Your New Favourite Band: Girls Names interview
We don't quite have the resources to review EPs on Ragged Words at the moment, which is more of a pity than ever this week because it sees the release of 2010's best so far. After, in true noise pop style, releasing a couple of tapes late last year, Girls Names first foray into meatier terrain is perfectly executed. It shouldn't be any surprise, then, that it's being released on the excellent Brooklyn label Captured Tracks (home to Beach Fossils, Fresh & Onlys, early Wavves and Dum Dum Girls), but it is a pleasant one given the band hail from Belfast. Before heading out on a UK jaunt this week, Cathal Cully and Neil Peel tell us about their new band member, the reasons why more Irish bands aren't signed to US indie labels and how their debut album is coming along.
Tell us a bit about how Girls Names began? And, just glancing at your MySpace, has the original two-piece now become a threesome?
Cathal: That’s very well observed. Yeah, our friend Claire has joined us to play bass. It’s been something we’ve talked about for a while. She’s never really played bass before, but we got her in three weeks ago and she’s picked it up pretty quick. It’s sounding great, obviously a lot fuller-sounding. It’s inspired the two of us again, and made me love some of our older songs again that I had grown sick of playing live. It’s going to enhance us as a live band so much more. My guitar sound is quite abrasive, with lots of treble and reverb, and the bass is definitely needed to hold it together.
Neil: Yeah, she's great. We just played a party the other night and it all clicked together real well. We started about a year ago now when our friend Mark, who promotes cool gigs locally, asked us to do something as a support act for Wavves. We'd already been kicking around the idea of doing some kind of project, and it was a good excuse so that was that. We had a couple of weeks to practice - and were pretty bad actually - but people were nice, so we were encouraged and it kind of grew from there.
Your terrific debut EP is out this week on Captured Tracks, which is a particularly exciting label to be associated with. How did that relationship come about, and have you signed up for any more releases with them?
Cathal: It just came about through myspace to be honest. We’re both huge fans of the label and the music that’s being put out on Captured Tracks. We recorded a really rough and spontaneous demo last June on my four-track of ‘Warm Hands, Cold Heart’. It was definitely the best thing we had recorded up to that date, and I just though I’d give Captured Tracks a heads-up about it. Mike (Sniper, CT head honcho) thought it was cool, and told us to give him a shout when we were ready for a record. And that’s what I did. We recorded 11 songs in two days at the end of August, but due to finances and time constraints we only got the masters back at the end of November. I emailed Mike again, I think on a Friday, uploaded the tracks on the Saturday, and on the Sunday we started talking about putting something out with him. It was quite surreal actually. We were just two guys from Belfast very naively making music for ourselves and our friends, and then all of a sudden one of our favorite labels on the other side of the world wanted to put a record out for us. Hopefully we’ll get to do some more releases on CT.
Neil: Yes please!
Why do you think more Irish bands don't get picked up by those kinds of highly regarded indie labels, either in the US or UK? Not good enough? Not putting themselves out there enough?
Cathal: Speaking from a purely Northern Irish/Belfast view point I don’t think the majority of people here have caught up with what’s happening with those sorts of labels. I’ve said to people who are supposed to be ‘in the know’ in this town about our record, and they’ve never heard of Captured Tracks. We haven’t gone down the same avenues as a lot of bands in this town; we’ve still not handed CDs into local press or radio – we never wanted to be small-town playboys. Today’s music environment definitely mirrors the International Pop Underground ethics of K records and the likes, and I suppose we’ve just channeled into that.
Neil: I would say most Belfast bands just aren't good enough. Ha!
There does seem to be something quite special happening in Belfast at the moment, though, being spearheaded by the likes of yourselves, And So I Watch You From Afar and Not Squares. What's currently making it such a fruitful place in which to make music?
Cathal: Creativity has always flourished in hard times, and times are tough in Belfast in the current climate. We’re all young, poor and trying to eke out a living in a town with not a lot of jobs to go around. Girls Names for me is total escapism. The main thing keeping me going at the minute is this band. That’s quite a wonderful, liberating and yet scary thought.
