WORDS: Laura McCarthy
Having been working hard all year, THE VIRGINMARYS are back in the rehearsal rooms, prepping up for their shows in the coming weeks. It’s been a while since the guys last album King of Conflict, and with a growing fan base and loyal listeners ready for more new stuff, the boys are rearing to go. Distorted Sound’s Laura had a quick catch up with Ally Dickaty (guitar/vocals), Danny Dolan (drums) and Matt Rose (bass/backing vocals) before a rehearsal session.
Hiya guys, so how are you feeling for the gigs coming up?
Ally: really excited, it’s been so long since we were last on stage, I think the last time was in India in December. And it’s really great to have the first one in Stoke, near our home town. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to playing the new stuff.
Danny: yeah, this is the first chance to play the new songs really, since they’ve been rearranged with Gill [Norton, producer], so that will be interesting to see how they go down, yeah should be good!
How was it to work with Gill Norton on this new album, what was that like?
Ally: it was kind of a dream come true for me, having listened to albums as a kid that he’d produced, and it was a real benchmark, a real dream to think “I’d love to have an album produced by him”. So to hear that he loved the demo’s and he really wanted to work with us was a little surreal, but an amazing experience.
Danny: for me it was very very different from King of Conflict, a lot more challenging. He had me doing things a lot differently to how I normally would do, and he sort of pushed me to think about playing in a different way than I would have naturally thought. I can tell on the record when I hear it. And on top of that he was a really nice guy.
Matt: yeah, quite similarly to Ally, growing up listening to things he’s worked on, and to actually work and record with him was pretty amazing.
Having been off the scene a while, have you got back into things pretty quick?
Matt: yeah, I think so.
Danny: Definitely. I think in a lot of ways, having started to make the record at the beginning of the year, preproduction and then that took us into May, and then obviously that goes into be mastered and you know, you have to work on the art work as well. I think we’re pretty particular about what we want it to look like. It’s a lot more hands on than most bands I think, we’ve never been like “oh yeah, that will do, cool”. We’re a bit more….it’s really important to us. And I think that time out has been pretty positive, because having not played since last December, it’s made us look back on how we have done other shows and how to make all the little bits that much better, to make the performance better. I think it’s been good. In some bands you’re constantly at it, and nothing changes and you can’t get out of your box. You can only see it from that perspective, but having time out allows us to make some changes, and go back in with a clearer mind.
Matt: yeah, in some ways you feel like a new band.
That’s good to hear. And with all this new material, was the writing process any different?
Ally: I think the songs for King of Conflict were possibly older. This was the first official album, so we’d had the songs a little while before they got on there. Since then we’ve had three years to gather the 25, 30 songs we had, and with Gill we picked out what would have made the best album. The process was pretty much the same, just coming up with ideas, taking them to practise and see what worked. Then taking it to production with Gill, that changed things up a bit, and made things a bit different.
Matt: yeah he seemed pretty into that […] he was very focused on that, on making it more, if you know what I mean?
Danny: yeah I think the biggest difference from the last record was that with the last one, some of the stuff from EPs made it onto the album, so we probably only had about sixteen other songs to play with, but this album one we had thirty odd ideas to mess with. In a lot of different ways this album could have been made lot differently, but with having someone like Gill on board we’ve ended up choosing quite a variety so rather than a set, obvious choice of songs it’s been more surprising. Most of the people on our team who’ve heard the new stuff didn’t expect it to be like that and that’s really the response we wanted.
Matt: I think we all agree this album feels more complete, in terms of subject matter and the style.
Ally: the subject matter is more focused and you can tell they’ve all been written in one mind-set, at one time. It may be more coherent as an album for that, and I’m really excited. Defiantly the best album we could have made, definitely.
For sure a lot of people will be looking forward to seeing this new stuff at shows. Thanks for talking to me guys, enjoy practise!
THE VIRGIN MARYS will play Stoke 6th November, and London 19th November. Tickets can be found here.