Little Green Cars release their debut album, this week, Vanessa Monaghan caught up with three of the band, Stevie Appleby, Adam O’Reagan and Faye O’Rourke to chat about their work.
It’s been a long day for Little Green Cars, media days can be tough, especially if it’s a high profile debut release. Everyone wants a piece of you. When Goldenplec start chatting to the band, the love they have for their music and craft shines through. Listening to the ‘Absolute Zero’, one of the things that is noticeable is the flow of the album and how the songs are placed beautifully to compliment each other. ‘You’re the first person to comment on that,’ says Stevie Appleby, ‘We took every aspect of the album into great consideration. We always think no one is going to notice these little details.’
The album was produced Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Bjork). ‘We had him in our minds from the start, as a pipe dream, just being like ‘Imagine if Markus Dravs produced our album’, reveals Stevie. ‘Then when we signed our deal, he was the first person we wanted to ask. We were like ‘He’s going to say no’ but we chanced our arm and through a weird twist of fate he ended up in our rehearsal room, watching us.’
Working with a big name would leave many in awe, especially when a band is just climbing up the musicial ladder. Little Green Cars didn’t find that. ‘He wanted to capture what we were doing. We all wanted it to be a live record. We wanted to be able to produce one hundred percent of it on stage as well and he completely understood that and agreed.’ says Stevie. ‘He was very understanding and co-operative you could say, a very nice guy.’ Faye O’Rourke agrees with Appleby. ‘You’d think that someone who has had so much success would have some kind of formula that they use but he’s just so preceptive of music, he just gets it.’
The band knew how they wanted everything to sound when they were recording, guitarist Adam, describes how along the way and progressing as songwriters, they learned about recording and knew how they wanted their vocals to sound. ‘Markus really embraced that and once we said ‘This is how we want this to sound’, the process of working in the studio was similar to the process of how the songs were written, we start from the inside of the song out. It was very much about capturing the heart and constructing the music around it. It was a very careful process.’
Even still, Dravs was, according to Faye, ‘very regimented in the phrasing of things, we didn’t realise how sloppy we were were until we went in (to the studio).’ Stevie explains more. ‘Before we recorded a song, he’d get us to write out the lyrics and he’d print them out. Then before he’d do the vocals he’d sit down and go through every line and every verse and ask what it was about, where it was written, why it was written and all that kind of stuff. So he really cared about the songs as much as we did’.
Within the album, many will already be familiar with ‘The John Wayne‘ and ‘Harper Lee’, but ‘Red and Blue’ and ‘The Kitchen Floor’ are completely different. They’re stark, they’re barren but yet sonically full.. Was there ever the temptation to add more or it is a case of less is more? Faye explains: ‘It’s about containing the sentiment and building around it. It was like if it felt right, don’t touch it. Red and Blue is the second oldest song on the whole album, Stevie must have been seventeen when that was written. There was a video that went along with it that he made and we always felt very connected with because it was so part of where we had come from so I think that it was really important to us that it was like that when Stevie recorded it for the album.’ Adam adds ‘ The version you hear on the album is Stevie at seventeen years old recording at the back of the house.’
How the band started playing together has been well documented, starting at Sunday afternoon band practice. Stevie explains that playing music was all the five piece ever wanted to do. ‘We’ve lived our entire live inside this, I suppose it seemed at the time, delusion that it was the only possible future and it was the only thing we were going to do. I suppose that kind of relentless idea is how we got into the position that we’re in now because we never thougth of anything else. None of us went to college, we all decided this is what we’re going to do and it’s going to work out and it’s going to be fine.’
As the band has grown, the members have also grown up together, this means ego and dynamics within LGC have never been an issue. ‘We’re lucky that we started off young enough that we’ve always been together, I don’t want to say a family because that just sounds lame,’ says Stevie. Adam explains a bit more. ‘We’re just back from a six and a half week tour of the States and you spend that amount of time with the same five people it’s just an unspoken thing, you learn each others boundaries and you learn hangups and complexities and issues.’
Stevie relays a story of how he was asked ‘Who takes care of everyone?’ after a gig.‘ I realised it doesn’t work like that, it’s like we’re all individually caring for the thing that is the band. It’s like we’re keeping it alive by keeping ourselves alive. We all love the band, we want to keep the band alive so we look after ourselves and each other, not purely cos we love each other but because we love the band otherwise it would crash and burn and collapse and implode’, he says laughing.
Faye admits that getting ‘five people to agree on one thing has always been difficult. It’s not an easy process, there’ll be a rare moment when something is done in five minutes and we’ll all be jumping up and down but it’s just as rewarding if something takes two months to finish a piece of work.’
GP doesn’t want to broach the subject of Faye being the only girl in the band. She’s a talented musician, singer and songwriter, that’s all we care about, right? Then Adam says, ‘I’ll tell you one thing that’s very special about Little Green Cars and that’s that we have a girl in the band. It has an effect on the band, if we were four guys or five guys or whatever, with guys there’s always ego. The energy is different wih Faye around and it is like, I can’t explain it, it does have a huge effect on us as guys and there is no or very little ego.’
