Scouting For Girls: “Every situation we went into, we thought it might never happen to us again”

When Scouting For Girls emerged in the mid-00s, they weren’t quite the polished, manufactured-type boy band many quickly assumed. Having been playing together for years, the London three-piece’s smash breakthrough ‘She’s So Lovely’ was in fact the culmination of several different acts with similar personnel and years on the stage, going way back to 1995.

Their journey since has been an undulating one: huge hit shows in front of thousands, followed by a fading from chart popularity that left a massive cult following behind. That cult following is significant enough to have Roy Stride, Greg Churchouse and Peter Ellard releasing a blend of originals and cover music to this day, as they explore a career based heavily on a simple idea: make it a whole lot of fun.

“Our new album was an escape from lockdown, and a nostalgic look back to the past while everything else was falling apart,” Stride tells us on new record ‘Easy Cover’, which is predominantly a collection of 80s cover tracks. “It was also a response to having a studio booked and someone wasn’t able to come. I didn’t have any songs ready to go, so I started recording.”

“The actual idea came when we were traveling back from Dublin on a night time tour bus journey, and playing a Phil Collins live album, singing along to ‘Easy Lover’, and someone said it’d be great to do a load of 80s covers, so we did it. It went in a box of world’s worst ideas ever, until lockdown, and then we did something with it.”

“I tried to do a cool, synthy, Spotify friendly version of these covers, and I just put it back on the shelf. It ended up being fun instead. I think it’s classic Scouting For Girls, that when the 80s was quite cool ten years ago, we weren’t doing anything. Now it’s the 90s that are quite cool, and that’s our era, here we are releasing an album of 80s covers. We’re alway a decade behind the trend.”

The year off, naturally, has been strange all round and had plenty of impacts on musicians. “I reassessed my whole relationship with music,” Stride says. “It had got quite stale. I was writing for other bands I didn’t even like, or who weren’t very good. I’d lost a bit of the love and passion.”

Elgin: “We feel comfortable on stage together and that’s always been the greatest part”

Elgin photographed by Anthony Furey

Born out of the ashes of popular Dublin act The Young Folk, Elgin – Anthony Furey and Paul Butler – are embarking on a musical journey that takes them far from their roots. Feeling the need to move past their successful previous act, the pair’s music is steeped in travel, but embedded in origins that sit firmly in the Dublin suburb of Kilbarrack.

“A few years back, we spent some time in Austin Texas for South by SouthWest,” Butler says, setting the scene. “No matter where we go or what country we’ve toured, our spare time consists of finding second hand stores and usually buying the most ridiculous clothes or old musical instruments.” 

“I bought a 1980s casio keyboard for $5 in New Zealand two years ago. Anyway, in Austin, we stayed near a town called Elgin. Low and behold, we found a second hand store. We walked out of that second hand store looking like Irish Cowboys. Cowboy boots, cowboy hats, stained jackets and an odd looking teddy bear for our merch case. That teddy became Elgin and spent a lot of time with us, helping to sell our merch. The name sat well with us, it has meaning but it also means nothing to a listener.”

“[The new outlet] was always the next step,” Butler continues. “The Young Folk’s name had run its course. It wasn’t us anymore. The Young Folk had different members, a different style. The name itself didn’t match us anymore. We still love playing the songs, they’ve changed with us along the way too.”

“Myself and Anthony have been playing together for over fifteen years now. We’ve shared hundreds of stages, we know each other inside out, we’ve had numerous arguments (all resolved), we’ve stayed in the same beds far too many times. But the most important thing is that we feel comfortable on stage together and that’s always been the greatest part. We know we have a connection on stage, no matter what we write, it’ll be portrayed in the best way.”

“And I suppose, it was a case of ‘then there were two’. It was back to basics for us, in the way of creating music together, no interference, no negative influences, everything was out in the open. We had absolute freedom. So with that, we wanted to create something completely new and exciting for us.”

Girl In Red: “I’m hoping to just live off stuff that I love”

Marie Ulven – better known as ‘Girl In Red’ – is the latest in a long line of Scandinavian pop royalty, with Ulven’s quirky pop act refined from bedroom melodies to what’s expected to be a really hot property when our live music scene reopens.

Debut album ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’ is one of those beautiful pieces of work that’s relatable because it’s so close to her heart, evolved almost literally from diary-like thoughts into emotive melodies.

“What’s happening in my life is pretty essentially to my song writing,” Ulven explains. “I’m really nervous and really excited, I can’t wait anymore. It’s going to be so cool to let people hear the new music.”

