Interview: The Virginmarys

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virginmarysThis was one of the coolest interviews I’ve been able to do. The Virginmarys aren’t up and coming. Signed to Wind-Up Records, they’re already doing it big. A rock trio from Macclesfield, England, The Virginmarys’ balls-to-the-wall 2013 debut King of Conflict was love at first riff. With the release of their new album Divides, I was able to chat with them and ask about album construction, influences, and various other things. I’d like to say thanks to the fine folks at Wind-up Records for making this happen and of course The Virginmarys. You can find out my feelings on their new album, Divides, here. Enjoy Rocknuts.

Christopher Tahy: Growing up here in America, we all have our rock n roll/guitar heroes Clapton, Hendrix, Young, and Page to name a few. With the content, tone, and construction of your sound and albums who did you guys look up to/idolize growing up in Europe? Who made you want to pick up your instrument of choice?

Danny Dolan (drums): I grew up on my Dad’s music sooooo… Elvis, Beatles and Englebert Humperdinck?? Still love Elvis to death but never ever idolized him… don’t love Humperdinck and never did (sorry Englebert)… so obviously no idol there… I did however (and still do) idolize John Lennon (BIG hero of mine). Other idols for me would be Jim Morrison, Karen Carpenter, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Andy Warhol and Howard Hughes.

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Ally Dickaty (lead vocals, guitar): I always had the Beatles and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac being played by my Dad since I was a kid. Peter Green is still my favourite guitar player along with Dave Gilmour — it’s how delicate and tastefully they play. I think I always wanted to be a guitar player; music always gave me that special feeling and added meaning to my life. Neil Young has been a big influence on me and Derek And The Dominos’ (Clapton and Duane Allman) album Layla was a big influence when I picked up the guitar.

Matt Rose (bass): I always loved Hendrix and the way he played. It always looked so effortless and his style was so relaxed. Along with him, I also love Nirvana. They were like a breath of fresh air and nothing else that was out there. Also, the Beastie Boys were an influence. I loved the instrumental tunes on their albums.

CT: Kings Of Conflict had what I feel was a bigger focus on guitar solos. Since it was your debut album, was the a measure taken to show you guys weren’t there to fuck around? Also, Divides seems to have a more bridge, chorus format with a little solo here or there — or maybe I’m crazy. Was there a conscious decision to not focus on solos as much?

Danny: I think when we first got together as a band we were learning how each other played through jamming all the time, and I think for that reason that really comes across more on KOC… The songs have a lot more base for instrumentalism I guess?? (not sure that’s a word but it sounds good) I think for this record the biggest difference is probably more focus the lyrical content and I personally love the bridges and choruses on this one, so I reckon it’s a good shout from you guys! It’s all about those choruses!

The Virginmarys' new album "Divides" is out now.

The Virginmarys’ new album “Divides” is out now.

Ally: It wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort, it’s just whether the songs warrant a guitar solo or not. There’s more of a blues feel to the debut record and solos seemed to work better. I think Divides has more of an up tempo and frantic feel and it’s pointless to plonk a solo in there just for the sake of it. It just depends what the song is asking for.

Matt: I think on the first album there was a conscious decision to record it ‘live’ and try and capture what we are all about when we play live. I think when it came to this album we had a different approach to recording and song writing. I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision for the songs to be as they are on Divides. I think it’s just a natural progression.

CT: How does a trio of gentlemen such as yourselves create these big songs and sounds? It’s really what made me enjoy you guys in the first place. These songs are big and “dumb” in the best way possible. Also, apologies for calling you guys British… Sadly I’m not perfect.

Ally: Haha it’s all good. I think it probably has to start from Dan on the drums; the harder he plays the harder me and Matt follow. I played in a couple of four-piece line ups with Dan years ago and I think from that we’ve always tried to encapsulate that sound with just one guitar. The band has always loved working on dynamics so you notice when something is really heavy rather than it just being the same across the board.

Danny: Agree with Ally here… it all stems from me hahaha! I think it actually does really come from a few things to be honest. Sub-conscientiously I definitely think the fact me and Ally spent our formative years in four-piece bands (with two guitar players) then going into a three-piece, there was always a sense of ‘making up for the missing volume in the room.’ I also think Matty’s background of being a guitar player himself again contributes to that ethos. We find gaps in the sound and then one of us fill it… we are the ‘TETRIS’ band of rock n’ roll.

Matt: I think we all play as hard as we can and, as there’s only three of us, we try and fill out the space. I think Danny’s probably best at this as his style of drumming is far from just bass, snare and occasional toms/fill. He’s all over the kit and his drumming has a very melodic style.

CT: Saw your modern-vinyl interview. I’m a huge Speedy Ortiz and Jon Spencer fan. What was the last album you purchased? Also, for The Virginmarys what’s the most anticipated album of this year or the next? Aside from Divides (ha ha)

Ally: The last album was The Hope Six Demolition Project by PJ Harvey. I think it’s amazing, I think she’s amazing. It’s very original sounding, the voice and lyrical content is brilliant and the songs are ace. We listen to a lot of different types of music so I’d be surprised if we all chose the same album were looking forward to. For me personally it’s Run The Jewels 3 by the Run The Jewels. They’re a hip hop duo that have a punk edge to me. The lyrics and delivery together with the music behind blows my little mind.

