Interview with Cathal Cully from Girls Names – Interview by Killian Laher
New album ‘Stains on Silence‘ out June 15th via Tough Love Records
Girls Names play Whelans on Saturday 23rd June
Since the last album Arms Around A Vision, Gib Cassidy has left. Can you tell us the circumstances around this?
We were all poor, and sick of being poor and all the mental obstacles that poverty brings. So Gib left and I think it was a huge weight off his shoulders which I can’t blame him for at all. If anything it improved our friendships for the better. So then we ran head first in to record with total abandonment of how a group should approach the making of a record and talked our engineer Ben into playing drums on the LP (despite all confused reviews, there are only 3 tracks on the record with drum machines). We excelled at times, yet failed at glueing all these bits together cohesively. So we took a break and went back to full time work to simply make ends meet. Imagine my astonishment at suddenly not having the weight of the world on my back after all these years because I had a steady paycheck coming in and knowing I could pay the rent and eat for the month!
How do you feel this has altered your approach to writing music, and to playing live?
It has changed it, but it was always changing anyway. I don’t think I’ve written a song by lifting up a guitar and playing it in at least 4 years now. It just bored me. I don’t have an amp or non-broken guitar in the house! I started getting my head around recording and Logic, then I was finding other ways of writing through synths, through keys, through samples, through loops – through repetition and through minimalism. Bits of ideas were brought to rehearsal and jammed out. Bits were recorded then edited. We went into the studio with only skeletal ideas that were to be fleshed out with improvisations and gut reactions. Again these were edited and treated. There are quite a few improvised, first take tracks that were sketched down quickly in demos with the view to smarten up. But there was something about the ‘backwardness’ of them and the genuine feel of abandonment that needed to be kept and they were left alone to what you hear on the record.
My idea of heaven would be to be secure enough to just produce and experiment in the studio with no regard for live performance at all and so to a degree we didn’t let the worry of how this music could be presented in a live situation get in the way of making this record. It has been a challenge admittedly, trying to get it together to perform live. I’ve seen one bemused review suggesting that we’ve spent the interim learning how to dial in synth patches but if you go back as far as 2011 we were incorporating string machines into singles. In the last two years, myself and Phil both also put out solo records of largely if not all synthesised music via the Group Zero and Gross Net monikers.
I’m interested in your musical background, what got you into the band and so on. Can you tell us what artists or albums mean a lot to you? Ideally a combination of stuff you’ve always liked and more recent discoveries.
My musical background is limited. I went to guitar lessons at 7 and hated it. I learnt the trombone in Primary School, got a Grade one, but thought it was so uncool and too heavy to take on the bus to school everyday and gave it up, to the absolute vehement disgust of my music teacher. When you’re young you can’t be told what is good for you and that is fine. I started to regret this later on and started getting into different music in my teens. By then I was a mental loner in that all my friends had no real interest in what i was getting into. And this continued for years, but I was starting to re-teach myself the guitar and starting to think about making my own music. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I discovered my beloved Birthday Party and bands like Malaria! and Josef K that started getting me into more and more weirder, heavier and the more challenging and rewarding ends of music.
Albums by those aforementioned bands still mean a lot to me. More recently, contemporary records that mean a lot to me are HTRK’s Pyschic – 9-5 Club; Wilson Tanner- 69; Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch; Yves Tumour – Serpent Music; William Basinksi – The Deluge. Infinite amounts of beautiful music around at the minute. The world is fertile with exquisite and excitingly life affirming music. You just have to turn the other way.