which I do on more than one occasion is just as important as when the four of us are going full throttle. We make sure we’re on it right up until the last time we press stop on whatever we’re recording our music on and at whatever stage of the process we’re at.
A dozen shows after a two and a half year absence from the live scene seems a small amount when you compare it to the lives of bands such as Idles but this is the same pattern that The Birthday Party, Big Black or more recently Liars shaped when they each headed over to the UK with albums we’d cherish as we watched each of their audiences grow. You have a huge list of gigs behind you at the moment though and appear content with the pace this is all going at ?
Dara: ‘ We’ve the usual stories from the past eight years to tell. We played at least one show in front of just the support acts one night. This was just after Primevara which brought us back down with a bump before we got back home. We’ve played in a bike shop crammed next to the toilet door in Leipzig, our first show in London was Notting Hill Arts Club, we’ve done a couple at the Old Blue Last .. …..’
Daniel : ‘……the first time we played in Manchester just one person turned up. She’d bought an advanced ticket because she was convinced the gig would sell out. The promoter gave her the money back then she headed for the merchandise stall ….’
‘…and we still took her money’ says the embarrassed front man before mentioning they all still keep in touch and she (‘Lucy’) does still turn up at their shows.
Alan: ‘ Then a few years later I walked into The (London) Scala one afternoon and went ‘fuck !! we’re playing here!!!!’
The band are familiar with the Electric Ballroom in Camden that they’ll no doubt fill to the rafters once they get to the tail end of the next tour but are fully aware that there’s still work to be done before this time arrives like the trip to the States and the amount of anticipation this new album will produce from those who will get to hear it before these dates and may cause them to want to grab the band to bring to many more towns as a matter of urgency.
Daniel: ‘At the moment we’ve no plans to do long tours. We’ll get through the Autumn gigs then tackle next year when it feels comfortable. We can work at our own pace, keep any eye on real life as we go along. We want to do whatever keeps us at ease.
Alan: ‘Fortunately we’ve not felt that we’ve really lost out on much by not jumping onto everything thrown our way. It’s nice to step back and take it in. Opportunities didn’t go away for us before therefore we feel in a lucky position. Living in Dublin is an advantage. We have no plans on leaving.’
In terms of influences its clear by our chatting that like many of us it’s not just noise bands that get the band taping their feet whilst sitting on the sofa.
Dara: ‘I grew up in a house that had four main things going on. The Beatles, The Spice Girls, Oasis and Leonard Cohen. Cohens’ lyrics fascinate me as does John Cooper Clarke.
When I mention that Going Norway reminds me of pre hands in pockets Mark E Smith his eyes light up again and without thinking blurts out how much he loves The Fall.
Alan: ‘Tons of bands that sound nothing like The Fall but are always compared to The Fall should be categorised as a genre of music …’
I would say the same applies to the The Virgin Prunes who I could imagine watching 35 years ago with Girl Band’s ‘Shoulder Blades’ as the sound track .Fat White Family also fall into this category but there’s no way Girl Band sound like Fat White Family.
The band are a bit too young to have as much knowledge that some of us have of the days when bands such as Head of David or Godflesh were cutting their teeth around the UK back in the early 90’s and have no knowledge of Missing Foundation when questioned who kick started the 90’s and were seen live by very few people in Western Europe half a decade earlier. Living in Ireland they are aware of The Virgin Prunes but like many of us haven’t listened to a lot of their ‘New form of Beauty’ era but do seem to raise their eyebrows a bit when it comes to mentioning electronic music (they have previously covered The Chemical Brothers and of course Blawan’ s ‘Why they hide their bodies under my garage’)
Adam: ‘ Berlins techno scene is basically the Birmingham Techno scene relocated…’
…. He then goes on to mention loads of acts the recorder doesn’t pick up now the volume on the nearby music system gets turned up a few notches as though remind us that if we’re talking we’re not drinking.
I suggest the tunes of The Chemical Brothers are probably made in a similar way to the tracks on this album and then we’re off talking drum sticks, guitars, amps in flight cases and plectrums again acknowledging the fact the the batteries are running low and no one wants to know about that stuff.
I think one of them said they had a dog.
Girl Bands second album is fucking great and comes out September 27th.
2nd Oct – Chicago – Beat Kitchen
4th Oct – Allston, MA – Great Scott
5th Oct – Philly, PA – Boot and Saddle
6th Oct – Washington, DC – Songbyrd, DC
8th Oct – Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere
UK/ EU Dates
2nd Nov – Manchester – Academy 2
5th Nov – London – Electric Ballroom
7th Nov – Brussels – Botanique
10th Nov – Utrecht – Le Guess Who
12th Nov – Berlin – Lido
14th Nov – La Maroquinerie – Paris
22nd Nov – Vicar street – Dublin
GIRL BAND ARE: Dara Kiely (vocals) Daniel Fox (bass)
Adam Faulkner (drums) Alan Duggan (guitar)
Thanks to Ben Ayres and Rough Trade for the beers. Top photo by Rich Gilligan.