Against several obstacles, Girls Names continue to sail forward. Since their genesis in 2009, the Belfast group has lost two drummers, went from a duo to a trio to a foursome then back to a trio. In addition to the lineup change, there’s always the proverbial battle as an indie band in the over-saturated prodigious music industry. Being on an independent label (Tough Love) doesn’t always guarantee complete freedom - you still have to release somewhat marketable recordings now and then. For Girls Names' fifth LP, that was more of a then.

Stains on Silence enjoyed the longest elapsed time in between full-length releases, thanks partly due to the departure of drummer Gib Cassidy and the resistance to repeating themselves. The result is their most evocative album to date - the aftermath to the climax that was Arms Around a Vision. While tracks like 'The Impaled Mystique' and 'Karoline' assent to the established modern song structure elements, SoS eludes commercialism; it’s a “quiet grand” conception.

Girls Names embarked on a brief tour through the British Isles in June after the release of Stains on Silence on the 16th. Even in this department, they dealt with a new hurdle - being on the road without their long-time tour manager Jim Heaney and figuring out where they’ll be sleeping after the show. At least they had Sarah Grimes (September Girls, Cruising) to fill in the role of the ever-significant drummer. We sat down with Cathal Cully, Philip Quinn, and Claire Miskimmin after their fantastic set at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow to discuss their latest endeavour.

As the most collaborative LP to date, how much influence did each of you have or rather what characteristics /inputs did you have in the process?

Cathal Cully: Well the last one was pretty much as well.

Philip Quinn: I think it was more collaborative than the last one even because there was a few that [looking at Cathal] I mean there were some that you had the first germ of an idea and then there’s all of us just mucking about in the practice room with like a beat, and then you had parts too, vocals too and that turn into a song.

Cathal: Yeah, there’s stuff I brought from home as well which wasn’t kind of wasn’t supposed to be band stuff - but then it turned into something else when everyone else added their stuff.

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So is it usually you who start the sketch?

Cathal: It was the first two records. After The New Life it went all more equal. And this one’s just like anything goes.

Has the process of making the album evolved? Do you start with a sketch for the album or does it coalesce organically, subconsciously, surreal way?

Cathal: Surreal? Yeah, yeah. This record was just all over the place. The first one I think I felt pressured - to make a record. But most of the time I could’ve done with not making a record. But we’ve been in that sort of a cycle of just keep going. It was like - almost like getting hassled by the label to do something. And it didn’t really feel right to be doing it for that reason. But at the same time, we wanted to look ahead a year down the line. Because we were sort of half making living out of it. We were depending on an income from the band and it wasn’t the place to be.

Philip: I think ironically as well, it was the first time we try to be a bit more proactive because it was six months or less than the last album came out that we started knocking around ideas.

Cathal: Yeah but that record (Arms Around a Vision) it was a year before it came out. We also didn’t want to repeat ourselves. I think the time had passed from the last record and we toured that record so much. I still really like playing those songs. But listening back to that record, it was so relentless. There was no let-up; it’s really aggressive. I wasn’t in that headspace anymore. So yeah, was trying to figure out where to go.

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Bit of a foreshadowing from your solo project (Group Zero)?

Cathal: That wasn’t supposed to happen; that was just playing about. There’s loads of sketches at home of just whatever. That wasn’t necessarily going to be a record. That was just me getting stuff out of me. And again, it may have turned into Girls Names songs but then it just went down in a different direction. I was approached to put out a record and why not - to do something different. I don’t really do much with it. Played like three shows. And Phil’s doing his thing and Claire as well.

What external factors, if any, have influenced the current album? The political & social landscape, personal demons, enlightenment...

Cathal: Enlightenment yeah. I think the social landscape whatever – I think that’s an easy one. The ideas behind most of the songs were before Trump got elected and all that shit’s been going down. It’s kind of a precursor to all that. I think - what is the word I’m trying to think of - there is a comment on the world at large but... My big thing with everyone going fucking nuts at what’s going on in the world is – it’s really bad but everybody who was comfortable for years is kind of waking up to that. It is getting to the extreme times now. The more affluent, richer people are waking up to the that. But I wouldn’t say that the album is about that at all. I think there’s a lot of personal stuff which I would never really admitted to before. When I was trying to describe the record to a friend before it was finished... was kinda confused about what we’re making and they said it’s like a comedown record. I think in the context of the last record – the last record is so manic and aggressive - kinda like a car crash almost and this one’s the aftermath, making sense of it all.