There must be tough aspects to what Ulven does, too, though. She’s charmingly direct about herself, from her sexuality (she’s into girls) to her experiences with mental health, which it’s clear from her songs can be quite a tough road for her. Writing a debut album in lockdown, though, has clearly been a beacon of hope, and the result is surprisingly boisterous next to her previously more mellow output, like a melodic scream into the ether.

“Making a full length record was definitely harder than I expected,” she says. “It took much more time than I thought it would, and it’s been a really intense experience. You’ve got to make the music, produce all the music, mix all the music and master all the music and go through so many layers of refining and making everything sound so perfect, so it was definitely a different process.”

“Working with FINNEAS on Serotonin was very interesting, we did it all over zoom and it was really cool to have one of my favourite producers work along with me on that. I feel like the finished product is some of the coolest I’ve ever made.”

Carsie Blanton: “Love and rage is meant to be a soundtrack for the people”

Fiercely independent and pointedly political, rock-edged singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton is in love with doing things herself – and with Ireland. Having toured on our isle, New Orleans-influenced Blanton is looking to make an impact here, despite the more obvious market on her doorstep.

Her road has been boisterous and at times highly critical, her songs exploring the personal side of life, but also striking out at the misuse of power and the lack of decency in American political life, something at the forefront as she launches her sixth full-length record.

“I’ve been an independent artist, without a label, for my whole career,” she says, ”and there is no public funding in the US for the kind of music I make, so I’ve relied quite heavily on crowdfunding. I’ve run Kickstarters for three albums (and a card game), I have a Patreon page where fans can contribute to my work on an ongoing basis; and I’ve been throwing monthly ‘Rent Parties’ throughout the pandemic, which have been paying my bandmates’ rent while we wait for gigs to return.”

“When I was young, my plan was to be a rockstar, with loads of money and an aloof attitude. Instead, I rely directly on my fans to be able to make my work, 100% of the time, and I’ve come to love that. It’s a kind of symbiosis.”

That symbiosis, she feels, is a natural fit in Ireland, which her take on protest music and poetry also seem a natural fit.

“Every time I’ve visited, I’ve been delighted by Irish culture around music, poetry, and humor,” she explains. “I’m also fascinated by your political history and culture; I’ve found that the average Irish person has a more complex and thoughtful critique of capitalism, imperialism, and revolution than the average American. I have felt more at home traveling in Ireland than anywhere else, including the States.”

Imelda May: “Sometimes you need the darkness to see the light.”

Dublin icon Imelda May has always been prolific, and her current creative blend of heartfelt poetry and sparkling collaborative music – two things she largely keeps distinct – is no different. May’s determined to take the positives from lockdown, and while her current record dates back to some degree to what we’ll call ‘the before time’, it’s full of shining positivity, an ode to what she feels we currently need.

The Liberties-bred singer is still very much about fostering creativity, with a sweeping, experimental workflow that sees her explore time with various connections she meets along the way and connects with, as well as spending time exploring her own ‘wants’. In fact, she barely sees the whole process as work, the business aspect of it all aside. The latest record, ‘11 Past The Hour’, she feels is her best yet.

“If I could, I’d sit and write every day, if life didn’t get in the way, the business side of getting an album out,” she says. “Sitting and writing is something I love, it’s my time to wind down. But the poetry and songwriting are two different things for me.”

“I’m trying to make them the same, but poetry is something I find more liberating. I don’t have to think of a band, or time limits – length, and so on. I don’t have to construct a song, and arrangements. I just write and that’s it.”

“‘Solace’ [from the new record] is the only poem I’ve turned into a song. I’d been to see U2 in London with my friend Pedro Vito, and we had a stinking hangover the next day. We were supposed to write a song, which we did, and it was kind of rubbish.”

“I got some coffee, and when I came back, he was looking at my poetry book, which I’d left open, and he was working on the music for it. So ‘Solace’ was a poem that became a song, and not really changed at all. I think it’s one of my favourite songs on the album.”

Teenage Fanclub: “we never got caught up trying to follow trends”

GLASWEGIAN ICONS Teenage Fanclub’s latest release ‘Endless Arcade’, due in a couple of weeks, is a real stepping stone for the band, as the first record since the departure of one of their three core songwriters, Gerard Love. 

Love’s departure has come as something of a shock to the way the band perform: they’ve long rotated vocalists on their tracks, and have already had to adapt their live performances to work around some of Love’s iconic hits. Not that it matters, particularly, to those still involved., now including Euros Child, formerly of cult Welsh act Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. They feel the partnership had run its course, and they’ve never been that keen on nostalgia anyway.

