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Escape Velocity

Mysterious Handsome Men: An Interview With Girl Band
Paul Tucker , July 31st, 2013 07:30

Dublin's Girl Band tore through Quietus HQ earlier this year with their unhinged and brilliant cover of Blawan's 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage'. Paul Tucker met them to discuss the quirks of self-recording and why they're infuriated by Nirvana comparisons

Two things about Girl Band. Firstly, there are no girls in the band. "It's a stupid name," shrugs frontman Dara Kiely, his only explanation being that the name seemed to annoy a woman that Kiely and guitarist Alan Duggan had taken a disliking to in a bar one night. "Al turned to her and he said 'What do you think of Girl Band as a name?' and she said 'That's disgusting. I like The Wombats'. and Al was like 'Ah, fuck it, let's call the band Girl Band.'

"She was such an awful woman though," offers Duggan.

"She was awful," agrees Kiely.

The second thing about Girl Band – which they are keen to point out – is that they are not a grunge band. Put the subject to them and they'll tell you they find it not only "annoying", but "full on bizarre". In fact, the comparisons that have been made so far – to The Jesus Lizard, Bleach-era Nirvana, McClusky and early Idlewild, amongst others – refer mostly to acts that Dublin band's members are either unfamiliar with or don't particularly like.

Duggan claims that the band – who have released one single, 'In My Head' followed by the excellent France 98 EP – are more influenced by electronic music than anything else. That statement is supported firstly by the fact that Girl Band first came to wider attention back in February with a raging cover of Blawan's 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage', of which the Quietus' Luke Turner declared "it rules in excelsis".

It's also backed up by the amount of time he spends onstage at their gig in Brighton, the last on their debut UK tour, kneeling over his pedal board, forcing looped drones and screeches from his amplifier, while bassist Daniel Fox wrestles cacophonous noises from his own instrument, seeming to do everything with it apart from play it like a bass guitar.

Whether Girl Band's roots lie in noise, dance, or even in grunge, it doesn't really matter. One of the most exciting things about the group – whose lineup is completed by drummer Adam Faulkner and bassist Daniel Fox – is that they seem considerably less worried about pinning down their sound than anyone else does.

Midway through our interview, which takes place in a flat above Brighton's Blind Tiger shortly after the band have triumphantly left the venue's stage - live, they are an unstoppable force - an acquaintance of the band bursts into the room and announces "All people have been saying is 'Girl Band are fucking rad, Girl Band are fucking rad'".

You've literally just finished your first UK tour. How's it been?

Dara Kiely: Amazing.

Daniel Fox: It's been really, really fun, yeah. Tonight was good, people seemed to really like us.

Any disasters?

DF: Not really. We had a blowout in North Wales coming over.

DK: While blaring Led Zeppelin IV at three o'clock in the morning.

The main thing that struck me about your EP is that compared to a lot of music that's about at the moment, it seemed to come out of nowhere a little bit.

Adam Faulkner: That was kind of the aim. The lads were jamming and they asked me to play and see how it went, and they were trying to give me an idea of what they were going for – "just not your average indie band, just get as far away from that as possible".

Alan Duggan: I think part of the reason is that we don't listen to much new guitar music really. I don't think any of us really do. I think we're just very into our own... just the music we like.

What sort of stuff?

DK: Dean Martin's class. That's just kind of my dream, to be in the Rat Pack. I like the Modern Lovers, The Fall, James Chance & the Contortions and a whole load of no-wave. Then we're all really big Beatles heads, that kind of '60s pop vibe. And then we always get tagged with fucking grunge or neo-grunge. It's full on bizarre.

DF: We always get comparisons to McClusky and the Jesus Lizard, and I've never even listened to McClusky.

AD: Bleach-era Nirvana.

Although I can't really hear The Jesus Lizard and I wouldn't say Bleach-era Nirvana, I would say some of it reminds me of In Utero-era Nirvana.

AD: Yeah, I don't really like Bleach.

DK: In Utero is deadly.

But 'grunge' is an unfair label?

AD: Grunge to me is like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, stuff like that. I don't get that. For me the guitar side is completely electronic-based. Like, I find it really interesting that you can glitch it like a DJ can. So when people say 'Bleach-era Nirvana' – I've never listened to that album fully through.

DK: There's been some really weird ones, like someone showed us a Deerhunter track. It's like 'What are we?'

AD: The thing about our EP is it's really varied, not necessarily in a great way, it's all over the shop – it's our first EP. So some people are like 'Oh, it's aggro-punk', or 'Oh, it's krautrock', or all these demented genres, like post-goth–

DK: POST GOTH! METAL! Fucking metal! 'Post-goth-ers Girl Band'. Are they called goth-ers?

AD: Scuzzy-wuzzy-duzzies.

It sounds as if you don't really think about it a lot.

DF: Not really, we all listen to a lot of music. It's kind of weird, but you see loads of bands who maybe have too good an idea of like... bands who get put with us because it's kind of a '90s thing. But it's really easy to just do the 90s.

How did your Blawan cover come about?