Neil: Very scary! Not Squares are buddies of ours, and they are doing good stuff, as are some other people in bands. Belfast is definitely better than it used to be culturally in all kinds of ways, but it's still shit in all kinds of other ways.
You seem to be flying the stripped-down, noise pop flag for Ireland somewhat on your own. Or have we just not been looking in the right places for direct contemporaries?
Cathal: Well, we’re definitely the only ones in Belfast making this sort of music. Seriously, to the masses of Belfast this is not cool music. Due to the internet now, though, geography isn’t as important any more, is it? I mean, it’s cool that you can find and communicate with like-minds all around the world. There seems to be a bit more happening down south though. No Monster Club and So Cow would sound similar to us I suppose, and are both doing great things.
Neil: Yeah we played with both of them at the same gig, and they both blew us away!
The songs sound like they would go down well in the US - Pitchfork have already had some nice things to say. Do you have any plans to try and tour over there in the near future?
Cathal: I was just emailing Mike yesterday about the possibility of playing the Captured Tracks/Woodsist Festival in July, and about possibly getting a US booking agent. That’d be really cool. Any American bands we’ve played with have been very positive, and said we should try and get to the States. All these things cost money, though, which we don’t really have much of at the minute, but the US is definitely somewhere we have our sights firmly set upon.
Neil: For sure.
What are you plans in general for the coming months? Is a debut album in the works?
Cathal: We’re about to embark on our first UK and Ireland tour with La La Vasquez. Our EP with Captured Tracks is out now. Neil’s label Cass/Flick is releasing a split tape with us and Heavy Hawaii in April, and in May Tough Love in London are putting out a white label 12” extended EP/mini-album. A debut album is definitely in the works. We’ve 11 tracks demoed and are working on a few more. Hopefully we could get it recorded in the summer, and maybe out by the end of the year. That’d be great.
Looking at the influences you cite on MySpace and the bands you reference on your blog, they mainly seem firmly rooted in the ‘80s/early ‘90s. Are you still on a solid diet of The Fall, Beat Happening and Black Tambourine?
Cathal: Yeah, that’s pretty much a staple diet of what I listen to, also Postcard and C86-style stuff. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Cause Co-Motion!, Television Personalities’ first album and the Happy Refugees LP ‘Last Chance Saloon’. That’s been more or less on repeat. You should check them out! I love darker post-punk stuff as well, like The Birthday Party, Malaria!, Palais Schaumburg, Scars, Cocteau Twins, The Mary Chain etc. I’m a secret goth at heart, just not cool enough to wear black all the time!
Neil: I just like Chrome. And The Beach Boys.
And finally, who are your new favourite bands?
Cathal: it’s so hard to keep up with what’s happening, but definitely La La Vasquez, Veronica Falls, Grass Widow, Dum Dum Girls, Brilliant Colors, Spectrals, Male Bonding, Not Squares… and I’m really loving what I’ve heard so far from Minks. Probably most things on Captured Tracks and Slumberland.
Neil: Yeah, all those. Loving Ganglians right now too.
Girls Names’ debut EP is out now on Captured Tracks, with a split cassette with Heavy Hawaii to follow in April on Neil's own Cass/Flick imprint. A limited-edition 12" is due in May on Tough Love.
The band embark on a co-headline UK tour with Captured Tracks labelmates La La Vasquez throughout the next fortnight, stopping off at the following venues:
March 26th – BELFAST @ Menagerie
March 27th – DUBLIN @ Twisted Pepper (Mezz Bar)
March 28th – GLASGOW @ 13th Note
March 30th – YORK @ Stereo
March 31st – MANCHESTER @ Trof NQ
April 2nd – NOTTINGHAM @ Three Cheers
April 3rd – LONDON @ Old Blue Last (w/ Veronica Falls)
April 4th – BRIGHTON @ basement location TBC