Danny: Last album was The Race for Space by Public Broadcasting Service. LOVE this band… just brilliant musicians who write intelligent, inventive music with innovative ideas. Check them out now! New Radiohead album is obviously extremely intriguing so I’ll be dipping toes into that one.

Matt: The last album I bought was Automatic for the People by R.E.M. I’ve listening to a lot of their stuff recently and bought all their back catalog. This was definitely one of those albums that I should’ve had all these years. I think before this R.E.M fest though, it was probably Speedy Ortiz’s new album. I’d say I’m looking forward Radiohead’s new album coming out. Really excited to hear what they’ve been up to.

CT: A lot of these songs that you write could border on generic, but they don’t. What’s The Virginmarys’ secret?

Ally: Because it’s honest, songs written from my experience on life and sung by my voice not trying to sound like anyone else’s. No one else will have exactly the same take on life as me I guess. Matt and Danny are incredible musicians. They have their own style and they’ve never tried to sound like anyone else. It’s always going to have our own sound.

Danny: I think we take a lot of influence from bands we love both past and present, and a lot of our favorite bands (i.e Beatles/Zep/Dylan) take huge huge influences that you can hear in all their music, but they have their own formula which is what defines them. I think in a lot of ways that’s what we’re trying to do? Every single song Ally ever does could easily be sung with a shitty acoustic guitar in the pissing rain of any high street town center and still sound real, honest, relative and bollocks-ee (that’s definitely not a word but you know what I mean). I could never ever imagine Ally singing about how great life is while taking selfies, living it up on a cruise ship with ‘hoes’ and drinking Louis Roederer Cristal. That’s just Disney music.

Matt: I think the lyrics are the secret. They’re honest and sung with such conviction that you can’t help but sit up and take note.

CT: What is your proudest moment being in The Virginmarys?

Ally: I think being on the phone to Gil Norton for the first time telling us how good the songs for the new record are. After growing up listening to the albums he’d produced and thinking to have an album produced by him, that would be the dream. So to then have this conversation and work with him so closely on this album was a very proud moment for me.

Danny: SLASH said in an interview with Tom Russell on Rock Radio I was a ‘Killer’ drummer… I was pretty happy with that to be honest.

Matt: Probably hearing about how our music has helped some people through some really tough times in their lives. It makes me immensely proud to know that and it’s by far the best accolade you could ever receive.

CT: Biggest starstruck moment since being in The Virginmarys?

Ally: There’s been quite a few. Having conversations with Josh Homme and Slash take some beating.

Danny: Seeing Deborah Harry backstage…I made a beeline to go up to her and say hello and when I got within five yards I bottled it and pretended I was headed for the bar instead. I relive that moment over and over and over all the time… similar thing happened at SXSW with Dave Grohl but probably not as much starstruck-ness to be honest.

Matt: I wouldn’t say I really get starstruck to be honest but I remember being at SXSW and walking past Dave Grohl on the street. Sadly, he didn’t cotton on that he recognized us but I know deep down he was equally as excited about seeing us too… ha ha!

CT: What are your guilty pleasures? Could be musically, could be anything.

Ally: The Rocky films. The first one is amazing, the rest are trying to relive it. I always get a boost from the story of ‘the fight in the dog rather than the dog in the fight.’ It’s all about the belief and the heart.

Danny: Wizard of Oz (hate musicals) but this is my favorrite all time film and probably always will be … do love the BEE GEES too though (actually LOVE them)… Oh and ABBA.

Matt: I don’t think I have any really. Either that or I just don’t feel guilty about any of them!

CT: What’s one of the biggest things you want fans to take away from Divides?

Danny: I love the lyrics the most on this album and so I hope that is the one individual element people take away and keep forever… It’s a 100 percent no bullshit ‘ROCK’ album and I hope people see that.

Ally: I want them to have a piece of work that can speak to them their whole lives. I want to be able to add something special to their music collection and something that will stay with them for the years to come. It’s never half-arsed when we work on music, it’s with the belief that it can change people’s worlds. I put everything into my art and I hope it can resonate and make a difference to people.

Matt: I don’t really feel like I could say. It’s up to them what they take out of it. I know what I get out of it and it’s probably different to what Danny and Ally get out of it. And I think that’s what this album and music in general are all about, hey?

CT: I’m here to help the band, so as a preventative measure I ask what’s one interview question you hate being asked? Take note other publications..

Danny: “Are you Christians and what do you think of Jesus?” Or “Do you believe in God?” Generally the more off-the-wall questions the better for me as I find them the more interesting.

Ally: Haha nice… Okay, well probably when there’s been no research into the band and you can tell the interviewer is just going through the motions. That aside… “So how did you guys get together?” gets pretty tiresome and “Where did the name come from?”

Matt: Probably like Ally says. “How did you get together?” And “Where did the name come from?”

CT: Finally, what does the rest of 2016 look like for The Virginmarys? Is there anything you’d like to plug?

Ally: It looks great; we’re just so happy to have this album out there there for our fans and give the general public something that cuts through a lot of the other shit out there at the minute. We’re going to be busy touring for the foreseeable hopefully.

Danny: Touring, touring, touring, touring, touring, touring, touring, touring, touring!

Matt: Hopefully more touring and some UK festivals. We’re getting into the season so I hope we can play a few of them. They’re always good fun.

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