After walking in circles following Google Maps trying to find The Irish Cultural Centre last Friday, I arrived to interview Dublin-based Pillow Queens before their gig for The Irish Jam. As I walked in to their dressing room, Guitarist/Bassist/Vocalist Sarah greeted me with: “Kate, you’re two minutes late! We were worried about ya!”. I cracked up, and was instantly calmed by her openness (and secretly impressed by her adherence to the clock). The conversation flowed effortlessly from there.
Pamela (Guitar/Bass/Vocals), Rachel (Drums/Vocals), Cathy (Guitar/Vocals) and Sarah were all friendly, funny, and super relaxed throughout the interview, and we chatted for what felt like no time at all about gigs, their recent EP release, and what it was like to be surrounded by dogs on the set for their recent music video ‘Favourite’ (Spoiler: it was a dream come true).
Hello Girls. You’re playing a gig for The Irish Jam at The Irish Cultural Centre in London tonight (Friday 16th), alongside Tayne, Video Blue & Delorentos. What are you anticipating from tonight’s show?
Sarah: …and inevitably fortune. Today’s the release of our new record (State Of The State) which is coincidental, but it’s a very big day for us. What are we anticipating?
Rachel: A bit of craic?
Cathy: Definitely a bit of craic. We’re also anticipating breaking all of the gear we borrow off the other bands.
Sarah: We haven’t brought anything with us. We’re sharing everything. Sharing, borrowing, stealing…
Cathy: I just showed up with a plectrum and was like “I’ve arrived!”
Pamela: I guess we’re anticipating more London fans as well?
Sounds cool. You’re also in town for St Patrick’s Day tomorrow too. What are your plans?
Pamela: We’re in Camden all day. We’ve got an acoustic set at Voodoo Rays, and then we’re playing the Dr Martens boot room.
Sounds like a good day. What would you be doing if you were back in Ireland?
Pamela: Staying. Away. From. Town. (laughs)
Oh really, is it that bad?
Pamela: It gets pretty hectic. Loads of the roads in and out of town are closed, so it’s hard to get anywhere. Usually on St Patrick’s Day I go to my friends house and we get all of his couches and we put them out in the back garden, and we take the TV out there too and we chill out and watch movies.
Cathy: Why, is it always sunny or something? (laughs)
It won’t be this year….the ‘Best From The East’ is back so it’s going to snow…
Congratulations on releasing your EP State Of The State today (16th)! How are you planning to celebrate the occasion?
Pamela: We’re probably going to be quite tame this evening because we have gigs tomorrow…
Sarah: We’re quite tame generally speaking though. Even last year when we were on tour, I was always like “alright girls, come on, time to go to bed!” (laughs)
Cathy: That didn’t mean that we weren’t hungover though…
Pamela: I didn’t drink for most of the tour really.
Rachel: What? How did I miss that?
You were drunk?
Cathy: (To Pamela) You did fall down the stairs though…
Pamela: Ughh yeah, I did do that. No wait, I fell up a step! I think we’ll just celebrate by having a good time, and hopefully making people buy our record.
Sarah: We sold our first one today! The record is so nice. You know when you see an album on your computer screen and you’re like “that looks like it could be amazing” and then you see it in real life, and it’s just like “Oh my God, it’s actually perfect”.
Pamela: They probably don’t have any songs on them or anything, but they look cool (laughs)
I’ll be grabbing one after your set this evening!
On a surface level, your songs are upbeat and catchy, but your lyrics touch on darker emotions like guilt, paranoia, and frustration about situations you’re trying to change. Do you think it’s important to take negatives emotions like this and turn them in to something positive? Is it a conscious decision you make when you’re writing new music?
Pamela: I know it’s something I definitely do, because I absolutely love writing pop songs. I love being like “d’ya know what? I’m gonna make people sing along to a song that’s actually really fucking sad”. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I love seeing people bobbing away and singing and being really happy, but if you actually listen to the lyrics, you’ll realise I’m dead inside (laughs)
That’s my favourite kind of music! It’s like you’re tricking people…
Pamela: Yeah definitely. I love listening to sad music as well, but sometimes I feel inclined not to listen to it just because it kind of puts you in to a warped sadness. You want to divulge when you’re sad, but you don’t want to get sad, so if I’m like that I’m sure other people are like that too. Which is why I want to trick them. So if you want to listen to a banger that will make you dance, well, I’ll give you that…but I will also give you all my emotional baggage too.
Nothing wrong with that. I’ll take the baggage. Do you each have a favourite song on the EP, or one that you’re most proud of?
Sarah: For me, it’s ‘Puppets’. I know that’s narcissistic because it’s the song that I sing on and it’s a song that I wrote, but for me it’s a song that I’d listen to even if it wasn’t by us. That’s probably because I find it to be really relatable, obviously, because I wrote it (laughs), but I think it was due to me learning song-writing techniques whilst being in the band.
It’s kind if like what Pamela was saying, where you take negative feelings and turn them in to a sing-along, it’s an empowering thing. That’s really attractive to me. When I listened back to ‘Puppets’ I was like “God, I was so sad when I wrote this, but now it sounds so happy” and that just feels great.
