Little Green Cars: a year in the life and a trip to their dark side
Having toured their debut album far and wide, the Dublin band are back writing. Is it strange faring better abroad than at home?
Little Green Cars: Stevie Appleby, Adam O’Regan, Faye O’Rourke, Dylan Lynch and Donagh Seaver O’Leary. Photograph: Steven Dewall/Redferns via Getty
Little Green Cars are not renowned for good interviews. The Dublin band’s debut album, Absolute Zero, released last year, is loaded with well-produced versions of their deft harmonies and exquisite songwriting. The songs express angst, darkness and humour, and the music – not its architects – tends to do the talking.
The setting for our interview doesn’t help: a PR office boardroom decorated trendily with branded sweets and a corner table loaded with untouched champagne and cognac. Nor the fact that the band’s ever-present manager Daniel Ryan (formerly a guitarist with The Thrills) sits in on the interview for the duration, tapping ceaselessly on his phone.
The band are promoting a corporate gig at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Faye O’Rourke and Stevie Appleby arrive looking remarkably fresh and rested for two members of a five-piece that seems to be permanently on the road. They recently played a headline show at the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, a concert that fastened the lock on that diary of tunes. On to the next entry.
“A lot of people were expecting there was going to be a huge amount of pressure after the gig: ‘What are you going to do now?’ ” says Appleby, “but now we get to do what we love doing: just writing again. It was kind of a relief to let everything go and start fresh.”
Talent to burn
When it comes to Appleby and O’Rourke, along with their bandmates Dylan Lynch, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Adam O’Regan, it’s hard to quantify their talent. First of all, there’s the musicianship, which is gutsy and delicate. There’s the individual and collective vocal ability, the harmonies, the craft of their songwriting, Appleby’s voice, a cutting, delicate tone, and O’Rourke’s voice, which could fill stadiums. There are the songs and the work ethic: they have been grafting away since their mid teens. Absolute Zero may not have reached the heights it deserved internationally, but the exciting thing about this band has always been their potential. Anything could happen.
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O’Rourke and Appleby are friendly and polite, engaged and nice. They also know their strong suit. O’Rourke turns to Appleby: “Remember we were doing a radio session, and we went back for a photo and all those texts come in? There was a text saying, ‘Amazing band, incredible, but my God, they can’t talk. They have the personality of a desk.’ ”
Why do they find it hard to explain themselves? “Well, it’s kind of like, that’s the point,” Appleby begins, speaking as though he’s untying a stubborn knot. “That’s maybe why the music is the way it is. It’s a difficulty with communication. It’s an element of frustration in everyone’s life. So you express it through music, because you don’t know any other way.
“People always look to musicians like they have the answers, when there’s probably not one other group of people in the world who could be more confused about who they are and what they’re doing.”
Little Green Cars’ songs flirt a lot with darkness, something that O’Rourke says she and Appleby gravitate towards.
“When you’re having fun, you don’t feel like you need to express how much fun you’re having; you’re just enjoying it. When you’re not feeling that, there is something about not feeling your best that you do want to express it – to analyse it, think about why, change it. ‘Why amn’t I feeling good? What can I do to solve this?’ ”
Appleby nods. “I hope that people can see the difference between whiney and just talking about something as though it’s important. I always felt when I was younger that the way kids felt didn’t seem important to the people that were older than them. It was always considered a mopey teenager thing, but I always figured that it was more than that. Eventually how you develop as a person is how you deal with that point in your life. How I dealt with it was to write about it.”
The last year and a half “seemed like a life compressed”, Appleby says. Right now, the writing is going well. O’Rourke wondered what they could write about, but it’s coming naturally. Appleby thought they might have to stop and take a year to find things to write about, because no one wants to hear songs about being on the road. But they experienced more than being on the road. It affected them in different ways. It made them think differently. They got older.
Little Green Cars seem to be doing well elsewhere, with five American tours under their belts among other achievements. Is it tricky when the work is maybe not as appreciated back home? Especially when Irish fans tend to exert a sort of ownership over their local acts?
“I don’t think people should really concern themselves with it too much,” says Appleby. “I certainly never felt that way with a band, you know? I like the music and the words, that’s it. Maybe it would be a bit braggy if we wanted people to see that side of things. It would be a bit show-offy.”
Instead, for him, it’s about: “Here’s the song, listen to this.” Bring on the new ones.
Little Green Cars play the invite-only Lumia Live Session at the Chapel at Imma tomorrow