This photo of The Virginmarys and all others on the page © Katie Clare.

The Virginmarys Interview

Shibuya Duo Exchange, Tokyo

October 3rd 2013

The Virginmarys have been delivering great classic rock, stained with a grungy blues, dynamic punk energy and passionately explosive lyrics via a string of self-released EP’s and constant touring (along the way supporting Skunk Anansie, Reverend and The Markers and Slash amongst others) for several years. The past nine months have seen the Macclesfield trio indelibly make their mark, taking their scorching live show not only around the UK, but also storming the festival circuit, embarking on an extended tour of the USA as well as releasing their first album ‘King of Conflict’ which is nominated for Best New Album at this year’s Classic Rock Awards – alongside David Bowie, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath. The band even issued an alternative acoustic version of their debut, ‘Stripped’ this summer. Prior to a dynamite ninety minutes, twenty tracks gig at Tokyo’s Shibuya Duo Exchange we talked with Ally Dickaty (vocals/guitar), Danny Dolan (drums) and Matt Rose (bass) about all things Virginmarys, where to locate modern day poetry and resurrecting dead rock stars.

Ally: Who are The Virginmarys? We are an intense, honest rock ‘n’ rock band, we’re not really following any trend; we’re a really close band, best friends – we do kind of live out of each other’s pockets. I’ll tend to write the song acoustically then, when we get into the practice room, we’ll all add a lot of energy, urgency and inject a really punk element in there too. Everything started when I met Danny at college and we started out jamming to old Hendrix stuff, then, when we met Matt a few years back, it became the three of us jamming together and it was then it really started.

Louder Than War: There have been several well-received EP releases over the years,  you always deliver strong live performances and have a solid fan base, however it was six years before you released your debut album – why the wait?

Ally: Well, Danny and I started The Virginmarys about six years ago, Matt joined about four years ago – that was when we quit everything else, we see that as the start of things we got on the road and in the studio. There was some time before we started to release, we did our EP’s to find out what we were about, we knew a debut album was going to be terribly important, it is to any band, so it was not something we wanted to rush.

Danny: There are four songs from the EPs of the previous three years on the album, however the rest are new.

It was only a few months after your debut album that ‘Stripped’ was released (an acoustic version of the album). What was the catalyst to this production?

Ally: That originally came about as the majority of the songs are initially arranged acoustically, and it seemed a nice way to give the fans something extra. We reworked the songs sometimes as some riffs don’t work on an acoustic guitar so well. It’s been really popular;  I mean, we are never going to see ourselves as an acoustic band, The Virginmarys aren’t that stripped down – we’re all about the energy and that live show vibe, the communication of what the songs mean is also changed when you play them acoustically. We’ve talked about releasing a live DVD / CD early next year – a lot of people love the album and really want that live essence captured for those songs, live is what we are about as soon as The Virginmarys started we got on the road.

Matt: It’s all about the time on stage, we really are a touring band.

Danny: When we first started jamming we’d play for hours, we knew that naturally we’d be a full energy live band – be completely into it. We are not shoe gazers.

As a touring band can you continue to create new songs on the road or will you take time out to write?

Ally: I write a lot of lyrics and ideas that come about while on the road, this year we’ve had very little time to ourselves, when we do have spare time we get in the studio. But I am always writing down lines, writing a lyric. It’s a constant process. I’d say we’ve pretty much got the second album there, the basis definitely is: we really just need to get playing them over and over again, let the parts just naturally fall into place.

Matt: We want to work as hard as we possibly can; it is amazing to be given the opportunity to tour so many amazing places, especially America and Japan.

Danny: I think certainly regarding American and Japan we have been lucky to get the opportunities we have considering the stage we are at currently, people have been brilliant, things have gone down really well and we’ve had an incredible positive response.

When you return home you’ve an extensive UK tour throughout November, playing some larger venues this time round, what should be people expect?

Matt: Yes the Manchester Academy 2 gig especially is one of the biggest venues we’ve headlined and London’s 100 Club is also special, many of the other venues we have played before. As we’ve not toured the UK for a while we’re sure the shows will all sell out and we’ll be supplying some really intense performances.

Danny: We’re going to try to put as many new songs into the sets as we can, we’ll be doing the album of course, but we really want to do new songs – maybe two different ones per night or something.

Ally: It really helps us as well to get the new songs out there; it really is a lot different playing to an audience compared to a practice room.

Danny: We really are dying to get this new stuff heard, we’ve got loads of songs that have built up over the last couple of years I think it is exciting. We want to see what happens playing those – we’ll be able to see if next year will be the right time for the next album. We’ve even, well I’ve definitely, thought about doing an album that we give away.

Matt: Maybe the way we would do it would be an album that comes with a ticket for a unique show something that would be special for the fans that have really made an investment in us.

