Little Green Cars - tracing the line of progress from Absolute Zero to Ephemera
Stevie Appleby and Faye O’Rourke reflect on how life, loss and three tours of the US (including one with Hozier) informed the making of their new album Ephemera
Little Green Cars: ‘I think it’s a really positive album, but it’s not that obnoxious positivity which is ignorant of everything which is going on.’
Stevie Appleby is thinking about the strangest thing that happened to him in the three years since Little Green Cars released their debut album. It’s kind of cute in one way, but kind of bizarre in another.
“This guy I never saw before invited me to his wedding in Ohio,” the singer says. “He came up to me after a gig and said, ‘I proposed to my wife to The John Wayne and we want you to come to the wedding.’
“That to me is crazy because it shows the influence you can have on someone’s life without realising it. I’m still waiting on the official invitation, though.”
Today, Appleby and fellow LGC singer Faye O’Rourke are talking about some new songs which may have a similar effect on people in time. If debut album Absolute Zero was the sound of a band introducing themselves, new album Ephemera is the sound of that same band reaching maturity.
Break-up and bereavement
Tempered and weather-beaten by the events which occur when five friends go out in the world for the first time together, it’s an album where issues of break-up and bereavement seep into the textures and lines of the songs. It’s the album you’d only get from a bunch of young folk who’ve actually gone and lived, loved and lost a little.
Appleby feels that such fibre was absent last time out. “When we did the first record, we were 19, and trying to be fully aware of who you are then is hard. To be in a band doing it is even worse because everything is highlighted and you’re under a microscope.
“You’re going around asking questions like ‘who am I?’ and ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘does what I’m doing best represent me?’ You’re doing interviews when it’s hard anyway at that age to talk about what’s going on.”
O’Rourke’s initial expectations about the band’s debut album didn’t come to pass. “In a naïve, childish way, I think we expected it would all take off when we released the album. I think I thought it would explode out of a box and it would be this thing, but it didn’t really go that way.
“You do evaluate your work and yourself and you ask why it didn’t work and ask was it because of how I dressed or because I’ve a southside accent (laughs). Whatever, all those things.”
Around the world
While the debut didn’t immediately set the world alight, it did allow them to tour, something they’ve done with considerable gusto to date, including six American tours in three years.
“Touring is where you really learn,” says Appleby. “It teaches you the value of being in a place and being present. When hype happens, you’ve no say in it because you’re usually not there and you’re watching from a distance this thing barrel on and get ahead of you.
“Then you go on tour and you can see how things are actually progressing. Humbling is the wrong word, but it puts you in your place and makes you realise that connecting with an audience is why you started doing this in the first place.”
“It’s a reality check too,” says O’Rourke. “We were playing big venues here and then you go to the States, the venue is a dive bar and 20 people show up.
“But you can see progress. The first time we played in Pittsburgh, there were 20 people there, but you go in and put on the best show you can. The last time we were there, the venue was full. Now, it was only 150 or 200 people, but it’s a progression. People are finding out about us little by little because nothing is getting pushed over there. It’s happening naturally.”
Curtains for Hozier
Little Green Cars supported Hozier in the US, and Appleby learned some important lessons about haberdashery from that experience.
“You’ve never seen such big curtains in your life,” he says. “You walk into a venue and the first thing you see is this huge curtain and it’s like Alice in Wonderland craziness. Seeing production on that kind of scale really makes you go wow. Seeing a singer-songwriter like Hozier playing huge venues when you’re a songwriter makes you realise that it’s possible, that it’s something to strive for. All you have to do is write a great song and it happens.”
“Of course, it’s more than just writing a song,” counters Faye O’Rourke. “The stars have to align.”
And Little Green Cars may be seeing the stars aligning on their new album where they’ve distilled the experiences of the past few years into the tracks.
“When something bad like a bereavement or break-up happens, people always say ‘I can’t imagine how that feels’,” says Appleby. “The point of a song is to put that imagination in there. It’s a way of translating a feeling and paying a level of honesty to what happened.At the same time, we don’t want our personal lives to affect how other people are going to relate to the record.”
“I’ve always written quite selfishly, in the sense that I’m commenting on stuff that’s going on anyway,” says O’Rourke. “I don’t think too much about how it’s going to come out at the end.
“Writing songs has become something we do. Sometimes, it’s just a case of saying ‘what rhymes with grape? Oh yeah, ape’. A song only becomes something and means something after you’ve done it. A lot of songs mean something else completely when I’ve finished them. I don’t think too much about getting myself across in a certain way. You’ve people who’ll say this song is about this or that and you’re there going ‘OK, sure’.”
Both naturally wonder what people will make of the new album. It’s still the same band with the same mindset, but the mood is significantly different.
“People are going to think this record is sad,” thinks Appleby. “It’s the easiest place to go with it. I think it’s a really positive album, but it’s not that obnoxious positivity which is ignorant of everything which is going on. It’s so much more positive to look at and dissect the stuff that’s bugging you and not to ignore things.”
The brighter side
O’Rourke, meanwhile, is looking to the brighter side. “Writing happier melodies was something I wanted to explore. I’ve always been self-conscious to expose a happier side of myself, it’s almost the truer side. I always thought people found darkness and melancholy more interesting and there is something in the hopefulness around music, not the happy-clappy stuff, which I found amazing.”
What comes next is a return to their van and more journeys down the highways and byways of the world’s touring circuits in pursuit of more fans.
“I’d very happily continue doing what I’m doing now for the rest of my life”, says Appleby. “I get personal satisfaction out of it. When you do a great show and you’re happy afterwards, that’s success. The van could definitely become bigger, though.”
“I’ve always wanted to impress the people I know”, says O’Rourke, “and be comfortable in myself and have a confidence in what I do. We’ve been in a band now for so long doing music that our friends know what we’re doing and take it for granted. Obviously when you’re 24, it’s a bit scarier because the people around you in their 20s are starting to have these careers and plans. You do evaluate that but it doesn’t change your mind about what you’re doing.”
- Ephemera is out Friday, March 11th, on Glassnote. Little Green Cars play Seapoint, Galway on May 12; Big Top, Limerick (13); Opera House, Cork (14) and Iveagh Gardens, Dublin (July 23)