A few weeks ago, a tongue in cheek ‘event’ went viral on Facebook, an ‘ad’ for a gig starring a mash-up band mixing Joy Division and Boyzone. The band were called Boyz Division, and naturally, don’t actually exist. I think it was popular, comedy aside, because people love this kind of stuff. Who doesn’t want to find out, live, what ‘Love Will Tear Me Apart For A Reason’ might sound like.
The She Street Band (who will definitely thank for me that introduction), are only loosely linked to such silly comedy, but there is a common ground to be explored. Like the posited Boyz Division, they take songs and twist them. In this case those songs belong to Bruce Springsteen, and are immaculately reconstructed in a kind of loose-fitting, fiery, female image of the Boss. In their role as ‘the world’s only all-female Bruce Springsteen cover band’, they variously rock, croon, and soar their way through a host of instantly-recognizable but cleverly altered classics.
They’re about to set off on their first one-off tour, having already grabbed a whole load of media love, and they’re dropping in on Dublin. I got on the email machine and asked the seven-piece’s resident Irishwoman, glock player Clare McGrath, about the early life of her London-based band…
How did this project come about?
It came about after Jody (our bassist and one of the vocalists) saw Springsteen at Wembley in London. She was so buzzed after the show that she immediately called some pals and said I have this crazy idea… and the band was born!
How difficult is the process of changing Bruce’s songs – to suit your vocals, or musicality, for example?
It’s actually really fun. It’s quite an experimental process. We don’t aim to sound exactly like Bruce or cover his songs to the note, but more embody his energy and good vibes!
How closely matched is the band to E Street?
It’s the same in the sense that we play the same core instruments, but there is no one Bruce. We each take the lead on different songs and make them our own. We’re all about the band as a whole group rather than one front-woman.
In what way do you most want to be like Bruce?
That ENERGY! He’s famous for how he can just play for hours and hours. Regardless of curfews at venues he just loves his audience and gives them the best night. We want people to leave our gigs with that buzzed feeling!
You seem to have done really well in a short period of time. It’s a unique idea – how are you finding the expectations?
We had no idea we would be received like this. It all started as a bit of craic, you know, let’s play our first show, see how it goes, and then we sold out that first show and realised that people were really getting into it. It’s incredible! We just want our audience to have a great time. Our shows are energetic and fun and the audience really jumps right on that and we all rock out together for the night.
What are your various musical backgrounds?
We all come from different musical backgrounds and are working on various projects. Mara (guitar) is a singer-songwriter and about to release some solo material. Lynn (keys) plays with Joe Innes and the Cavalcade. Yasmin (sax) is a member of Apex Horns, an all-female horn section, and Isobel (guitar) is part of the duo Smoke Rivers. A love of The Boss is the common denominator!
Did you all come into this as big Springsteen fans, or has it grown over the last year or two?
We all came in as fans, but at different levels of knowledge. Having spent so much time working on his music, that fandom has grown and grown as you get a whole new appreciation for him looking at and working with his music this closely.
Does Bruce know about the band? If so, what does he think?
E Street bassist Gary Tallent does (he was spotted wearing our band merch which was a bit of a surreal moment!)! No word from Bruce yet, though.
How did you end up with such an international band [band members come from the UK, Ireland, Sweden and the US]?
We live in a melting pot of a city where everyone is from everywhere so it’s not hard to meet people from every corner of the world, and the appeal of Bruce is so universal.
Is there one track you love playing more than any other?
We each have our favourites but top of the list would be Rosalita, 10th Avenue Freeze Out and Dancing in the Dark.
I hear a few of you take lead vocals at different times. What ‘versions’ of Bruce is each member playing when they sing?
We have this running joke that we are the seven faces of Bruce. We each take songs that bring out a different side of him. We have Party Bruce, Lovesick Bruce, Rocking Bruce…
Will this be your first Irish date? What are your expectations, and anything else you plan to do while you’re over?
We are so excited to play Dublin! I think it’s going to be such a fun night- there are so many Bruce fans in Ireland and we’re really looking forward to meeting them. Equally excited for a pint of stout and a bag of Taytos!
What’s your dream gig?
A night at The Grand Social in Dublin of course! Maybe with a guest appearance from the man himself as our dancer on stage during Dancing in the Dark.
The She Street Band play The Grand Social, Dublin on Wednesday, October 10.