Cathy: I’d say ‘Puppets’ too, because I felt like it was the most challenging song, and we all went outside of our comfort zones a bit. I’m just so happy with every track on the EP, there’s nothing I would change.
Rachel: It’s really hard because I love them all, but it has to be ‘Favourite’. I’m sorry Sarah (laughs)
Sarah: It’s okay! it’s not a competition. If Pamela and I ever had any sense of rivalry, it would be about how much Vietnamese soup we could eat in one sitting, I don’t think it would ever be anything to do with song-writing. What’s your favourite song Pamela?
Pamela: It’s not actually one of my own, it’s ‘Cuckoo’. I learned how to play the bass on that track. It’s the first song where I felt like I’d played the bass really well…
Rachel: That’s it! It’s the sense of accomplishment within the band. All of the tracks for me are absolute bangers because they’re about the coming together of the band.
Rachel: That’s why I like ‘Favourite’ so much. I had a sound for it in my head, and we achieved exactly that sound. I listen back to it and I get goosebumps, I’m like “Wow, we are soooo good!” (laughs). Peter helped us to get that sound as well. He’s our friend and he produced it.
Pamela: He really captured what we were looking for, and I don’t even know whether knew that was the sound we wanted? But it turned out really well and I’m so proud of it.
That’s great. Speaking of favourites, the video you released for the track is brilliant. Talk us through how that came about…
Sarah: We love dogs. We really, really love dogs! We met with the Director (Bob Gallagher), but initially we were a bit worried about working with external people on videos because it’s kind of a personal thing. Pamela directed the video for ‘Rats’, so we all had an input. But as soon as we sat down with the Director, he didn’t want to go with a romantic element so he suggested a dog show…and we were like “that’s the most perfect thing you could say to us”…
Cathy: We didn’t need to hear his other ideas. We were just like “That’s it. We’re going with the dogs”.
Sarah: I was like “Do you need any help? I will be at all of the dog shows if you need me to be there!” and I was. 7am the day after Christmas? I was like “Let’s do this, my Mum’s gonna drop me over…” (laughs)
Pamela: I wasn’t sure how he was going to make the parts filmed at the dog show and the parts filmed with the actors be cohesive, but now I don’t think you can tell who are the actors and who are the normal people? There are some just, normal people who are acting like they’re mad, like, there’s someone who smacks her head with her mobile phone….
Rachel: Is she not an actor?!
Sarah: Straight after that scene there’s a bit where a guy who wins the dog show blows on a woman’s hair, and although he’s an actor, but that’s improvised!
Pamela: And when we were filming at the National Show Centre, two of the people didn’t have dogs. They were just running around pretending to hold leads!
Rachel: I wish you and Sarah had been pretending to be the dogs… (laughs)
That really would’ve been really impressive. The footage looks great though!
You’re back in London at The Sebright Arms on April 10th…
Sarah: Ohhh, is that how you pronounce it? We were like “Is it Seh-bright?”
I say it like it’s “See-bright”. I hope that’s right? It’s in Hackney…
Cathy: Hackney? I can’t wait!
It’s a great venue. I’ll be there!
Sarah: Will you be late again? (laughs)
I’ll never be late to anything again after tonight…
After London, you return to Ireland to close your tour by playing your biggest headline show to date at The Workman’s Club in Dublin. It must feel pretty good to be finishing the journey with that in mind? It’s a pretty long tour as well…
Pamela: It’s going to be great, but we’re also going to feel tired, and a bit shite, and we’ll be a bit smelly…but our fans will be there, they know how bad we smell. So it’s going to be great!
Cathy: Do you not have a shower in your own house? (laughs). We’ve sold a lot of tickets apparently, so it’s all good.
As a new music blog, we always ask bands what new music they’ve been listening to. Are there any new bands or artists that you can recommend to us?
Cathy: I’m listening to Totorro. They’re a math-rock band from Belgium (I think).
Sarah: I’ve been listening to a lot of Soccer Mommy.
ME TOO! I missed her show at Moth Club earlier this month…
Sarah: She’s touring again in September, and we’re like “please can we support you? That’d be amazing”. I found her on YouTube and there were all these live sessions and I just think she’s great.
Rachel: You all know what I’m going to say…
P/S/C: Ailbhe Reddy!
Rachel: I can’t help it! She’s an Irish artist and she’s great. She knows I’m obsessed with her. She’s savage. And Phoebe Bridgers. Strangers In The Alps is my album of the year.
Pamela: There’s an Irish folk band called Lankum that I’ve been listening to who are great.
I’ll have to check them out! Finally, what does the rest of 2018 hold for Pillow Queens?
Sarah: Jesus, we’ve no idea…
Sarah: Yes, but we haven’t announced them yet. I’m always living in fear of them just changing their mind last minute and just being like “mmm, no”
Kathy: We can say that one of the festivals is in the UK, and one potentially in Europe…
Sarah: I never went to festivals growing up because it was too expensive, but now we get to go for free!
Cathy: We’ll have the craic at festivals, and then I think we need to write.
Sarah: We have new ideas that are being shaped, and we’re actually just discovering now how we write together. Now all four of us are contributing to every stage of the writing process, so we’ve got a lot of learning to do, but a lot of really fun learning to do as well.