September Girls’ debut a curse and a blessing

September Girls play in Cork this weekend.

After the demise of the idiosyncratic alt-pop band Talulah Does The Hula a few years ago, Paula Cullen, Caoimhe Derwin, Lauren Kerchner and Jessie Ward found themselves at a crossroads.

But the four women didn’t wait around for long. “It was a good opportunity to rip things up and start again,” says Lauren. So they added Sarah Grimes on drums and formed September Girls in 2011 — the name is taken from a Big Star song, ‘September Gurls’.

“We took inspiration from garage music at the start of September Girls because it was what we were listening to at the time,” Derwin says. “The garage band mentality appealed to me because it’s less precious. Your recordings don’t have to be crystal clear, with really loud vocals like the production of pop music, which I was getting a bit sick of.”

Cursing The Sea is September Girls’ debut album, arriving on a wave of positive reviews and winning over admiring fans such as Primal Scream’s Bobbie Gillespie. Clocking in at a punky 37 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, with the five piece adding ’60s doo-wop harmonies over Jesus and Mary Chain grit and Black Keys fuzz.

“I think pop music still has a huge influence on us, and it can be heard in our vocal melodies,” Kerwin says.

“We wanted every moment on the album to count and to bring our A-game to every song, no ‘filler’,” says Kerchner. “An album doesn’t need to be long to pack a punch, and that’s exactly how we tried to approach ours.”

Cursing The Sea follows a string of 7-inches, cassette, and download releases by September Girls on a variety of indie labels such as Manchester’s Haus of Pins and the Cork-based label Art for Blind. A couple of the singles — ‘Green Eyed’, ‘Heartbeats’, ‘Ships’, and ‘Talking’ — have made it on to the album. There was no great plan behind going to different sources for each single, says Kerwin, just that “good people approached us and wanted to put out music for us at the right time”.

“We always knew a couple of the singles would be on the album as they were defining moments for us as we’ve evolved over the last year, and we felt they deserved a place in that body of work. As the singles were released in very limited runs, it’s nice that they will be able to reach a larger audience along with the rest of the album.”

If it sounds DIY, that’s because they were going for that approach. Keyboardist Kerchner adds: “They are all small labels who share our DIY aesthetic, which is great as it is as much a labour of love for them as it is for us. What more could you want than someone releasing your music who cares about it as much as you do?”

The recording of the album was in keeping with the DIY aspect. Kerchner says: “We recorded over three sessions between our own practice studio and our friends’ practice studio using our own gear, recording mostly live. We were hoping to capture the noisy, unpredictable feeling of playing live, and found that we could achieve that more honest sound using a very DIY approach.”

Adding that it’s a relief to finally have the album out after “a long build-up”, Lauren says they’ve already got the next few months planned out, including heading to Texas for the South By South-West festival, where they’re bound to win over even more fans.

* Cursing The Sea is out on Fortuna Pop now. September Girls play the Pavilion in Cork on Saturday


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