The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

A Quest For Perfect Pop: The Drink Interviewed
John Freeman , April 22nd, 2014 06:51

With their third EP released this week, Dearbhla Minogue of London three-piece The Drink tells John Freeman why her band are dedicated to the art of making "mad" guitar pop

Photo by Michael Wood

Dearbhla Minogue is a woman on a mission. The lead singer and primary songwriter for London-based trio The Drink is reassuringly focused on how she wants her band to sound. Since their inception just over a year ago – and rather refreshingly in an era where many artists spend a huge amount of energy exploring the outer edges of genre-splicing experimentation - The Drink have defined themselves as purveyors of ballsy and intelligent indie rock.

Prior to forming The Drink, Minogue had spent months overhearing bassist Dave Stewart and drummer Daniel Fordham practicing with their former band, Fighting Kites. After the Kites fell to earth, Dearbhla commandeered the pair, who form the driving rhythm section behind Minogue's jagged guitar. Since then, The Drink have released a trio of sparkling EPs - One is a snarlier beast compared to the refined pop of Two - with the influential DNA of bands like Throwing Muses, Deerhoof and early-doors Pixies, plus a love of American and Irish folk music, underpinning Minogue's bell-clear vocal and twisted lyricism. The group's third EP, Three is released this week.

When I speak to the Galway-born Minogue, who is also one-third of noise-rockers The Wharves, we quickly get sidetracked by a mutual childhood love of ABBA, before getting down to the business of Dearbhla's raison d'être for forming The Drink: that glimmering hope of creating her vision of perfect noise, the sound of a great pop song played by a loud guitar band.

I believe you first heard your future bandmates Dan and Dave when they practiced in a room above your flat. What was it you liked about them?

Dearbhla Minogue: I just really loved them as a rhythm section. They were really smooth and light and I was really jealous of their band for having such a good rhythm section. I'd spend every Saturday listening to them practice, while I did various jobs around the house. Then, I heard they were splitting up as one of their members was moving to Japan, so my housemate – who had recorded their last album – suggested we meet up.

You've been in a number of bands prior to The Drink. Did you have an initial idea for what you wanted The Drink to be?

DM: I suppose I've tried to write songs that sound like the music that I listen to. I really love The Strokes and a number of bands in London have really influenced me lately – like Halo Halo and Shopping and a band called The Family Elan.

To my ear, and compared to a band like The Strokes, your songs seem to have an extra dimension of complexity. Why do you think this is?

DM: I never actually intend to have the songs come out complicated, but that's what happens sometimes. I think that may be because I've listened to a lot of Joanna Newsom for years and she has lots of complicated rhythms going on. In my head I always want to write songs that are down-the-line indie songs – something like The Strokes – but they always come out madder than I intended. For some reason, when I lived in Dublin, I had a notion in my mind that there was something to be gained in not having things too catchy or poppy, but since coming to London - and meeting the people that I have - I've left that idea behind. I do think now that my main aim is to write a really good pop song.

I realise it is still early days for The Drink, but has there been a refinement of the band's sound?

DM: The second EP contains our oldest songs, and is quite poppy and light. On the first EP, and the third one we are just finishing now, the songs are quite a lot harder and a bit heavier. We are obviously going through some sort of phase. At the time, Dan and Dave would comment that I was turning up my amp louder and making things grittier. I'm now wondering what was going on in my head. Maybe it's because I had just started playing in The Wharves, as that is quite a loud band.

Thinking back to your formative years, what type of music did you listen to as a child?

DM: My parents listened to a lot of music. There was a lot of folk, my mum is hugely into Bob Dylan and my dad is into a lot of Appalachian folk music and some really good Irish folk - he loved a band called The Voice Squad and would listen to them a lot. They have these amazing harmonies and I probably nick a bit of The Drink's harmony stuff from them. Also, my mum listened to a lot of REM, when I was younger and she also loved Paul Simon's Graceland. That album came out the year I was born, so I think I must have been listening to that at a really young age and it's now one of my favourite albums. I also love pop - my sister had ABBA's Gold when we were small and we would dance around the living room. So, I'm into a mix of good pop and really good folk.

When – and why – did you make the move from Ireland to London?

DM: I came to London two years ago and always had the intention of having my own band. I'd lived in Dublin for about seven years and I'd always wanted to live in London. My mum is English and lived in London when she was younger, so I'd always liked the idea. I knew I'd probably find a good band here. So, I did move primarily for music as I wanted to find out what would happen if I did my own thing. If I had stayed in Dublin, I would have ended up playing with the same people, which wouldn't have necessarily been a bad thing, but I really wanted a band that I wrote all the songs for.

How easy was it to get established in London?

DM: I was quite lucky. I found a place that was advertised on Gumtree as a "warehouse that would suit musicians" and it had a really unfriendly picture of a chair sitting in the middle of a scabby-looking room. I was getting tired of looking at all the shared house ads with their promise of "living with lovely people" so I just went along to the warehouse and it had a really good feeling about and was piled high music gear. It's where I live now and it's great - everyone plays music and no one minds if you have band practice in the middle of the day.

Where do you get your lyrical inspiration? I'm especially intrigued by the line "It came to me in a blood transfusion" from the track 'At The Weekend' on EP Two.

DM: I wrote that song after a friend of mine was telling me about working with a charity for people who have HIV and AIDS. The people she was working with had contracted HIV because their mothers had gotten the virus via a blood transfusion back in Ireland. It was just such a sad story. Generally, I used to write a lot about how I would imagine someone else's experience. Recently, I've realised that's not a good idea, as I don't actually have that person's experience - I'm just imagining it.

I hear a lot of new bands that sound like they are creating music motivated by a desire to not be a particular genre. I like the fact that The Drink seem comfortable in their own skin and are happy to make visceral indie rock. Is that assumption correct?

DM: It is – and I know exactly what you mean about many new bands. I find a lot of new stuff quite dull. When people mess around will loads of different sounds - which is an art in itself - they don't tend to focus on songs as much. I think that's probably what I try to have: songs that are not hiding behind anything. Also, I prefer the sound of guitar bands and it's really great if that comes across. I think almost everything I listen to is guitar-based. If a song doesn't have verse-chorus-verse-bridge I tend not to be interested, which is not a very good attitude to have. But, that's just me and I'm probably a bit too traditional and close-minded. Maybe I should open my mind a bit more, but I do think a pop song played by a guitar band is pretty much the best sounding thing you can have.

The Drink's Three EP is out this week. To buy it, and to listen to the group's other two EPs, click here to visit their Bandcamp site

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.