Hey Hey It's Girl Band
Girl Band Live
Steal a car, sell your granny, do anything you wanna do ...

but somehow get to see Girl Band on their UK tour

Girl Band talk to Adam, Photos by Aidan Kelly Murphy

The last few years ... it’s been hell. Walking in a desert is not much fun at the best of times. The sand gets in your shoes. And it’s hot. But walking in a desert while a passing camel pisses on you is what the last few years have been like. Not only has the musical underground been a fruitless wilderness offering next to no relief from the searing banality of the outside world, but reality television has been there to heap even more misery upon us with an unending parade of poor sods being manipulated into believing they are the next big thing, becoming tabloid fodder one day and corporate rejects the next. And this aided by an unthinking public who get drawn in hook, line and sinker, laughing at the dreams of the talentless being shattered before their eyes, giving credence to this mean-spirited charade and sending its insitgators laughing all the way to the bank. And who has emerged to blow this nauseating trash out of the water with some stunningly original new music? ... well nobody much. If it hadn’t been for a few old heroes kicking against the pricks, we may well have decided to hang up our docs.

But then came 2012 and the worm most decidedly began to turn. It was realised that music needn’t be formulaic, rigid, dull or clubby. Young bands began to play guitars again and discovered that boundaries could be pushed, and even shattered. And people started going to gigs instead of sitting on their arses. Of course the music press continued to get it completely wrong in their desperate urge for personal glory, heaping unwanted and unmerited accolades on bands who, quite frankly, weren’t right or ready for them, not understanding that the hype is half the problem. Give praise where it’s due, and certainly give publicity to up and coming talent, but don’t crush bands with the weight of ludicrous expectations before they have even learned how to walk. Space to learn, space to grow, space to experiment: all this is far more important. And let them enjoy the moment.

One band who certainly know how to enjoy themselves travel over next week from Dublin to play their first ever UK shows and 2012 was a great year for them. With two astonishing singles to their credit, the brilliantly-named Girl Band are playing a handful of gigs to promote their France 98 EP which has just found its way into the country after being released in Ireland last year, and you can bet your life they will be making more than a few friends in the process.

Alan Duggan
If you could give a band a name that would cause more difficulty in this fibre optic age, you would be hard pressed to better Girl Band. Try it in Google, or eBay, and it will leave you scratching your head. This makes us very happy, and the fact they are four blokes is even better. Tell someone you are listening to Girl Band and the first question is always the same, “Are they girls?” Totally Dublin summed it up brilliantly with the incisive, “Not actually a girl band”. How good is that? Similarly the France 98 EP is named after a World Cup for no other reason than it sounded right, as bassist Daniel Fox confirms, “France 98 was a class World Cup. Even though Ireland didn’t qualify it would’ve been the first World Cup that we would’ve been old enough to remember properly. But mostly we just thought it’d be kinda funny to have as a song title.” Brilliant.

Don’t make the mistake of believing Girl Band are not serious about their music, though. Just take a listen to France 98 and you’ll be completely blown away by the quality of it all. Opener ‘You’re a Dog’ is a furious assault with a bludgeoning guitar riff, ‘Busy At Maths’ stabs and screams, ‘That Snake Conor Cusack’ thrashes, thuds and spits, while the title track scrapes and shouts. It’s blinding stuff, relayed with such a controlled fury, it’s all a little bit scary ... and that is even before you get to the best bits. The two closing tracks ‘Second One’ and ‘Handswaps’ are so startlingly brilliant it’s difficult not to conclude that Girl Band could become a very important band indeed. The former sees Fox's bass dance along to Adam Faulkner's combative drums while the vocal grows more insistent and the guitars turn early whispered hints into messy promises as it all explodes nastily in your face. And while you are still reeling from this, ‘Handswaps’ is even better. Imagine a Metal Box-era PiL rhythm section (and there have been few better) rumbling through your brain, throw in Alan Duggan's tangental, raking guitars, and then add Dara Kiely's startlingly oblivious vocal. Start insidiously and end messily in explosions of noise. It's really quite magnificent. Really. Quite. Magnificent.

“‘Handswaps’ was based mostly on that effect part that Al plays at the start with the delay feedback that goes into that drop. We had been finding it a bit hard to put something to it, the song came together just through messing around with the idea. We liked how the guitar part was fairly intense in comparison with the rest of the instruments, but once we had the basic parts figured it came together fairly quickly. The whole process of writing is spontaneous, the majority of what we come up with is done in practice on the spot. I think we have a fairly good idea of what we don’t want to do, so it leaves a good bit of freedom towards what kind of music we’d want to make. In terms of what would inspire us to make the music we do, probably the same as most bands, we all listen to a lot of different types of music so it’s just about making something that you’d want to hear yourself and having fun with it. We all listen to a wide variety of music so sometimes it’s a little hard to peg down to specific influences, most of the time people would presume some influences, as in we get a lot of grunge comparisons, never really understood that.”

brown paper packages tied up with string
No, numerous commentators namechecking early Nirvana and The Jesus Lizard have left us shaking our heads as well. Girl Band aren’t a traditional rock and roll band, they are more inventive; more like the deconstructors of the late seventies and early eighties. Bands who weren’t afraid to push at a few doors. And not just in the quality of their music, for not only is France 98 the best and most innovative record we have heard in a very long time, it is also the best packaged, being released as a limited twelve-inch single wrapped in brown paper, hand stamped and tied up with string. Just getting hold of a copy makes it feel like Christmas and it takes some time to force youself to open the thing to get at the record inside.