Instead, Teenage Fanclub charge on with a new album that’s bittersweet, and takes place in a mythical endless city of the act’s imagination. “The pandemic gave us a bit of extra fiddling time on the album,” Raymond McGinley, guitarist and vocalist, told the Gazette. “It’s new territory for us having a record out but not going on tour.”

“The title wasn’t so much born out of a conscious process, but it came out of writing the songs. I wrote the title track, and afterwards, doing vocals in the studio, Norman [Blake, co-writer and guitarist] saw it and thought it would be a good song title.”

“As a concept it just worked, and kind of came out of nowhere,” he continues. It was reverse engineered in our heads a little bit. It’s this idea that life is just a thing you kind of wonder through. It seemed to be something that fit. It was just part of our expression, really.”

After Gerard’s departure, in fact, the process for the album still felt quite normal particularly with Euros involved, too. “There was a long process with Gerry,” McGinley explains. “We still worked together for a long time after we knew he wasn’t going to be in the band anymore. More than six months. The weirdness was in the consideration of everything that was happening at the time. It had gone by the end, and we’d processed it while he was still in the band and rationalised it, and then we just got on with our lives.”

“I guess it’s unusual that someone who’s not going to be in the band is still in the band, but we did all that together. We worked together from June until November knowing he was leaving, and we had that nostalgia tour, and then we moved on. That’s life. We were a bit self aware about it, about taking it too seriously. It’s only a band. No one died, and we’re not The Beatles.”

Siobhra Quinlan: “It’s fascinating to me that mythology and folklore continue to be echoed throughout popular culture”

Performing under the name sfiiinx, Siobhra Quinlan is a real rarity in Irish music. While she finds her roots in plenty of mythology, using her music to tell spectacular tales, she takes her grounding in classical techniques, straddling the gap between contemporary chamber pop and classical performative arts.

As she works towards her LP ‘The Magma Chamber’, Quinlan joined us to reflect on her style of music and its place in modern Irish culture, and talk about new single ‘Changeling’.

“It’s fascinating to me that mythology and folklore continue to be echoed throughout popular culture, rendering time or eras irrelevant, as we find traces of ourselves or our stories in archetypes or myths,” Quinlan said. “I also find it fascinating that mythology serves as a framework for us to project the complexity, ugliness and beauty of existence onto, which appeals to me as a medium through which one can exorcise their demons.”

“‘Changeling’ is threaded together by a few different fragments. One of those is the myth of Philomela, which to me, is the most brutal and disturbing of myths. Philomela, has been raped by her sister’s husband Tereus. He then cuts out her tongue to silence her. Unable to speak, Philomela weaves the truth of what happened into a tapestry, which is how her sister learns of what has become of Philomela.” 

“The myth continues to darkly tangle itself. The sisters are then liberated from their human existence, and transformed into birds – Philomela, a melodious nightingale, finally, singing freely. Woven with this thread, among other things, is also another myth of sorts in that I found out nearly a decade ago that the meaning of Síobhra is not just a “fae” but a “changeling.” Which I was initially not so cool with, but I have since embraced.”

“I’m not certain that there is a great market for this stuff in Ireland,” Quinlan says. “And I’m not entirely sure where my music will end up finding a home, but it’s not something that enters my mind when I’m creating my work. Whilst it’s certainly not the most industry-savvy approach. I’m comforted by knowing that I’m never playing to the gallery, or bending my musical language to piggyback on to a certain genre, style or audience.”

Groundhopping: Rush Athletic (v Castleknock Celtic, St Catherine’s)

Date: 5 September 2021

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Senior Division 1B (sixth tier)

Result: Rush Athletic 1-2 Castleknock Celtic

Tickets: free in.

Attendance: circa 150

The game: This was my first time checking out my new local team, Rush Athletic, who are playing their very first season at the senior level of Irish non-league football this year. They look a decent physical team, with a pacey striker, if a little naive for the level.

Castleknock took the lead with virtually their first attack, a break down the left wing that was tapped in at the near post. Rush equalised before half time with a breakaway goal that was typically of their pace-led attacking style, before conceding a silly penalty at the end that cost them the game in the final couple of minutes. They’ll be in a relegation battle this season but on this basis should have a decent chance of grabbing a few points and hanging in there as they get used to the level.

The ground: St Catherine’s is a quaint little roadside spot at the edge of what was once the Kenure Estate, formerly Rush’s dominant feature, beaches aside. It has a smart looking little club house and a bit of old stone masonry that seems to host the ‘ultra’s – and yes, there actually are a bunch of rowdy teenagers letting off flares.