Spotlight #6: Girl Band

by Rob Scott

A Note From The Editor: The Spotlight column was first brought to the iPhone and laptop screens of PearShaped readers last autumn, in order to promote new and undiscovered music. Its original writer, Will Cafferky, having moved on to the Rediscovered column, Spotlight was up for grabs and who better to fill his shoes than Rob Scott? One of our most prolific writers, with an extensive knowledge of weird and obscure music, Rob will be taking over this fortnightly column to introduce you to some of his favourite undiscovered artists.

In the fine dining community, a popular rising fad is “deconstructed food”. (Of course, I wouldn’t know, for my diet consists largely of toast and cereal - but the reference is important for my analogy, so bear with). For instance, a deconstructed pizza might consist of a quinoa crisp bread instead of the base, a green tomato marmalade instead of your bog standard sauce, and a gorgonzola foam for the cheese, and it would all be rearranged from the traditional pizza setup into an elaborate towering structure. (I really have no idea what I’m talking about). The point is that it retains all the components of the traditional, everyday version, but radically subverts them, messing with all other expectations.

The same can be said of Girl Band. At first glance, this Dublin four-piece seem like a fairly typical indie rock band - they have the tongue in cheek band name (none of them are female), the guitar-bass-drummer-vocalist lineup, the stylishly dressed singer - but when the music plays they’re something extraordinary. They retain the tropes and tools of traditional punk-rock, playing lively songs in 44 with distorted guitars and jagged drum beats, but twist and bastardise them to riveting effect.

Take the song Paul off their newly released debut LP Holding Hands With Jamie. With the slow-building drumbeat on the toms and the repeated distorted bass riff, which progress towards a wild danceable mid-section, it could easily fit alongside any track at a Cavern Indie Night. That is, of course, if the song wasn’t stripped of all melody and tonality, instead relying solely on the driving rhythm and eclectic distorted noises from the guitars. It’d be unfair to say that Girl Band play out of tune, for there is no tune to play in.

One thing that sets them apart from other noisy punk bands is that they take the structuring of their songs from techno or EDM. Instead of verses and choruses, they use buildups and drops, making each song perfectly linear and to the point, to match the repetitive driving rhythms. They master in suspense, holding off the violent intensity of each climax just long enough to lull the listener into a false sense of security.

Vocalist Dara Kiley is very vocal on and off the album about his mental health problems. He told Drowned In Sound last month of his past messiah complex: “I had this extreme idea… ‘You are your own god, you are your own master.’ It was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I thought I could control the weather. Everything. I lived out in a tent for a while…” This mental instability is explored in the lyrics, but I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to speculate that the perception distorting affects of his mental illness also influenced the band’s feral, yet meticulously precise, deconstruction of the traditional indie rock and punk sound into something completely unique, uninviting, yet immediately compelling.

On first listening to Girl Band, it’s not easy. It’s bewildering, abrasive, noisy, completely other, but also somehow quite familiar, which in a way makes it all the more unsettling. But they’re worth the effort. Once you’re riding the wave of their pounding relentless sound, you’re hooked. A melody or tune would be inappropriate, distracting from the feverish trance-like momentum of each track.

If you like them try: early Sonic Youth, Liars, White Suns