Sunday 24 September 2017

Q&A with September Girls' Paula Cullen

September Girls
September Girls

September Girls' Paula Cullen on putting her career back together, achieving international acclaim and why assumptions about the band's hard core feminism are wide of the mark

Hello Paula. So September Girls are everyone's favourite new indie band. Exciting!

It's amazing. We never expected this to happen. When we started the band there were no big goals. The idea was to make music we liked and take it from there. There was no over-arching plan. It's been great that what we are doing has been positively received.

Readers may remember you from early 2000s group The Chalets. Were you disillusioned by that band's failure to achieve lasting success?

After The Chalets broke up, I didn't do anything for about a year. Well, I say 'nothing'. I mean, I still had a day job. I stayed away from music. Eventually, though, I got the bug again and started to drift back into it. Actually, I don't think it was even a year. Within about nine months I was playing music once more.

I'm like someone who plays golf – I am compelled to do it, no matter what. Music is something I will always have in my life. It's going to be that way forever, I suspect.

Given those experiences you must be quite grizzled regarding the music industry.

Well, we're certainly not wide-eyed about things. We've all been in bands before. So we have a realistic sense of how things work. We're not innocent about this stuff. Our feet are on the ground and I would like to think our heads aren't turned so easily.

You are an all female band – well done for putting it up to the patriarchy etc...

It's the first 'girl' band I've been in. Honestly, it doesn't feel any different. We are not terribly conscious of being all female. It isn't as if we sit around discussing feminism. We just wanted to make music that meant something to us. There was never a decision that we were only going to have women in the group.

Your name references a Big Star song from the early seventies. Are you nostalgic for the days of rock and roll past?

If I had my time again maybe I'd choose another name, I suspect. We didn't put a huge amount of thought into it. Starting a band, you don't know how far you are going to go.

So you just pick a name and maybe don't consider it too deeply. It just sounded right in that moment. I might regret having 'girls' in the title too. We're not making a statement. I suppose it is descriptive – we are five girls.

So, nothing to do with seventies garage rock ...

Actually, we're not influenced by Big Star. If anything it's a reference to The Bangles cover of September Gurls. Some in the group are fans of that version, though it IS a point of contention.

The Chalets achieved a following in Ireland but never made an impact overseas (despite touring with Kaiser Chiefs etc). September Girls have been feted internationally – without you even looking for attention.

It's strange. As I said, we never had any grand ambitions. Things seem to have happened in a very natural way, which is fantastic. We are surprised.

The Chalets had a strong pop flavour, whereas September Girls possess a droning, gauzy aesthetic. Have your musical inclinations changed?

Actually, I never did much songwriting in The Chalets. I made sounds with my voice – or at least I tried to. Coming from other bands, I don't think we've changed particularly as writers. Maybe the production – the way we arrange things. That's the biggest difference probably.

What's nice about September Girls is that you do things at your own pace. There's no hype and you aren't touring constantly. No risk of burnout then?

We're a little older and all have day jobs because you have to pay the rent. So we tour on our holidays and write in our spare time. It's working very well. We can do things in a way we are comfortable with.

  • The album Cursing The Sea is out now.

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