WE’RE STILL, in all probability the best part of a year short of the debut album from Dublin four-piece Pillow Queens. It’s a sign of their ambition and their early success, then, that their tour schedule for 2019 will take them across Europe, throughout the UK and to several of Ireland’s biggest festivals.
Pillow Queens rise from debutants to Gay Community News cover stars (clad in Downton Abbey style get up) has been an epic one, and the self-described ‘baby band’ are still coming to terms with the highs, slowly. Those highs have included being nominated for song of the year at the Choice Music Prize, for ‘Gay Girls’, and being played on the iconic radio station BBC 6 Music.
“We’ve had no time to stop in the last few months,” Sarah Corcoran said of the ride so far. “We have just over an hour of music now with new songs. We had friends in the UK we could play with right back at the start, so we did a tour. We had no business being over there, really, but we went and did it, and it was the best thing to do. It looked good to people.”
The truth, though, is Pillow Queens have looked like a ready-made success story from the start. Made up of four gay girls, they played their very first show to a sold out audience, raising money for a dog charity in the process.
“We called in a lot of favours for that fundraising gig and got a great line up,” Corcoran says. “That there’s four gay girls in the band isn’t something thought out. It was just the people we were hanging around with. We don’t shy away from it, though. I’d like to have seen people like us on stage when I was young. If we can do that for one person, that’d make me very happy.”
The speed of progress comes in part from a sense of inbuilt ambition. There have been jobs quit to go on tour. “We don’t talk about that at job interviews,” Corcoran laughs. “I can’t tell people I plan to quit to go on tour or I’ll never get another job.”
“We’re going on tour with SOAK (the highly critically acclaimed Derry artist) in the next couple of months. We asked, because we got on well before, but it’s really great it’s actually happening. She’d put us up on tour the first time around, and we put her on the guest list for our show as a small thank you. We became friends.”
The Choice Prize nomination and the GCN cover have been different, though, a real sign of the band’s progress. “They had all the clothes, the shoes, everything ready. We didn’t even know it was a cover until we got there, “Corcoran remembers of the GCN shoot. “And the Choice Prize was weird. It was bizarre to be up against people who have millions of fans. It’s a public vote, so I guess we could relax knowing it didn’t matter how many times we asked people to vote on social media, we weren’t going to win.”
“When the email came in, though, we thought it was a joke.”
There’s nothing funny about the pace of Pillow Queen’s rise, though. It’s built on hooky pop-rock tracks, a quirky but relatable take on life, and some truly wonderful videos. Because who wouldn’t want to watch something like the video for ‘Rats’, a surreal take on children’s TV riddled with local cultural references. It’s an art that’s as difficult as it looks effortless: Pillow Queens are a great band; they’re also culturally relatable.