On their second album The New Life, Belfast four-piece Girls Names move away from the garagey-pop of their debut Dead To Me and delve into post-punk shadowplay. Their Tumblr makes for a pretty good soundboard of their new touchstones: favourites include the bleak, Berlin-born masterpieces of Bowie's Low and Iggy Pop's The Idiot. They haven't done away with the tunes though on this excellent headphones record, and gloom often turns out to be the perfect foil for their deft pop hooks and spacey swooshes.
Back in October, the band released the 8-minute-pushing title track of the record to introduce their new noir landscape which plays with textural darkness and is finds depth in the experimental recesses of audio. On new songs like 'Occultation' and 'The Olympia', computerised oscillations and piston-like pulses rough up the edges of the earworm melodies and washed-out guitars. In terms of a band upping their game, it's a bit like when Deerhunter followed Turn It Up Faggot with Cryptograms. Alongside Dazed Digital's exclusive stream of the record, we caught up with singer Cathal Cully to find out more.
Dazed Digital: Why did you call your album The New Life?
Cathal Cully: The New Life was the name of the newest song and subsequently first single off the record. It just seemed to ring through with everything we were doing. It kind of rolled off the tongue and stuck, it made sense to call it The New Life. I don't know exactly what the new life is yet but hopefully will find out some day soon.
DD: Where was the album recorded, and over what kind of time period?
Cathal Cully: We tracked the bulk of it over a two-week period back in June last year at Start Together Studios here in Belfast. Then I returned sporadically every now and then tweaking mixes and generating new ideas until about the middle of October. Then myself and Ben, who engineered and mixed it, spent a pretty intense week finishing it off.
DD: Since the release of your last album Dead To Me you've added a new member, Phil. How have things changed since he joined the band?
Cathal Cully: We've become a much better live band to listen to and watch, something we were struggling with for a while.
DD: In your song 'Occultation', a bright jangly riff comes in just as the song is beginning to fade out. Do you consciously try to keep a lid on the janglyness?
Cathal Cully: Haha! Yes, I like the idea of that. I think I may want to get rid of guitars all together.
DD: What's your favourite work of visual art?
Cathal Cully: At the minute it's Pyramid of Light (1964) by Heinz Mack, a founding member of Group Zero who were based in Düsseldorf. Group Zero's work and their ideals were a massive influence for me when it came to making this album and naming it, and this piece is on permanent show at the Ulster Museum which is less than a 10 minute walk from my house so it's a lot more tangible to me.
DD: A reviewer once said that he would like to drown to your music. Do you think of your music as dark or morbid?
Cathal Cully: I honestly didn't know that. Poor guy or girl. No it's not morbid at all, though it has dark and nervous sounding tendencies for sure. It does entertain the darker notions of the mind which is only natural, and there's nothing wrong with that. I find it more shocking that people can make happy-sounding music and that no comment is passed about that. Most art as a form of expression is usually down to some sort of need to cathartically expel the ideas locked inside and therefore to create something new. Otherwise you're just in the entertainment business.
DD: You said around the time of your last record that "Dead to Me literally was dead to us by the time it was committed to wax." Did this record feel like an exorcism as well?
Cathal Cully: Totally. Like I said, It was a real cathartic process making this album. There's a lot of weight lifted now it's out there. It was a particularly challenging and draining experience but a great one all the same. I learned so much from it.
DD: Do you think that indie is in a good place at the moment?
Cathal Cully: No. 'indie' music and this notion of 'guitar music', that I keep hearing about that's making a resurgence is a terrible notion that needs to be stamped out and eradicated. Independent music however is very healthy with ideas and a lot of talented people and artists. My only fear is that it isn't all getting out there to enough people.
DD: You pressed the album on transparent vinyl. What's the best thing to look at through it?
Cathal Cully: I want to say someone in particular but I haven't had the chance to do that yet so possibly that person.
DD: The title of your song 'Pittura Infamante' is a reference to the Italian Renaissance genre of defamatory painting. Who did you have in mind, and who would you like to paint a defamatory painting of?
Cathal Cully: Since you've asked, It was mainly myself in mind but no one in particular. David Cameron should be made into a 'Pittura Infamante' although he does a good job of it himself by just opening his mouth and being some sort of walking talking idiot buffoon.
DD: Were you sad that the production of MiniDisc players is ceasing?
Cathal Cully: I'm not sad but yeah I had one, still do somewhere. They were great actually at the time - the idea you could have 3 CDs on one disc half the size of your walkman. My A-level years were transformed. When me and Neil started the band I used to record our demos on my MiniDisc player, and bounced down an old 4track because that's all the gear we had and couldn't afford anything else. Come to think of it, the demo we sent to Captured Tracks that basically got them interested in doing our first EP was made in this way.
DD: What's your favourite filter on Instagram?
Cathal Cully: I've never used Instagram but just did a quick Google. Nashville.
DD: What are your Top 5 favourite girls' names?
Cathal Cully: 1. Helen, 2. Ann, 3. Cara, 4. Claire, 5. Anne.
Get The New Life here.