From techno to The Fall - Girl Band find a fresh groove

Dublin’s Girl Band are proof that the slow, steady approach works. Singer Dara Kiely and guitarist Alan Duggan tell Jim Carroll why their future is orange

The slow, steady approach for bands has a lot going for it. In the case of Dublin’s Girl Band, the road from schoolboy tyros sounding like their favourite bands to throwing eclectic, exciting and often incomparable shapes in their current guise has been both long and fascinating. All those experiences along the way have stood them in good stead in a myriad of different ways.

When singer Dara Kiely and guitarist Alan Duggan rewind the last six or seven years, you can see Girl Band coming together. They spent two years playing Strokes-style indie rock along with fellow future Girl Band-mate Daniel Fox in a group called Harrows ("we didn't know what we were doing," says Duggan) before that fell apart.

Then, they resurfaced sounding “really emo” as Surface (“we have a thing for shit band names,” admits Kiely). A change of personnel (the arrival of drummer Adam Faulkner), Kiely taking over as singer, another name-change and a big transitional musical phase led to Girl Band.

Weird move

For Kiely, the move from the drumstool he occupied in the other bands to the microphone was kind of weird. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing as a frontman and less of a clue when I was singing. The only live performance I had done before that out front was as Scrooge in a play when I was in sixth class, and I cried onstage and no one has talked about it since. I used to be incredibly nervous, but the idea was a lot worse than the reality.”

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The other change came in terms of sound. Duggan recalls how hearing The Fall for the first time was a “holy shit!” moment. “Suddenly, it was a case that we didn’t have to sound like these other bands; we could sound like these older bands that no one knew about (laughs).”

A growing appreciation for techno also had an impact on their sound. “The songs became way more groove-orientated,” says Duggan. “That’s very much a live thing, in that you have an idea for a groove and you build on that. For me, that was the huge techno influence. You’re just sucked in.”

Gradually, their sound began to morph and become truly fascinating. Over time and many shows, that mish-mash of grooves, hardcore thumping and short, sharp punk rock slaps grew into something rather special.

“We began to get more comfortable as a band and write all kinds of stuff,” says Kiely. “Some of tracks would take months and months to get right, which is why we have so many short, punky songs because we’d go mad if we had to wait around.”

“It’s a bit like the way The Beastie Boys always had hip-hop tracks and punk rock tracks,” adds Duggan. “It makes so much sense to break up the grooves with something that works as well as that.”

Not confined to Ireland

What also marked Girl Band apart from their peers from the get-go was a determination to not confine themselves to playing Ireland. All acts talk about wanting to tour elsewhere, but Girl Band made a point of actually doing more than just talk about it.

“It was always a massive intention not to be an Irish band in that sense,” says Duggan. “There are so many bands who seem to get a buzz going here and they have amazing songs, but they don’t put the work behind it, so it just seems to exist in Ireland and doesn’t go further. They don’t tour, they don’t play live enough.”

Duggan knows many acts are constrained by finances. “It’s very hard because you’re going to lose money, your own money, when you first tour. It’s way easier and cheaper to go from Manchester to London than from Dublin to Manchester.

“We were very lucky to get our booking agent (Sarah Besnard) so early – we got her before we got a manager – so our first UK trip was a week-long tour rather a one-off gig, which could cripple a band when it costs €600 for the ferry and you might be lucky to get 50 quid for the show. It’s a lot of money to invest.”

While the initial intention was to try to do everything themselves, they soon found it was easier to get things done with other people involved. “Before we got a booking agent, I emailed 50 venues in the UK and no one got back to me,” remembers Duggan. “But when Sarah got us a tour, it was in all these venues that I had emailed already. It’s all so connected like that. When you have people around you like that, it all clicks and you realise that’s what a booking agent does.”

Album on to-do list

After a rake of releases to date, the biggest to-do item now is an album. With Kiely back in college and the others working in different jobs, the plan is to record this early next summer with a view to a release in late 2015.

“We want to take our time with it, even though I know we’ve probably already taken our time over it,” says Kiely.

“We’ll record it ourselves and try to make it as live as possible so we can play the songs live,” adds Duggan. “There won’t be any string sections. We’ve learned a lot from recording stuff ourselves, from our first demos to now. Daniel and Jamie (Hyland) do the recording and we all sit down to do the mixing.”

“Technically, we don’t know what we’re doing,” says Kiely, “so we just go ‘make that sound more orange’.”

Girl Band play Kasbah Club, Limerick tonight, Button Factory, Dublin tomorrow , Róisín Dubh, Galway Oct 9 and Spirit Store, Dundalk Oct 10