“The idea was to make a bigger version of the ‘In My Head’ single (a long sold out two-track CD released in April 2012)”, Fox reveals. “We liked the way it looked and thought it stood out as a something a little more special compared with other records just with the whole hand stamped/numbered thing. We all like collecting records, so if there was a band that I liked that had done something like that I know I’d really want to have it. I reckon it’s good to approach how the band operates and comes across from the perspective of yourself as a fan of music. The brown paper and string was James from Any Other City’s idea. We’re really glad we went with it for the EP, lots of folding and cutting, like arts and crafts in primary school.”

Like many independent bands in the UK, Girl Band adhere to the idea of making their releases an event, but unlike many of their British counterparts have not shied away from making their music freely available on the internet (you can download all of their material here). “I do like the whole aspect of making releases special, that’s what we were trying to do with the physical releases, but not to have it for free download is a bit restrictive, just coming from the point that a really large proportion of my favourite music I found on the internet. The reason it’s free is just because we can’t really justify charging for a download.”

Well, we can think of hundreds of bands who can’t justify charging for a download ... but none of them beginning with ‘Girl Band’. If you haven’t got these tracks, get them quick. Over the past few years we would have sold our grannies for these tunes, and it appears things were just as grim across the sea as well. “Recently Dublin has resurged with good guitar bands. A couple of years back it was not so great, lots of post Pigeon Detectives indie rock, it was a dark time. They’re good bands a plenty coming out of Dublin now, one recommendation would be a band called Tandem Felix who are releasing an EP called Popcorn, they’re good mates and have unreal, spacy, lush, well crafted tunes.” It seems the wheel continues to turn both in Ireland and the UK and there’s treasure to be found if you take the trouble to search it out. And it is well worth the effort.

Dara Kiely
Perhaps Girl Band are at the head of the charge because they have been working together for some time now. “Dara, Alan and I were in a band together when we were about 17 called Harrows, playing Strokes rip-offs. Dara was the drummer at the time, with two other guys – one singing and another on guitar. That band broke up so the three of us tried to form a band for ages with Dara on drums but we couldn’t really find a singer so we kind of gave up for a bit. Meanwhile, Dara and Al headed over to Leeds to visit a friend who was studying there. They formed a mock band called Seasons and wrote some songs about Pancake Tuesday. At this stage we’d never head Dara sing; it sounded class though, just a really crappy recording on one of their phones of Al playing acoustic and Dara screaming about pancakes done at about six in the morning – pretty sure that was the main audition really. Luckily enough we found out that he also secretly really didn’t want to play drums and wanted to sing so it worked out well. Around the same time I had been working on recording with another band that Adam’s in called We Arrive Alive. Adam seemed like a nice chap and we needed at least one member who could grow a beard so we asked him to join and we’ve been happily married ever since. We play around regularly enough. We’re hoping to do a lot more just because we’re in position to play outside of Ireland for the first time, so that’s an exciting prospect.”

Girl Band’s UK tour starts in London on 25th April at the Notting Hill Arts Club and moves on to The Registry (Portsmouth) 26th April, Start The Bus (Bristol) 27th April, The Cookie Jar (Leicester) 28th April, Trof (Manchester) 29th April, Hendre Hall (Bangor) 1st May, The Old Blue Last (London) 2nd May, and concludes at The Blind Tiger in Brighton on 3rd May.

“We’ve gotten a really good response so far from people in the UK, people really seem to like it. We’re not really sure what to expect, we’re just really excited to be going over more than anything. We’re playing mostly in places that we know very little about, so we probably need to look into particular things to see/do, we can’t wait. We’re going to do a single a little later on this year, then do another UK tour, and hope to get around Europe a bit too. I think an album will be a little further down the line. We’re concentrating on writing it at the moment, and hoping to get it out some time next year.”

There's a refreshing modesty about Girl Band which is good to see. They make great music but take everything in their stride and don't treat life too seriously. They will undoubtedly attract more and more notice this side of the water, so let's hope the music press are able to give them the recognition they deserve without trying to force them into being what they are not. In the meantime, if you’re anywhere near any of these dates, don’t miss them for love nor money. If you’re not near any of them, steal a car and go anyway. Girl Band are coming to town ... and that is music to our ears.




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