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An album is a statement with sub-statements or something in that vein. So how do you decide which piece of that whole to represent live? And are there certain tracks that pose challenges to play on stage?

Cathal: I think it gets broken down more into individual pieces when you’re playing tracks on tour. The only one we haven’t played live on this tour is 'Fragments of a Portrait' which I think we’ll get together. This tour is really a nice way to ease back into the tour life. Apart from that one, there’s 'A Moment in a Year' which is an instrumental.

Philip: 'tone poem'

Cathal: They’re weird songs to play. By the time we got to the stage of ripping it all up and remixing it and re-editing it, there was no premise of what we’re in about doing it live... it was so far down the line… we need to figure this out with the four of us... going on tour is tough as it is without getting another person around the world. For the time being anyway. So it’s been an interesting process.

Philip: It’s been the most difficult I think so far - to get it to the live stage. Because the older stuff was easily transferable. There were extra bits that were on the records that we couldn’t do live because we didn’t have people.

Cathal: This one as well, there were certain songs that weren’t made with us in a room - making a song. They were cut and pasted - drum machines - re-edited - a bit of section was left and put somewhere else - loops and just not a normal way of writing. I mean a not a normal way of writing like the previous records. It wasn’t like we were all practising songs ready to go and record… skeletons of some of the songs which took months then to figure out where they’re going. It was like “ let’s improvise” and see where it can go in the studio. So yeah, some of that took months to figure it out - what the song was actually about or what we were doing.

Is it because you wanted to do something different?

Cathal: Yeah totally. I said it a few times. I was bored with... I can’t sit down and try to write something with a guitar... I just can’t do it now. Times really - kinda short - at the moment.

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This album sounds most cinematic out of your catalog. If you could soundtrack a film, who would you’d like to work with or what existing movie you wished you could’ve been part of?

Cathal: Wings of Desire springs to mind.

Philip: People have said that some of the new stuff reminds them of Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks fame) so maybe we fit in there somewhere.

Cathal: Yeah, it’s kinda easy one to say - David Lynch.

But would you’d be interested in soundtracking a film?

Philip: I think it’s more like if the right project came along. It’s a bit hard to say oh such and such film.

Cathal: I don’t care about making records that are going to be played on the radio. I think that’s sort of - pennies kinda dropped with a few - maybe with some the members of the press. Or maybe it hasn’t. We kind of keep getting reviewed in the context of an indie band writing songs who write pop songs... I don’t get it. We sound like - and it’s like "ooh, I don't get it" I think they're kinda saying like... "experimental... how dare they be experimental and not have any melodies"...

Philip: But there are melodies. What is experimental...

Cathal: I know.

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The album art reminds me of a certain modern movement/work of an artist, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Dada or Kandinsky but that's not it is it? Or Bauhaus?

Cathal: It is Bauhaus-like. It’s inspired by a piece from Oskar Schlemmer. It’s like a magazine called Plays on Heads I think it translates to. Collin who designs the record who did the last record... I sent him music through the whole process. I told him what I want the record to look alike and he did the rest. He did an amazing job.

The name of the record was the last piece of the puzzle. It took a while to get there. I think it was in the start of the year, it kinda jumped out and it all gelled. But the story about Collin - he’s going to be massive someday I think. But he got ripped off by Drake’s graphic designer recently for some singles record ('Scary Hours'). It was all over the Internet. Colin Fletcher is always getting ripped off.

Unfortunately that shit happens too often.

Cathal: He’s still very young. He’s in the States. I never met him before. We've been communicating through emails for the last three years.

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You played India for the first time last December. How was the reception? Is the audience different than in Europe?

Cathal: India was great. It was really warm. It was winter back home…

Claire Miskimmin: It was like 30 (Celsius) degrees. It was good.

Cathal: Yeah, it was amazing. We played two shows. And one was a massive festival which was a mixed bag of everything.

Philip: We played pretty early as well like 4 or 5 (pm).

Cathal: We played a club show as well. It was quite receptive. But I think it was more like “oh there’s a band in town”. I think there were a few who knew who we were, but it was more like - I wouldn’t say exotic but there’s a band from Europe.

If you could play anywhere in the world you haven’t been to, where and why?

Philip: I’d love to play in Japan. Australia.

Cathal: Japan would be great. Yeah, I would love to go to Australia. I never really had any desire. But the weather has been nice here... I want that summer break in the middle of the winter. And Australia would be perfect. But it’s weird. Australia has a doomy musical history which I’ve been influenced by a lot.

Girls Names' latest album, Stains on Silence, is out now via Tough Love.


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