When most bands start out, they don’t tend to consider the endless possibilities which await them if ever they should “make it”. One such band is the Irish quartet Girl Band, whose debut album Holding Hands With Jamie (out today, 25 September) is the result of a long, hard working process. Over the course of its nine tracks, Girl Band demonstrate an increasingly popular sound that incorporates angsty post punk with elements of new wave and hardcore. On paper, it’s a pretty heavy and rough combination. In person, though, it couldn’t be further from the truth. A few weeks ago, All Things Loud hopped on a ferry in Amsterdam to speak with frontman Dara Kiely and guitarist Alan Duggan over some beers and coffee.
Just before we’re due to chat with Kiely and Duggan, our discussion with a label rep is suddenly interrupted by a stressed out Brit who claimed to have lost his ID and wallet on the sofa we were sitting on. His upset face, paired with a rain drenched jacket and beanie, wrongly led us to believe that he was part of the Girl Band entourage. Much like Girl Band’s music, he came across as abrasive and terrified. Then, out of nowhere, he disappeared into the midst of North Amsterdam. Again, much like Girl Band’s music, one minute he was freaking out, and the next he was gone. Once we sat down with Kiely and Duggan, all expectations we’d drawn from their music seemed to be relinquished when we looked at who was sitting opposite us. Frontman Kiely, on record screeching and deploying grisly vocals, is smartly dressed in a shirt and red polo, whereas guitarist Duggan looks like he just woke up. The pair start off by telling us how Girl Band came to form a few years back. Kiely tells us that his 12-year old self used to go to school with bassist Daniel Fox, before meeting guitarist Alan Duggan later on. Together, the three lads used to make Jackass videos together. “They were hilarious” claimed Kiely, before Duggan interjected and stated that they were actually terrible. After a while, the band got bored of it all and decided to start making music together. Kiely started off as the drummer, before Faulkner joined and Kiely redirected his talents towards being a frontman. According to Duggan, the music scene which surrounded Girl Band in Dublin was “very diverse, with lots of different genres of music blending together”. The industry there was basically doing quite well and had found itself in a good position, which Duggan puts down to the growing successes of artists such as Hozier (who finds himself on a whole different spectrum to that of Girl Band). “People are listening to bands from other counties, and they’re going to lots of gigs. Music in Ireland is in a pretty good place right now” concludes the guitarist. Having said that, though, it’s still often a struggle for Irish bands to break through. When people think of Irish music, they tend to think of U2, or The Script. What they don’t tend to think of is that these bands came out in a time where there was a demand in a good economy. When Girl Band emerged, it was extremely expensive for them to get where they needed to be. “London is the real centre for music in the UK. If you play a gig there you play for the people you need” begins Duggan, adding that “as an Irish band, the cost alone of getting a ferry from Dublin to the United Kingdom with all your equipment” is expensive enough. This makes it quite an issue if bands in Ireland so much as want to get across to where the audiences are. Another reason Duggan thinks it’s harder for Irish bands to break through is lack of an influential industry sector. “Lots of Irish bands tend to stick to their own home counties as the encouragement and support here isn’t as great when you have festivals such as The Great Escape (Brighton), Eurosonic (Groningen) and SXSW (Texas) elsewhere”. “Lots of bands tend to become quite insular” he concludes.
Although playing live is quite a vital part of the whole process, you do still need a good back catalogue to support it. Today, Girl Band release their eclectic and buzzing debut album Holding Hands With Jamie, which the band recorded just after they toured the US. “We had two days off, and we went straight into the studio” explains Kiely. “Our bassist Daniel helped record it, as well as our friend Jamie [the same Jamie whose hands are being held – Ed]. Within about 10 days we’d recorded and all the live demoes”. Even though they managed to do this in such a short amount of time, it did take the band longer to complete the rest of the record. Kiely explains that the band subsequently “spent six more weeks gradually building it up until it was done. We’d completed most of the work within the first week”. Musically, as Duggan explains, the record’s overarching concept was different for each member. “Everyone tried to find different ways to combine groove with noise, or harshness with dance-ability” he tells us. At this moment, a waitress arrives and offers Kiely and Duggan more of their daily usual – coffee and orange juice. Lyrically, Kiely tells us that he tried to write lyrics which “document where I am at a certain time and place, in particular where I am when the song was being made”. That information lays claim to the way in which Holding Hands With Jamie’s nine songs all feature rather obscure, ‘interesting’ song titles. Two of these songs, Paul and Fucking Butter, are particular examples. The latter concerns the fact that Girl Band drummer Adam Faulkner is “addicted to biscuits”. As Duggan explains, Faulkner is “really focussed on the little details”. “One time he went to get some snacks for the van, and he came back with like eight different types of biscuits” jokes the guitarist. “One day”, he continues, “we were just in the studio and he’s sitting there eating shortbread. He’s loving it, and then he says “oh my god, there’s so much fucking butter in it”, so that’s where that came from”. Musically, Fucking Butter “starts on an off-beat, continuing with a lot of staccato’s which throw people a lot”. Kiely confesses to often being confused by the song’s time signature, claiming to not always know whether he’s in time or out of time. He laughs it off, before mumbling something indecipherable about the track. Fucking Butter was also the first song that the band worked on for the album, but the last song they actually finished. Guitarist Duggan was in Prague during the start of the process, before the band all finished it together in Dublin. Working on songs together is commonplace for Girl Band, with Duggan telling us that Paul was the most frustrating song to write. “When we record music we do it all together. We’ll throw in ideas throughout and then see what comes of it” he explains, before telling us that the track’s wobbly sounding bassline came courtesy of a Gaviscon bottle. “Daniel was sliding his fingers up and down the bass, and we thought it sounded good. Dan’s fingers became sore, so we used a Gaviscon bottle as a slide, which is where that sound comes from”. Who’s Paul, though? According to Kiely, it could be anyone. “There are plenty of different possible connotations in my head, although one cool one is that it could be Paul McCartney!” he finishes.
How would Girl Band describe their own music in three words, though? Duggan immediately becomes frustrated when he gets asked this, saying that he only one he could think of was “I don’t know”. And how did Girl Band actually get their name? Apparently, the name became properly cemented after a night out, when Duggan asked a woman what she thought of the name (which was originally used as a jokey nickname for Duggan). “She said, “I hate it a lot. I like stuff like the Wombats”, so we decided to stick with it” laughs Duggan. “If these are the kind of people we’re going to play for, then no” he continues as both he and Kiely start laughing. They continue by discussing their plans for 2016, although they honestly don’t know much right now. They’ve got plenty of festivals lined up, and they hope to better the successful summer they had this year. Some festival sets saw the band play up to 3,000 people at a time, which they were very happy with considering their technical status as a beginning band. Soon the band will also be jetting off to America for a lengthy jaunt, which should hopefully do some good in getting their name out there on the other side of the pond. For now, though, Girl Band seem perfectly content with how it’s all going. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because why strive for too much in one go when you can have fun doing it at your own pace?
Holding Hands With Jamie is out now. Listen to Paul below.