AF: It was for this label called Quarter Inch Collective. [The compilation] was just the man's fifteen favourite bands of the moment that are in Ireland, and you have to pick a song that was released in the last year. We got loads of plays and loads of Tweets and stuff like that. One guy said it was hilarious, just 'cos of the way Dara pronounces 'garage'.

[At this point the rest of the band start impersonating Kiely's prounciation: 'Garahge'; 'Ga-raaahhhge']

DK: It felt so cool when I sang that, but Al looked at me and was like 'You're so lame.'

There's a bit of Jonathan Richman in there.

DK: Yeah, thank you! Finally! I love Jonathan Richman. 'Lesbian Bar' is the best track ever.

That compilation had loads of great stuff on it, while the US label Sargent House recently joined forces with the Richter Collective [the Dublin-based label now known as Sargent House EU]. There seems to be a strong musical community in Dublin. What's behind that?

DF: Dublin's pretty small.

Al: Yeah, you just end up getting to know the bands very quickly. I get genuinely surprised if there's a band on the circuit and I've never heard of them. I'm always like 'Jesus Christ, I've never heard of them, what the fuck?'

DF: Most of the time it contains members of the other bands.

AF: Ourselves, we've six bands, and shared practice space and member crossover everywhere.

DK: I formed a band called Dara Kiely & The Latin Lovers a few weeks ago. Dara Kiely & The Mysterious Handsome Men.

DF: Oh yeah, I'm in The Mysterious Handsome Men! I'm the drummer. I think. I dunno.

AD: It's also the first time in a long time that bands from Ireland are getting picked up by international labels, and there was a huge dry spell before that, where a few bands signed to major labels and were on the bottom rung, and that was that.

DF: All these bands did one album or something and then got dropped. Most of them weren't any good anyway.

Did that make you more determined to record your single and EP yourselves?

DF: I think the studio thing is just having more control over the way the record sounds. that's purely it really. It's not like we're DIY – I mean, I really like a lot of that stuff, it's very inspirational, but a lot of people do it for the sake of doing it, and sometimes shoot themselves in the foot a little bit. I mean, we've got a booking agent who booked us this tour – we're not against not doing everything yourselves. But in terms of what the actual music is going to sound like – definitely, just do it for yourself.

AF: Daniel interns at a studio, so we knew what was there, we knew what was available and we just booked it.

AD: Mixing was really handy as well, It was a long process, but we could sit down and mix it ourselves. We'd get there at eleven at night and not leave until seven in the morning. We could be very particular about it, it was a very nice thing to have control over. The finished product itself should be exactly the way you want it to sound. Not to say that everyone can do that, because we did get a really nice studio for fucking no money.

Did you record the EP live?

AD: Yeah, bar the vocals.

DK: Yeah, we did like fifty takes. There was this moment on the second one. I sang like, "ooo-nly" and there was a little bit of a talk of 'Oh, the autotune, it'll just take two seconds, it'll be fine'. I said 'No, I can't do that.' It was like 'Fuck you, Dara! Dara, if you don't fucking do this–'

AD: I think it was like cutting the 'o' of only and the other half, but it just sounded like autotune anyway.

DK: It was awful. I felt so bad.

AF: We sat there for like fucking two hours.

AD: "If it goes back this much it sounds ok - no, it still sounds shit - ok, if I move it back that much -- just fucking–"

DK: I've never felt more hated in my life.

The EP seems like a good reflection of your live show.

DF: That's the idea, that was what we wanted. There's no overdubs, not 'cos we're like 'fuck overdubs', but because first albums, first EPs from loads of bands, all the records we really like, are kind of like that.

AF: After recording the EP, we kind of weren't really blown away by it, in the sense that we thought 'Fuck, this sounds amazing because it's really well recorded.' We were just like 'It sounds exactly how it's meant to,' and couldn't get to grips with that for ages.

DF: Yeah, it's kind of funny – it's a little underwhelming sometimes, recording. When you go and do what we'd do with our old band, and multitrack and do all that crap, it's always like 'This sounds fucking brilliant!' With this it's like 'ah yeah, it is what it is,' which is grand because you have to just know that it's good, or actually think that it's good.

AD: For me it's the whole live thing. When you go and see a band and they just can't do it live. It's always such a disappointment, we really don't want to be like that.   

The response seems to be good so far.

AD: We got one journalist in Ireland that liked us, and Ireland can be quite fickle. If one person says it's cool, then everyone says it's cool. So just from that –

DK: So everybody said it was cool. Hot Property.

AF: We had a review on a metal website.

DK: We got a review on a fuckin' Nazi website in Russia. Yeah, I didn't repost that one.

What did they say?

DK: 'Here is a band who are down with the far right.'

What's coming up next, is an album in the works?

DF: We're going to do a single and hopefully get it out in October. After that, [the album] is not going to happen soon, it's going to be maybe late next year.

AD: We've got one song we're working on that could be a good first single off an album, but that's a while away.

DF: It's seven minutes long and has one note.

DK: BONGGGGGGGG...

AD: Yeah. Watch out world.

For more on Girl Band, click here to visit their Bandcamp

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