Bursting onto the scene as fresh faced teeny-boppers with rainbow attire and an infectious enthusiasm, the Maiden City’s most joyful band didn’t take long making a name for themselves as one of Irelands most original pop outfits. After a number of zippy singles and bouncy EPs The Wonder Villains finally released their highly anticipated debut album ‘Rocky’ with two album launch party’s the most shared viral music video Northern Ireland has ever seen. After such an expectant wait, CB sat down with the gang to pose our burning questions.
► We’ve been awaiting the release of ‘Rocky’ for some time now. Why is 2014 the time for ‘Rocky?’
Cheylene Murphy (keys): I think it just took us a long time to put it together. We were told we could only get one first album, and we wanted it to be a really great first album. As we had the old songs and we kept on going writing new ones we kept saying “oh, we should add these in” and “oh, we should add these in”, so we kept changing. We held it off until we were totally happy with the lineup and we were ready to release it. And it’s out now!
► With songs that have existed for a few years. When you got down to recording how different were they to the originals?
Ryan McGroarty (guitar): I think when we started it was quite electronic and program-y, and then we became a band and played lots of gigs, and the nature of that makes you just want to make an album in a room with real instruments, so that seemed the obvious way to do that. I think just having the opportunity to do that has influenced us.
► There were a few fan favourites that didn’t make it on to “Rocky”, like “Space Jam” and “Running In Circles”. How did you decide what songs would make it on to the album?
Ryan: I think it was just trying to strike a balance between the old ones and the new ones.
Cheylene: When we went in to record the album, we wrote down all the songs we had, and there were loads of them, and we thought if we had to pick our 12 favourites what would they be. Some of them, like “Space Jam”, was very nearly on it but cut at the last minute, so we really did think about it a lot. We chose the 12 tracks we were most happy at being ours.
Kieran Coyle (drums): It’s funny you mention “Space Jam” and “Running In Circles” because we did have a go at doing them for the new album, but as Ryan was saying, we started off recording them very electronically with programmed drums and stuff, and as we moved to the live band stuff we just felt like…
Eimear (vocals/bass): …they’d lost their little magic. The “Running in Circles” demo that we released, I sang that once into a computer mic and just looped it, and now it wasn’t working with the rock and roll sound.
► The album contains songs that have been there since the earliest days of the band, like ‘Oh Peter’ and ‘Ferrari’, alongside some newer songs like ‘Debbie’ and ‘Golden Five’. Do you think your songwriting style has changed as you’ve written new songs, and in what way?
Eimear: Yeah. Even the people that wrote them have changed. When the first two songs were written there were only two people in the group and now there’s four of us, so that brings in lots of cool angles. I think the old songs have like four notes in them and new new ones have key changes and all.
Kieran: When we started playing the early songs, we were quite restricted by what we literally could play, so we said “let’s keep this simple, four chords”….
Eimear: …especially since we didn’t have a drummer for a while. Just four-to-the-floor and that was it.
Kieran: But some of the new ones have five chords. Haha.
► What would you guys say is the key track on the album?
Cheylene: I think that changes all the time, we change our favourites all the time.
Eimear: ‘Zola’ is my personal favourite. It’s got a lot of the old vibes and the new vibes. Kieran: It is quite an old one, but quite a lot of the new ones are based on it, because we love its sound so much.
Eimear: It’s like a little less punk-rock and a little more groovy and pop.
❝10 year old Villains would have been very delighted to hear that future-us would be rocking about in Barry’s Amusements.❞
► You named your album after Rocky O’Reilly (Oppenheimer, Malibu Shark Attack), who was involved in producing the album. why did you decide to name it after him?
Eimear: I think it started off as a joke. We said to ourselves “this album’s really going to happen, what are we going to call it?” I said “let’s call it Rocky” and everyone laughed, and when everyone stopped laughing we liked it! And then we told him and he said “no, you’re not”, and that was the end of it Haha.
► Is he happy enough with it now?
Ryan: He still gets weirded out.
Eimear: He keeps texting us, saying “guys, this is getting really weird”, because we keep posting “guys, you can buy Rocky on Monday” and he says “you keep writing my name!”
Cheylene: That’s really cute.
► You’ve played quite a few gigs this year, touring the UK as well as playing at SXSW and The Great Escape. What’s been your favourite gig of the year so far?
Eimear: Ooh, of the year? There was a great gig over in America where it was a Northern Ireland showcase, so it was just all these bands from Northern Ireland, UNKNWN, Rams’ Pocket Radio, it was just a big party. You looked out as we were playing on stage and there were just all these people from Belfast in America, it was just unusual. It was a great day. There was a free bar as well.
► Do you think your music got a different reaction in America that it would over here?
Kieran: I think the exact same, with different accents. People were really nice to us, when you’ve going to SXSW you’re going to have a good time and you’d like to think those songs encourage you.
Eimear: I think in America we get bought a lot more drinks, they ask us “do you want some more shots?” and we’re like “YEAH!”
► You released the music video for “Marshall” a few months ago. What was it like filming the video at the famous Barry’s Amusements in Portrush?
Eimear: It was actually amazing. It was at night time, during the off-season as you say, so the rollercoaster and Big Dipper seats were inside on the ground, it was so weird.
Cheylene: And all the dodgem cars on the floor, the Big Dipper slide was dismantled, it was crazy.
Eimear: It was so weird, because I know them seats so well. I’ve sat on them every summer for like 20 years, and then we got to run around
Kieran: We got to around the Ghost Train, that was really fun.
Cheylene: We got to go up to all the scary bits, they’d go like “BOO!”, and we’d go “AHHH!”. We were saying the 10 year old Villains would have been very delighted to hear that future-us would be rocking about in Barry’s Amusements!
► Will there be any more Wonder Villains music videos in the future? I have always thought your lyrics seem to lend themselves really well to the medium.
Eimear: Yeah. We had such a good time on that last music video. You get your hair done, your make-up done, and then you get to see it.
Kieran: I think it’s a great fun, it’s such a dream to make music videos.
► What does the future hold for Wonder Villains? Are you thinking towards album #2 already, or are you just happy to enjoy the moment?
Cheylene: Both! Haha.
Eimear: At the minute we’re in this album chaos that’s like “interview, interview, gig”, it’s chaos, but a few weeks ago we were like “second album, what are we going to do?” Now, I’m just so involved in the first album that I just can’t wait for this to happen.
Ryan: We’re so excited for this to happen, it’s so good.
Eimear: It’s like a whole new freshness for all these songs we’ve known for so long, they’re finally here. Woo!
Cheylene: We’ve been talking about it a lot recently, we’re going to be doing a lot over the summer, so we’re going to release this album, have a big party, then say “right, what’s next?”
Eimear: We’ll be watching the World Cup trying to find another footballer to write about! Haha. ◼