Live, Girl Band’s visceral assault of noise means you only catch fragments of their lyrics. Yet the way that frontman Dara Kiely howls lines like “I look crap with my top off!” with the anguished venom of Nick Cave with toothache has always suggested a lurking darkness. “Divorced of context, they’re just random sentences that mean nothing,” says guitarist Alan Duggan. “But when there’s an explanation, they mean everything.”
The Dublin punks’ forthcoming album, ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’ – out September 25 – sees Kiely grappling to make sense of his mental health issues. “It’s a weirdly personal album, even though it’s not obvious,” he explains. “I had a messy break-up which led to a psychotic episode and a breakdown where I had to take a year off college and get better. And just went through depression and thought I couldn’t write again. It took me a year to feel good within myself again.”
“The whole album is those emotions I went through; the phases of depression and the rehabilitation.”
The way the band tell it, Kiely’s behaviour became erratic: he became overly happy, thought he was God and could control the weather, and there was a spell where he moved into a tent in his garden and refused to leave. They talk about these experiences with a humour that’s present in the songwriting, recounting hilarious anecdotes about his subsequent stay in hospital, including the time a bee flew into a ‘dealing with anxiety’ workshop (“people were screaming like they were on fire!”). ‘I don’t think the songs are ever bleak,” adds Kiely. “I deliberately use playful language.”
“There’s a track that’s very direct called ‘Witch Doctor’. It’s got a really fast punk beat, and I’m talking really, really fast and it mirrors that acute stage where I was manic, and there’s a song called ‘The Last Riddler’ about the moment I hit the wall.”
The nine tracks have been gigged extensively, and they opted to produce the record themselves, with help from engineers Jamie Hyland (the Jamie of the title) and Liam Mulvany. Holing themselves up in a hometown studio, match-fit after a US tour, the album was recorded ‘as live’, like their previous EPs. “For band like ourselves, it captures something,” says bassist Daniel Fox. “On record, there’s a definite sense that you can hear everyone’s in the same room.” They’ve been experimenting with unusual percussion, such as hubcaps (“It’s fun to turn your snare into the side of a car,” says drummer Adam Faulkner) and Gaviscon bottles (used in lieu of plectrums) – to achieve an idiosyncratic sound.
The sound they create mirrors the primal catharsis of Kiely’s vocals: they meld the nihilistic noise of no-wave to hypnotic electro influences that come from Duggan discovering techno when he studied in Prague. Musical touchstones include The Birthday Party, Fela Kuti and krautrock. ‘Pears For Lunch’ – described by Duggan as “a progression from [2014 single] ‘Lawman’. There’s a dance aspect to it – it has a definite LCD Soundystem influence” – sees Kiely lamenting: ‘Spend my time watching Top Gear with my trousers down.’ “Sadly, it’s autobiographical,” he laughs. “I don’t even like cars. I watched it to piss myself off and then would sit on my couch wanking.” ‘Texting An Alien’ is built around the finger-plucking rhythm of Nick Drake’s ‘Riverman’, and ‘Um Bongo’ is a full-blown meltdown. “It was written in the grip of my paranoia,” remembers Kiely.
“When we first started playing it, I actually thought they were attacking me with noise.”
TITLE: ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’
RELEASE DATE: September 25
LABEL: Rough Trade
PRODUCER: Self-produced, and engineered by Daniel Fox, Jamie Hyland and Liam Mulvany
RECORDED: Bowlane Studios, Dublin
TRACKS INCLUDE: ‘Um Bongo’, ‘Paul’, ‘Texting An Alien’, ‘Pears For Lunch’
DANIEL FOX SAYS: “It’s a better version of what we’ve done before. We didn’t think ‘right, we have to make it sound professional’. It sounds really full on, but the noise is sculpted. We don’t think ‘Turn on fuzz – blow minds’. When we talked about our debut three years ago, we knew we didn’t want to exist in just Ireland . We’re into old music, so the aim of the album is that ten years down the line, someone will discover the record and be influenced by it.”