September Girls Return With Age Of Indignation - Q&A With Paula Cullen
FORMED in Dublin in 2011 September Girls were named after the Big Star song (by way of The Bangles), September Girls and share songwriting and vocal duties amongst each of the band members. Comprising Paula Cullen on bass, Caoimhe Derwin and Jessie Ward O’Sullivan on guitar, Lauren Kerchner on keys and drummer Sarah Grimes, they recently released their follow up to 2014's Cursing The Sea entitled Age of Indignation.
As opposed to their debut album, which was recorded mainly at home, Age of Indignation was recorded at Dublin’s Orphan Studios, lending it a more assured, powerful sound.
The album coincides with a UK tour which sees the band play Cardiff’s Moon Club on May 20. Andy Howells recently put questions to Paula from the band.
Its been two years since your debut Cursing The Sea, how was your first album received?
It was remarkably well received which was a lovely surprise to us. By the time it was released, a lot of the songs felt really old to us, so it was nice to see them being viewed in a new light.
How have you progressed as a group since the debut albums release?
If we wanted to replicate what we did two years ago with the first album, I think it would have been easy for us to knock out another one in a similar vein and not mess with the formula too much. However, the decision to move in the direction that we did was entirely conscious. We knew we might alienate some of the people who liked the first album in doing so, but it was important for us artistically to change.
Have you had a particular highlight along the way?
I think my personal highlight was our American road trip on the way to SXSW this year. We drove from LA to Austin, stopping off in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree and Roswell. We got to visit the Joshua Tree Inn where Gram Parsons died, which sounds like a pretty macabre destination for a day trip, but it was really special. That, and Bobby Gillespie coming to one of our London gigs when the first album was released.
Age Of Indignation, is your latest release, can you give us a bit of background to it?
The main themes of our album are Ireland, feminism & religion, the Catholic Church being the focus of a couple of songs.
‘Catholic Guilt’ for example deals with anger towards the Catholic Church, particularly from the viewpoint of being a woman.
The Catholic Church in Ireland still exerts a patriarchal force over women’s bodily autonomy, (evident from our draconian abortion laws) something which would be unthinkable in most other progressive countries. This force is exerted by the same Catholic Church who covered up years of child sexual abuse by its members.
‘Jaw On The Floor’ is inspired by past generations of feminists, as well as the 1916 Rising in Ireland and equal rights activists all over the world. It is frustrating to see that while we’ve come a long way in terms of equality, we have a long way to go. There are forces who continue to push agendas to uphold privilege and the status quo, as well as the spread of misinformation about the meaning of words such as “feminism”.
Other themes on the album include domestic violence & victim blaming, the vacuousness of social media and the norm of the straight white male being intrinsically ingrained in the bones of all society.
There’s a bit of a darker sound, this time around to the recordings, whats the inspiration behind that?
I think the music followed the lead of the lyrical themes this time around for sure, I don’t think it was that way on the first album. I know that personally, I had ideas and lyrics for songs before I wrote the music. I think last time around, I fitted the lyrics into the music which was already written. I think this album has more of a concept than the last so it made sense to do it that way.
September Girls will shortly be back out on tour, what can fans expect if they’ve never seen you play live before?
We are a bit louder and harsher live than our recorded output might suggest. We usually get quite immersed in the music as the show goes on and there will be a lot of shouting and hair flying about.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Flying Burrito Brothers, Breadwoman, Cate Le Bon, Earth, Parquet Courts.
Where can people find out more about September Girls?
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during May 2016