Who did you invest your time in when you first started making musical choices and who’s an influence on you now?

Danny: Growing up I got into Elvis, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, loads of those big rock ‘n’ roll bands of the 70’s too, Motown and some soul – this was via my parents. Once I decided I wanted to be a drummer I found that those big 60s and 70s drummers had really influenced the way I went about playing.

Ally: I grew up with The Beatles and they remain very important to me, there is a real edge to John Lennon which has always been something special, as I got older I moved into punk bands and the Brit pop scene – Oasis were huge for me, they changed a lot of things, also import to me are Rocket from the Crypt and Rancid. Later I discovered Neil Young, finding out that he too writes both acoustically and electrically and his songs have such great lyrics. Now I’ve started listening to a lot of hip-hop, I love listening to lyrics and hip-hop tends to be brilliant for lyrics – it’s something missing from the mainstream where it is harder to find honest and genuine lyricism. Eminem is a great yet that’s only scratching the surface. Go a little deeper within the hip hop scene you can find there are many acts that are genuinely poetic; some of the stuff out there is complete genius – the definition of modern poetry.

Matt: Oasis seemed to change everything while we were growing up, ‘Definitely Maybe’ is an amazing album I love ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ too. I was, and still am a massive Nirvana fan. I was learning to play guitar, but was pretty half-assed about it, when I’d convinced my uncle to do me a tape of ‘Nevermind’. I remember being in bed, jumping out and running down the stairs grabbing at that tape: as soon as ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ hit for the first time – it blew me away. That’s when I picked up the guitar and took it seriously. Other things do make their way in overtime David Bowie, Motown, Northern Soul, even dance music I like the Aphex Twin, my dad was a big Black Sabbath fan so they had an impact.

Ally: We all really like the new The Queens of the Stone Age album and The National album – we love that to.

Matt: We try not to stick to one genre; I have been like that in the past, for a year I was like ‘if it doesn’t sound like Kurt Cobain I don’t want to know’; now I listen to a lot of different stuff.

I know your free time is short, however having done a number of festivals this year you may have had the chance then to catch up with some performances. Who have you see live recently that impressed?

Danny: We saw Queens of the Stone Age – they were really really good. I’d seen them a few years ago and they weren’t that great, but they were absolutely brilliant this year.

Matt: Recently we saw Nine Inch Nails at Leeds.

Ally: Yes, Nine Inch Nails, they were really good.

Danny: I wanted to see Nine Inch Nails, but I got too drunk and I missed them. I saw Rihanna and that was crap and then I saw Beady Eye – that was worse.

Ally: I watched a band called And So I Watch You from Afar – they were on the rock stage at Reading. A heavy post-rock band from Belfast that was a good they were a real eye opener.

Matt: I saw My Bloody Valentine, I’d not seen them before so I had nothing previous to compare it too, but they definitely impressed me. I’d love to have seen Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, well Nirvana.

Would they headline your fantasy festival line up?

Matt: Together? Nah I don’t think they would work well together and it would mess with my head, my two heroes on the same stage.

Ally: I’d love to have seen Nirvana, I’ll never get the chance, of course, but I’d have loved to.

Danny: I’d go with Joy Division and yer ………… Elvis.

The technology is there, how about a hologram festival?

Ally: No, no it would have to be the real deal.

Danny: No it would be weird. If I had a time machine I’d go back and see Elvis.

Matt: Well I think if there were a hologram Hendrix or Cobain gig you’d have to go check it out and you know stay for a song.

Danny: (*sighs) I really did want to see Nine Inch Nails.

The Virginmarys debut album ‘King of Conflict’ (CD/DL) and the acoustic version ‘Stripped’ (CD) are available now via the band’s online store, iTunes and regular music retailers. The Virginmarys UK Tour starts November 10th at the Boileroom, Guilford and continues…

  • November 11th The Harley, Sheffield
  • November 12th Cavern Club, Exeter
  • November 13th 100 Club London
  • November 16th Sugarmill, Stoke
  • November 17th O2 Academy 2, Liverpool
  • November 19th Talking Heads, Southampton
  • November 20th Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
  • November 21st Liquid Room, Edinburgh
  • November 22nd Academy 2, Manchester

Tickets are available now. For further details, ticket purchase links and up to date news and information about The Virginmarys check out their official website, Facebook and Twitter.

Enter Louder Than War’s fantastic Virginmarys Competition. A winner and a friend will not only be invited to one of the dates on their November UK tour (of their choosing) but will also be able to sit in on the band’s sound check and meet the band themselves. For full details and to enter click here.

All words by Katie Clare. More writing by Katie on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. She can also be found on Twitter where she tweets as @tokyo_katie.

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