Pillow Queens are an all-female band from Ireland whose astonishing rise has been fuelled by a distinctive lo-fi sound and a preference for darker, and at times political, lyrics. They formed mostly through being mutual friends and have already entered the Top 20 Irish Charts with their latest single ‘Holy Show’.
With their debut album ‘In Waiting’ set for release later this month (September 25th), we spoke to the band’s guitarist and bassist Pamela Connolly over the phone.
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The four-piece have a sound which is hard to define so we asked Pamela to do it for us. She admits that “our style, in terms of music, is hard to put a finger on”. She continues, “I mean, not that it’s so ‘out there’ that it’s hard to describe. I guess we’re like an indie rock band but we touch on a lot of other genres or are influenced a lot by other genres - whether that comes through in the music I’m not sure. If I was pressed, I would just say we’re indie rock”.
Pillow Queens have also been described as a ‘feminist band’ which is something that, while acceptable, is quite a broad way to refer to them and can cause frustration. How does being described as a ‘feminist band’ make you feel? “Well, it’s not a lie but it’s an easy thing to say when you see four queer women...OK, you can take a little bit longer than five minutes to describe what we are and maybe listen to the music a little bit. We are all feminists. Are we a ‘feminist band’? I would say: 'Feminist' isn’t a genre. It’s a political view or it’s a way of life’. Yeah, I would agree with it but, at the same time, I think it’s a bit of a cop out if someone was to just, you know, full stop and that’s the description of our band. It’s like saying, ‘Oh they’re an Irish band’. And it’s like, ‘Ok, yeah. And?’”
Among all the chaos of COVID-19, it was never going to be easy to release an album - and a debut one at that - but they found a way to make it work for them. Pamela describes her experience. “I think it’s been different for a lot of people. I think it’s hard to complain too much because I’m healthy and all the girls in the band are healthy.”
We spent it separately so it was hard to keep up the creative aspect of the band. Had we at least been within 2km of each other, we could have potentially still worked on [creative] stuff but, in saying that, I think we may have benefited in regards to releasing the album, because there was a lot of admin stuff to do, there were a lot of contingency plans in terms of how we could get enough money to release the album and, during lockdown, that’s when we all did that. I think if the lockdown didn’t happen, that would have been a lot harder to figure out”.
‘In Waiting’ is actually being released independently by the band. Speaking of the debut album, Pamela is “super excited” to be sharing ‘In Waiting’ with their fans. She describes creating the album as “awesome” and a way for the band to really develop their sound. “It was a labour of love”, she jokes. “I think it’s a weird time to be releasing an album but I think it’s the right time for us”.
Pamela explains that the band did consider pushing the release date back but decided against it. “What’s the point when you’re super excited? We are still excited regardless of things not being normal per se. We’re still super excited for people to hear what we have. We’re super excited for people to receive the vinyls that they’ve ordered. I just want people to listen to it and, if they enjoy it, that’s amazing”.
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Being supported by fellow musicians must be invaluable (“I think that the Dublin music scene and the Irish music scene, in general, almost feels like a community”). Pillow Queens have also noticed that they have had more recognition from the media lately. “It’s great. It was definitely a sudden change (that) we noticed in the past couple of months. Just doing more interviews than we would have ever gotten. We had that stage really early on in the band where we’d have the odd interview here and there”.
In those early days, the band felt like they were asked the same questions but with promoting the album they have had many more interviews (hopefully with more varied questions) and it’s something that they are “absolutely OK with because it only means that there’s more momentum and momentum is good”.
While it’s fair to say that some bands and artists use their sexuality in an overt way, Pillow Queens find that queerness is something that comes across in their music in a much more nuanced way. So how does queerness influence Pillow Queens’ music?
“I mean, it definitely does,” begins Pamela. “But I would say it is not necessarily something that we think about too much. If someone was to listen to any of our songs, they may guage that we are queer but you don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a queer song’. But it definitely does influence our music because the identity and experience that us, as queer people, go through completely changes how we view ourselves, how we view the world so it has to influence our music because it’s just what we are. We don’t know any different.”
“It’s hard for us to really pin-point what exactly that is, where exactly it occurs, other than the obvious in certain songs of ours. It has to have influenced us a lot, especially with the music that we would have grown up with. You kind of gravitate towards other queer artists when you’re growing up. I know we all were obsessed with Tegan and Sara which is kind of a rite of passage, I think.”
The future looks incredibly promising for Pillow Queens who are navigating their way through their newfound success and challenging stereotypes about themselves as they do so. They have new music on the way in the form of a brilliant debut album and who knows what more is in store for them.
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Pillow Queens will release new album 'In Waiting' on September 25th.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Faolán Carey
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