The tour of the States included a Jimmy Fallon appearance and performing at SXSW and Coachella. Surprisingly, one of the highlights for the band was a gig they did in Phoenix, Arizona. ‘We weren’t expecting anyone to be there and it was in a small enough venue and all these people showed up. The gig was divided by a barrier down the middle, under 21s and over 21s.’ Stevie explains ‘They had the album, they knew the words. Some people sing along to The John Wayne but to have people sing along to the more obscure tracks on the album, the different organs of the album and in Phoenix. We were a long way from home and here’s this kid singing a line I wrote when I was his age.’
As the band recall that show, Faye says ‘You find yourself starting to laugh because it’s so outrageous.’ What’s interesting though, is why there came to be a barrier in the venue. Adam tells of how a fan, who was eighteen, came up to him after the gig. ‘It wasn’t supposed to be under 21s, it was supposed to be over 21s (due to licensing laws) and this kid rang up and got them to divide the show so that the under 21s could come in and I thought that it was so amazing. That’s when you know that you’re reaching people. That’s amazing!’
Daniel Ryan of The Thrills manages LGC, his experience must be beneficial.‘ It couldn’t have been more a lucrative match really,’ says Faye. ‘He’s got his head on his shoulders and he knows exactly what he’s talking about’. Adam goes a step further describing Ryan as a sixth member. ‘Being a musician as well, we value his input a lot and like we do for each other, he cares for us a lot. I mean, he was driving the van all across the States.’ Impressive stuff! ‘When you’re in a band you have to decide who’s opinions you take on board,’ says Stevie. ‘If you take everyone’s opinions on board nothing is ever going to get done, if you’re listening to your best friend as much as your Mom, things will turn PG or things will turn… weird. So Daniel is one of the few specific people who we trust his opinion.’
A certain amount of hype has surrounded the band, from the media, the blogosphere and being shortlisted on the ‘BBC Sound of 2013’. What about the nay sayers, are the band ready to take criticism on the chin? Faye is quick to point out that ‘people not liking you gives you just as much identity as people who do’. ‘We put our heart and soul into this album,’ says Adam, ‘if they don’t like it, what more can we do? We’re just being honest and just being ourselves. What’s that thing yer man said ‘You can’t please all of the people…’ Stevie doesn’t mind people not liking it, it won’t stop him making music. ‘I don’t like everything, I don’t mind people not liking it,’ he says. It’s completely fine just don’t tell me to stop.’
Within their songwriting, there are influences from other artforms.‘Ever since leaving school, you want to continue some sort of education on your own, want to be able to form an educating opinion on the world and things that are happening, ‘ says Stevie. ‘You’ve to take it upon yourselves to open your eyes and broaden your minds. When I left school, I dedicated part of my day to watching movies, reading books, listening to music and things that interested me and things that were related to things that I knew. I wanted to be able to prove to myself that I wan’t stupid and it helps, it helps all the time’.
The album ‘Absolute Zero’ is being released this week but was ready a year ago, this has to be a little frustrating. ‘Yeah, You do have to trust that people know what they are doing in terms of the release but for us we’ve moved on, we’re writing the second album and we want to hear people to hear this one, ‘ says Faye. ‘And also in terms of people’s opinions, pigeon holing you into one thing or another. You want people to hear the whole body of work because that’s what you’ve made. Like the tracklisting, the songs going into each other, there’s such careful consideration gone into all that, you just want people to get the full shebang.’
What is your definition of success, what you want this album to achieve? Stevie is quite pensive about it. ‘We want someone to hear it that quite possibly needed to hear it at the time, something that was reassuring to them, something that when I was 16/17, I would have liked to have heard.’
Faye feels like they’ve have a lot of success already. ‘All those gigs we did on that (U.S.) tour, if was definitely worthwhile because it was a really arduous process getting to that point. It was hell for a while. That’s my terms of success, just feeling worthwhile.’ For Adam it’s all about making new music and performing. ‘Making music is a priviledge, it’s great to be able to play it and that’s success for me, being able to go around the world and play to new people and more people. (laughing) Then all the sex and drugs and money. I kid!!’
As our time together comes to an end, I put a scenario to the band. Imagine the album is huge, huge beyond your wildest dreams. The record company say they are going to buy new little green cars for each of them. What make or model do they go for? Without hesitation Stevie says ‘If you want a little car, it should probably be an old Fiat 500 because it’s probably the most ludricious, ridiculous looking car you could possibly have.’‘I like the Nissan Micra I have now, I’d probably just paint that green,‘ says Faye. Adam goes the rock star route with a flashy ‘Mark 2 Golf, a convertible from 1987, they did a dark green car’.
As GP takes our leave, the two guys are still chatting about cars. Stevie insists ‘There is no cool Little Green Car’, while he and Adam debate pine and British racing shades of green. Little Green Cars’ debut album ‘Absolute Zero’ is out now. The band play Vicar St on Saturday May 11th. Tickets are available from ticketmaster.ie