Little Green Cars take pole position

From relentless rehearsal to tireless touring, Little Green Cars have never lacked driving ambition. With their debut album, things are ready to shift up a gear, but they’re ready for life in the fast lane

Some stories do have happy endings. For the last couple of years, Little Green Cars have been on a mission: they wanted to be a band who got to leave the practice shed to record their music, go on tour and release records.

Of course, all new bands come armed with similar plans, dreams, hopes and ambitions. When Adam O’Regan recalls starting the first version of the band when he was 13 and knowing “this was what I wanted to do with my life, we’ve always had that ambition and drive”, many will nod in recognition. It’s what tyro bands say and think they believe.

When Stevie Appleby maintains that "we had this idea in our minds for so long that it had to happen, that I can't and couldn't envisage it not happening", thousands of musicians could empathise with the raw emotion of that one. Empathy, though, only gets you so far.

The difference between Little Green Cars and their peers is that they have successfully made it across the first couple of hurdles which usually unseat the newbies. From humdrum Sunday afternoon practices and early rough-and-ready live shows to the thrilling potential of their current trump card, The John Wayne , and attracting the attention of the world beyond south County Dublin, Little Green Cars have been making all the right moves with grace and understated gusto.


They now enjoy the patronage of the well-regarded Glassnote label, and there's a fine debut album, Absolute Zero , ready to go. The band's touring schedule has taken them in the last few weeks to such fairs as SXSW and Coachella. Press and media attention has been theirs for ages. Those 10,000 hours of Sunday afternoons practice sessions have paid off.

But Appleby and O’Regan are under no illusions that they’re merely at the end of the first chapter. What comes next will be even more convoluted than keeping five teenagers on the straight and narrow through the steeplechase from baby band to first album.

What’s potentially to come down the road does loom large in their thinking. “I’d like to think that we’ll still be changing in three years time.” says Appleby. “That this band, like any regular person, will still be changing and developing and progressing naturally. I’d like to think the band in three years will be more mature as we get more mature.”

Ask him about what motivated his songwriting in the first instance, and Appleby talks about what was lacking in the music he heard others making. “No matter what new band I was listening to, there was something that wasn’t there, there was something that should have been there, and I thought other people must have felt the same way. I wanted to fill that void.

“When we started writing music, I wanted to write stuff that I knew would have appealed to me. That was my biggest revelation, that I’m not unique, that there are people out there just like me and that if something genuinely means something to me, that it will mean something to others too.”

O'Regan talks about his brother's stack of MiniDiscs alerting him to albums such as Massive Attack's Blue Lines , Yann Tiersen's score for Amélie , the Vanilla Sky soundtrack and Radiohead's Kid A . Appleby remembers "Otis Redding and Sam & Dave always singing in the kitchen or the car. They sounded like they believed what they said."

All of this fed into Absolute Zero 's parade of harmonic coos, folky hurrahs and melodic ballast. "The musicality of the album is a consequence of the time we've put in," reckons O'Regan. "We never set out to sound like this or that – it came from experimenting on a lot of different sounds and writing over the course of five years."

You can also hear Appleby's literary likes (Steinbeck, Ginsberg, Carver, Poe and Wilde), from the title's nod to Bukowski to the darker, bittersweet lyrical ideas beneath the surface. "One of my favourite things about reading Bukowski is recognising that he's brilliant but not agreeing with him," he says. "If you agreed with everything he wrote, you'd probably be a very fucked-up person. Having all these different perspectives solidifies my own perspective on things. I'm gaining a more educated opinion of things which hopefully will come across in the songwriting, and that the songwriting will be more respected for that and not seen as childlike."

But Appleby’s is not the only voice in the chorus. “One thing about Little Green Cars is that there are five very creative, driven people in the band,” says O’Regan. “It’s not a case that one person dictates everything – there are a lot of ideas here. We all pull our own ways. During the writing of the album, there was never a feeling that we had a sound in our head and that was it. What the album does is document our lives up to now. You can hear the changes as we grow up.”

Still, it’s quite clear that each member knows what they bring to the show. “My musical mind is very much lines and spaces and boxes, Stevie is more about colour and shape and texture”, says O’Regan. “He responds to feelings and I respond to, I suppose, focus, so we’re complete opposities in a way.”

It will be interesting to see how those diverse personalities deal with the months of on-the-road hustle and strife that lie ahead. Already, they’ve had their fair share of American road trips, and those epic drives from show to show through the night, seeing nothing but gas stations and Dairy Queens, have left a mark. “It’s very easy to feel very isolated, very ‘where are we?’”says O’Regan.

“As soon as you start to feel sick or a little bit under the weather, you realise how homesick you are,” says Appleby. “You’ve driven for hours, you’ve arrived at the next venue and there’s no door on the toilet. You go, ‘damn, I want to be at home to take a crap in private.’”

Yet they also realise how lucky they are. This is what they wanted, after all. This was the career they sought and dreamt about back home in their practice space. They have hit the jackpot, broken toilet doors and all.

“We know we’re very blessed with the amount of opportunities we have right now,” says Appleby. “When you’re in a band, burning desire and a complete lack of ambition can intertwine so much. Those two things never end. Desire is run on a lack of ambition – it’s what keeps the brain buzzing every minute of every day because you know you go between these amazing highs and deep valleys.

As it is, wake up, the sky is blue, the grass is green, you’re in a band and everything’s good.”