Party Fears formed in 2015 when Northern Irish native Maggie Devlin uprooted from Seoul to Berlin alongside bandmate Eilis Frawley. The band released their debut album self titled album earlier this year, an energetic and eclectic mix of tracks. They played Belfast for the first time as part of the Oh Yeah Centre’s Women’s Work event and they’re returning again this Thursday. Here Maggie and Eilis spill the beans.
►Can you introduce yourselves? Where are you all from?
Maggie: I’m Maggie, the singer and guitarist. I’m from a little place called, ‘Cookstown’. You might have heard of it. It’s pretty famous. Really big main street.
Eilis: I’m Eilis, the drummer. I’m from Adelaide, Australia; known for beaches, wine, churches, dangerous animals and murderers.
►How did the band get together?
Maggie: Eilis and I used to play together in Seoul in a band called BaekMa. Then we decided to take a leap of faith to continue making music in Berlin. Here, we were lucky enough to find Justin (guitar) and Lisa (bass), who we’re fairly certain is a cyborg. She learns songs so quickly. It’s not natural. It’s not.
►How would you describe the band to a complete stranger?
Maggie: A mangy fox with a broken leg who wants help and to be loved but will also bite your hand and give you rabies if you try. With guitars.
Eilis: Woah, Maggie! That’s quite an image. Hahahaha!
►Are there any particular bands and artists that have influenced your sound?
Maggie: Bowie, Bush and The Clash are kind of my Holy Trinity. But I draw inspiration from everywhere. Musical theatre and TV theme tunes/video game songs are also favourites. I was listening to a lot of Duran Duran and watching Dreamwork’s Voltron when I wrote our new song, ‘Späti Love’. I was listening to Midlake and Bruce Springsteen when I wrote ‘Mosquito’ from the album. It probably makes me very unoriginal. I don’t think I can create in a vacuum, and I don’t know if it’s even natural for Party Fears to have a single sound. Not for now anyway.
Eilis: I’m in love with Battles & Holy Fuck. But i’m not sure either of those influence Party Fears. I listen to a lot of Australian indie: Olympia, Courtney Barnett, Jen Cohler, The Bamboos, Sex on Toast, Lisa Mitchell, Ali Barter, Washington. My biggest playing inspiration comes from other Berlin drummers who do wacky shit, and then I try it, and can’t quite do it, so then I have my own version of their wacky shit: basically original.
►How did the name come about?
Maggie: When the band was still a solo project I went through a tonne of really awful name ideas, none of which I will ever share (unless I’m boozey). I really love The Associates, and stuck ‘Party Fears Two’ on one day when I was having a ‘getting ready to go out one-person dance party’ and was like, boom! That’s the name. Nobody in Berlin understands me though. ‘Pardy Furs?’
►You played here for the first time as part of Women’s Work, how did you enjoy that?
Maggie: I loved it. I can’t stress how important it was for me to play Belfast. And to play a women’s fest in Belfast was just incredible. We have Charlotte Dryden from Oh Yeah to thank for trusting us and having us over. I’m a massive SLF fan, and when I did work experience with Mickey Bradley from The Undertones at 16 it took everything in my power not to fangirl him. Also, I ‘discovered’ making music ten years after I left Northern Ireland, so there’s something else that’s hard to articulate about coming back and playing a show there.
Eilis: The people at the show were the nicest people I’ve ever met, and the dance party after… Well, no wonder we’re coming back.
►And you’re playing Loud Women Fest in September, tell us about that?
Maggie: I can’t wait. We’re super lucky to be on a bill with so many amazing bands. And if we play two women’s festivals within a year then it means we’re probably doing something right with our message.
Eilis: Yeah, so stoked to be on that bill. Maybe we should aim for four women’s festivals next year.
►Are you looking forward to getting back here this week?
Maggie: Yes! Though I will attempt to keep my feet in my shoes as regards curry chips.
Eilis: I can’t wait. I think I’ve finally recovered from all the curry chips from ‘Party Fears does Belfast: Round 1’.
►What are the Party Fears tour essentials?
Maggie: Hmm… I’m fairly low-maintenance with self-care. I don’t know what that says about me. So like… tunes on the radio? I’ve recently discovered the magic of eye-masks. So I’ll bring one of those so I can not-sleep, but this time in total darkness. If someone can hook me up with strong sleeping pills, that’d be wicked.
Eilis: I’m pretty ritualistic with a morning coffee, anything after that is a bonus.
►Do you feel Berlin has influenced the band’s sound?
Maggie: I don’t think so. Not yet anyway. If I ever write a song about how much I hate lugging gear in taxis, you’ll know I’ve arrived. I still feel like I’m through-the-looking-glass in Korea, to be honest. The surgical removal is still in process.
Eilis: Sometimes it angers me, so I hit harder. But shhhhhhh.
►You appeared on their debut album and now you’re touring together. How did you get to know Last Days of Elvis?
Maggie: I’m going to let Eilis field this one because I was asleep drunk on a couch while the maiden meeting was taking place. NB: the couch was in a very nice craft beer bar.
Eilis: We’d like to say it was a ‘band match made in heaven’… Only it wasn’t. LDOE sent a message to Bang On – a collective Maggie and I run – with a focus on female artists. Catch is: LDOE are all dudes. I guess they didn’t read the (not so) fine print. But I enjoyed what they sent so we went to see a show. It took way too many craft beers, and many attempts to say hello before we were successful. We asked their bassist to join our band straight away. Hahaha! He said, ‘NO’ (bet he regrets it now that we have amazing Cyborg Lisa). I think we harassed them on the internet for a while, then we suggested making a joint UK tour before our gig at Loud Women. They surprisingly agreed; maybe they’re crazy. Then we suggested adding Dublin/Belfast after our mini tour in May. They also agreed. Nice fellas.
►What do you hope people will take away from your shows?
Maggie: Good question! I want people to have a good time and get silly with us. When I see people dance at our shows it properly makes my heart swell. It’s the best thing. If people sing choruses as sometimes happens in ‘Spoiled Fruit’ or ‘Waiting Room’ I vomit tears and blood.
Eilis: Dancing dancing dancing, and hopefully a Party Fears sticker to put on their bike.
►Can you talk about a highlight and a low point of the band’s journey so far?
Maggie: High point for me was Women’s Work, for sure. Maybe not even playing there, just being there. I cried when the Girls Rock School played. It’s so important for me to see women stand behind guitars. Which brings me to my personal low point: I have overloaded tendons on my right wrist and a cyst on my left wrist, so I might not be able to play on tour; and certainly can’t prepare. It’s really devastating and I’m super sad. I’m also a writer by profession too, so you can imagine. I didn’t realise how much of my self-worth was tied up in my hands. So, eh, warm up before and after playing, kids!
Eilis: Hmm highest point was maybe a gig we played with two Korean bands in Berlin; worlds colliding, it was a magical mismatch of everything that I am. Lowest point was trying to get a maxi taxi at 3am, in the rain. It took us 3 hours to get our gear back to the studio. Our studio is 5km from that venue, it was a rough night.
►Are there any Berlin bands we should check out?
Maggie: Schnick Schnack, Strand Child, Highest Sea, Tendre Biche, KOY, Mother of the Unicorn (Stuart Bell from General Fiasco is the drummer) and the best, besty, best, best: Mondo Fumatore.
Eilis: Maggie said it all! But I’ll chuck in Leoprrrds and Voodoo Beach.
Party Fears play McHugh’s, Belfast on Thursday 24th August alongside Last Days of Elvis and Susie Blue. Entry is £5, or up to £8 if you want to support two touring bands. See you there.