Dublin-based band on the verge of breakout success discusses the trials and tribulations of forming their sound.
Given recent events, it is no wonder that ‘Absolute Zero’ has critics and fans alike excited. In recent months, the band was selected for the BBC Sound of 2013, had gigs at Austin’s South by Southwest and Jimmy Fallon (more on that later in the interview), booked a spot at the Coachella festival, and signed to US record label Glassnote (Two Door Cinema Club and Mumford & Sons). Not a bad run of events for any band.
We caught up with Stevie Appleby and Adam O’Regan in their tour van where they talked about life on the road, what their goals are, and their beginnings as a band dating back to middle school.
INDIE 88.1: Tell us about a typical van experience
Adam: We have three couch seats. Five of us in the band. I am the shortest male in the band and today I got a big couch seat to myself. We’ve developed this system where we each get to rent a couch seat to ourself and today was my turn so I got to sprawl out and sleep. It was pretty great.
INDIE 88.1: How long have you been on the road for now?
Stevie: It’s been two weeks now. It’s been amazing. We love Canada. My girlfriend lived in Peterborough (Ontario) for a while so I have stayed here for a while in the past.
INDIE 88.1: For a young band, you’ve been together for a long time now (5 years). What was Little Green Cars up to 3 years ago?
Adam: We were still in school. We basically used to rehearse every Sunday in Stevie’s back garden. He had kind of a bungalow where we would set up and practice. We’d write and record, but only every Sunday. So the whole week, you’d just get pent up and every Sunday you’d get together from 12noon to 9 o’clock in the evening and just go at it.
INDIE 88.1: Were you also gigging?
Stevie: No, we didn’t play any gigs for a long time because we just didn’t think we were ready. We wanted to perfect our sound. You know we’ve always felt like we were on the cusp of something so we’ve always been apprehensive about playing live. It was like, “wait, wait just give it sec and then we’ll be ready”, over and over. Then someone we knew was finally just like “Just fucking go it! Who Cares?”.
INDIE 88.1: Are you perfectionists now?
Adam: (laughing) No, now we’re lazy!
Stevie: No, I don’t think we were perfectionists. We just had an idea of what we wanted to do and we couldn’t articulate it.
INDIE 88.1: Was there a moment when something finally clicked and you felt like you were there? When was that?
Stevie: I think it was the point that we realized that we’d never be there and were quite happy with that. We were always striving for something and I guess that is a good way to be.
INDIE 88.1: What are the differences between audiences in North America and the UK?
Stevie: All the audiences we have are relatively new to our music but we are kind of getting to a stage now where we have to prove ourselves. People have heard the name and they come to the show and the expect something and we have to deliver.
Adam: The whole concept of that hype and people talking about you – It puts the whole idea of what we are trying to do in a negative space. We are just trying to be ourselves and do what we do and I suppose the challenge is to do that and be who we are without it being compromised.
INDIE 88.1: How would you classify your music?
Stevie: It’s hard for us because the music comes out depending on what the song is about. So I suppose the music can change from song to song more than you’d expect. That’s the point of being in band. One thing we’ve always been about is lyrics and honesty. You know…something we would be proud of and something we would be responsible for. It means a lot to us. With music being subjective, people will put it into certain places and think that we are this and that but we’d actually prefer if the music was not easy to define.
INDIE 88.1: What are your goals as a band?
Adam: I suppose just write and explore really. Make music and reach people. Explore new territories in ourselves and in our sound.
Stevie: Absolutely. And making albums. That’s a nice thought. I suppose we’re a young band now and hopefully one day we’ll be an old band. That would be the nicest thing.
INDIE 88.1: Vocal harmonies are a key distinguishing factor for your band. Where did you learn to sing?
Stevie: I never learned to sing, you know (laughing). I wouldn’t call what I do singing. More like loud talking. There wasn’t really wasn’t much thought put into the harmonies. It was never like we said, “We are going to do this”. It was just something we wanted as a band…to be spontaneous. We were always spontaneous. It meant that we could play our whole set with one guitar and sing anywhere that we were. If there was someone walking past us we could play them a song right there. It was just something that happened naturally. Because we all grew up together and were in bands together we’d just sing songs and someone would sing a harmony and we’d say “Oh! That’s nice. We’ll all try that.”
Adam: The human voice cuts the deepest and our music and lyrics are very close to the bone and I think there is something very interesting about five people singing out something honest.
INDIE 88.1: What about your musical influences?
Stevie: It’s funny because we all really like different music. That’s kind of what makes our sound. Like Adam was the first one to show me Radiohead. I didn’t know them until he showed me. I would have showed people Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Donagh likes classical music, Dylan is really big into hip hop, Faye is into Joni Mitchell and all the great voices. It’s hard to think of one act that we all listen to that wraps up all those things.
Adam: The other thing is that we are always listening. When you are in a band I think it is important that you do your homework on all this great music. Everything is derivative of something else and I think it is important to know where all these great sounds came from.
INDIE 88.1: What was it like to have Markus Dravs produce the record? (Dravs has worked with Coldplay, Björk, Arcade Fire and most recently with Mumford and Sons)
Stevie: It was incredible. He was really a special guy. He gave us the thing that we had needed for a long time and that was just a little bit of confidence. For him to think that our music was good and worth recording an album was a deeply humbling feeling.
Adam: I think that as a band we have lots of ideas individually. With a lot of bands there is one, maybe two driving forces but in our band there is five. What Marcus brought was a bit German discipline. He helped us lock our heads into it and funnel our ideas.
INDIE 88.1: What’s been the best moment of this tour?
We had a gig in Brooklyn after playing Jimmy Fallon and we left the gig and walked down the street to a bar. It was hard enough to get in since some of us aren’t twenty-one and we finally got in and asked them to turn on the TV and the guy said he didn’t turn on the TV at night and we were like “we are the band that is going to be on Jimmy Fallon!” and he was like “No, you’re not”.
So we left and went to the next bar and there was no TV so we left and went to the next and there was and after some squabbling we all got in and then the guy said he’d turn it on when the show started. We started drink and there were people trying to get drinks and ID’s being passed around and all the people at the bar were looking at us going “What the hell is going on!? Who are all these kids and other people?”.
Then it came on and we all rushed to the back to where the TV was and started watching and when it came on people realized that we were those guys on the TV and it became silent. We all watched it and for us it was like “Oh my god”. We watched until the end we didn’t fuck up so I turned around and I raised my drink…and whole bar just erupted! Then the bartender came over and gave us a free pint and it was just incredible. A hilarious and amazing moment.