"I love listening back to songs after we’ve demoed them and thinking “oh hold on, that sounds great! Now let’s ALL sing!”
Q&A by Danny Carroll
Although they only released their debut EP 'Calm Girls' in December, self-described "baby band" Pillow Queens are fast growing into one of the most talked about new groups in Ireland. Comprised of Cathy, Pamela, Rach and Sarah, the Dublin based quartet have set themselves apart playing catchy pop-punk songs with upfront lyrics. Lauded by BBC Radio legend Steve Lamacq as "deeply infectious, with sharp hooks and sharp nails", the band are fresh from their first UK tour and due to join us on the Other Voices stage at Electric Picnic. Ahead of this hotly-anticipated performance, the quartet took time out to talk about meeting on Bebo, toxic masculinity and the "blouse of shame".
Pillow Queens, what can you tell us about the first time you met? Rach: The girls like to romanticise the way we met but really we’ve known each other for years! Pam, Cathy and I all met around the same time about ten years ago when we were only babies and all playing in different bands. Sarah met Pam when Pam was busking in the streets of Temple Bar and wanted to be her best friend. Sarah: Eh Rach, you just quoted the storyline to Once, Ireland’s most romantic film - is there a more romantic way to meet someone than watching them busk on the street?! I met Cathy playing on an all girl basketball team. And we met at Crush. ROMANCE. Pamela: I actually met Cathy when she messaged me on Bebo and asked if I'd play a gig in Arklow and stay in her house. Obviously I went because weird online strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.
Were you conscious of trying to make different music to previous bands you played in like Kate’s Party? Sarah: It never crossed my mind really! When I stopped playing with Kate’s Party it was because I didn’t relate to the music we were playing anymore because I’d written a lot of it as a teenager. I wanted Pillow Queens to be something which resonated with me now but I never made a conscious attempt to make it particularly different. Cathy: I feel like I’ve gone through a wormhole of my teen years being in Pillow Queens.
You get tagged as a ‘punk’ band - is that a label you identify with? Rach: Not really. While we identify with the DIY ethics of punk, as a genre it’s not really a good fit for us. Don’t get us wrong, we’ve all listened to the different subcultures of punk over the years, particularly in our teens, but in terms of our own music, we don't really identify with it. We’d be more inclined to steer away from labelling ourselves as punk also as it’s a scene or climate that we wouldn’t necessarily feel we’d fit into. Pamela: We have a few songs that certainly fit a punk label but also a lot that wouldn't necessarily. I do think punk as a genre is quite broad. Maybe we could be called punkish? We were once described as double cream pop which I love.
How did discovering punk music affect you when you were younger? Rach: I remember first listening to The Distillers as a teen and recall Brody Dalle BLOWING MY MIND. She was the epitome of a bad ass punk and a huge influence in terms of music and also as a role model - what a babe! We all wanted to be Brody when we were kids. Sarah: I wanted to be Aaron Carter. Pamela: I was really into hardcore punk when I was younger. The likes of Trash Talk, Have Heart, and loads of amazing Irish bands like The Blind, Find a Way, and Frustration. It's such a cathartic thing to listen to and I can certainly see how it influenced my part in Pillow Queens but it is one of quite a few musical influences. Cathy: The first CD I ever had was Dookie by Green Day and I just lost hours and hours of my life to it. I was listening to Britney Spears on the sly though.
What can you tell us about Pillow Queens songwriting process?
Pamela: Well it's always subject to change because we really haven't been together very long, but so far it's been either myself or Sarah locking ourselves away and writing the bare bones of a potential song. Then we just bring it to the rest of the band to work on and make it ten times better. Just speaking on behalf of myself I’m a bit of a stickler for a melody so I focus all my energies on that and then struggle afterwards with making things fit lyrically. I get there in the end usually. Whether it makes sense is another thing. But sure, artistic licence and all that. Cathy: For me it’s about listening to the melody and finding the melody which compliments it. Oh and fuzz. That sweet sweet fuzz. Rach: I love listening back to songs after we’ve demoed them and thinking “oh hold on, that sounds great! Now let’s ALL sing!”
Pillow Queens - Rats (Music Video)
You’ve said you wrote the song ‘Wonderboys’ about toxic masculinity - have you experienced this in the Irish music industry so far? Rach: Actually, now that I come to think of it, we haven’t really. I definitely have in previous bands. That line “you’re a really good drummer… for a girl” still rings in my ears a decade later. Maybe we’ve just grown up and are surrounded by more mature, respectful people these days or maybe the music scene has matured itself. I’m still waiting for someone to say it to me again, and I’m sure my response will be the same as last time :)
What else has been inspiring Pillow Queens songs? Pamela: Self loathing, existential crises, and girls girls girls.
In March you played a gig in the IFI cinema, what can you tell us about that experience? Rach: That was a wonderful experience! We were the support for a movie called “Torrey Pines”, a stop-motion animated film which was live-scored by the band Your Heart Breaks. The film dealt with issues that are very close to our hearts. As an experience, it was different to any of our other gigs we had played as the audience were sitting down and gazing intently. It was a lot of fun though. Sarah: I’ve worked there for years so it was a really surreal experience to play a gig there.
Have you plans for an album soon? Pamela: So far we’ve only released a 3 song EP so I think before we go full tilt on an album we’ll put out another small release just so everyone gets a sense of us. We’re only a baby band. Rach: What’s an album?
Have you been to Electric Picnic before? Any interesting experiences over the years? Rach: Myself and Cathy have been to EP many a time, however not in recent years. I’ve had many many interesting experiences and encounters over the years! We brought a “Blouse of Shame” with us one year. Whoever passed out first had to wear it. One of the girls was wearing it within two hours of us arriving and pitching our tents. 2006 was my first year at EP - Yeah Yeah Yeah’s played the main stage that year and it was the first time I’d heard Maps played live. It was goosebump-inducing to say the least. There are so many stories but I’d be here all day telling them. Cathy: I lost my friends one year and stumbled across a tiny tent where Cat Power was playing. That was mad.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Pillow Queens yet, why should they come see you at EP? Rach: We're deadly. Sarah: And cute. Pamela: And please, we’re desperate.