Behind the Music: Interview with TOYGIRL

‘We love crashing contradictory genres into one another to create whacky and original music.’ 

Describe your music style in no more than 5 words: Dreamy, Soulful, Melancholic, Atmospheric, Vulnerable

Who/what influences your music? Artist’s such as Alice Phoebe Lou, Ben Howard, Peach Pitt, Young Mommy, King Krule and Mac DeMarco influence us a lot, but our surroundings do too. Much of the band recently transitioned from living in the country to living in the city. This definitely influences our music as well. 

Who is involved in TOYGIRL and what do they bring to the sound? All five members of the band (Hannah, Aran, Ciaran, Fiachra and Cian) have equal input. We all have our shared musical interests, but each of us have our own unique musical upbringing, from Cian’s pop-punk drumming and Fiachra’s acoustic folk to Ciaran’s interest in jazzy neo-soul. We love crashing these otherwise contradictory genres into one another in order to create something truly whacky and original. 

How different is the final version of ‘Reign’ to the ideas created by Hannah in 2018 and what has led to this? The first draft of the song represents only a fraction of what it is today. The new version is fuller and more refined in terms of lyrical content and arrangement. The initial draft consisted of merely a basic garage band sample and some lyrics by Hannah. It was also the first project that the band wrote together as a whole.

The process of changing it and letting it grow into something new has helped us communicate as a band immensely. What lead to it was merely a desire to work collaboratively, in the knowledge that with each of us adding our own expertise, we would end up with a product far beyond the capabilities of any one band member.

What does a TOYGIRL recording session look like?  We’re always excited to be in the studio as it is a relatively new concept to most of us. Outside of us being very motivated and focused when in the booth, outside in the engineer’s room there’s a combination of: no sleep, a little patience, and a lot of insanity. The sellotaping of phones to skateboards between recordings. Hannah waiting patiently for her turn to go in the booth. Watching Gossip Girl. Tesco apple lattices and McDonald’s coffee for fuel. Overall, it’s a bit mad! But it’s incredibly enjoyable. Especially when you get to hear the finished product and end result of your labours.

‘Play as much music with as many different people as you possibly can. It can only make you a better musician.’

Your debut track ‘Reign’ is incredibly strong and stylistic. Do you feel that this has set out the sound you are aiming for in your future releases? I think we intend to maintain a strong/stylistic sound throughout our music. However, we are very eager to branch out more in future projects and experiment with new sounds, new influences and new styles. I don’t feel as though ‘Reign’ has fully captured what we are about. We currently have about nine original songs in our set and each one differs drastically without them being incoherent from one another. To say ‘Reign’ represents them all would be ambitious. It is safe to say though that what we sound like in two years time will be significantly different to how we sound now. 

Do you prefer performing live or recording in a studio? We always find the recording process very exciting. Hearing what we’ve all been working on finally coming together is incredibly rewarding. However, live performances always give us such a buzz. For us, studio recording is more of a creative graft, while performing is purely for enjoyment & exhilaration.

How does having a bilingual front woman affect the writing of lyrics and the impact they have on the listener? Hannah: If I’m finding it difficult to find the words to say in English, it’s refreshing to have the option of French as a clean slate and/or new perspective. As for the impact, I think it quite simply gives the listener an insight into who I am as a person. It is a part of me and I want to share that.

TG: It’s simply another thing we can utilise to stand out. It’s an invaluable asset and one that we don’t take for granted. In a world where there’s so much good music being put out, we’re extremely blessed to have something that sometimes sets us apart from other great musicians and makes us a little bit more interesting.

What do you hope will be the result of touring in connection with your debut release ‘Reign’ and are there any plans to come to London? Our intention is to add to, and establish a solid grounding and fan base within the island of Ireland. Next stop is definitely London. We feel that this release and the tour legitimises the band. From this, we hope to get showcase events, support slots and festivals in Ireland and the UK. Our next tour will definitely include at least one London date though. 

What can people expect from your live performances? A lot of our listeners would describe it as quite dreamy and something you can sway to. Although that said, we’re definitely a fan of slow build ups with loud crescendos. Hannah is a natural performer who leaves it all out there every night, and gives it 100%. Her captivating performances often lead to the rest of us taking our foot off the gas a little performance wise. It’s definitely something we need to improve upon. But, Hannah definitely steals the show live. Other things include lots of melancholia, entrancing, atmospheric stuff. We would love to start incorporating interesting visuals in our performances soon. That’s one of the next steps for our live performances for sure.

What do you listen to when you’re not writing, recording or performing? Aran: Lots of jazz/jazz inspired electronic productions. Ambient electronic. R&B/Soul/HipHop. Lots of sample-based music.

Hannah: Alice Phoebe Lou has a huge influence on me as a writer, but also for the band instrumentally. I also have a huge appreciation for the writing of Radiohead. The standard of Thom Yorke’s abilities is a standard I one day hope to strive for.

Ciaran: I’m a big hip hop fan, but also listen to a lot of alt/dreamy/rock, which is where I draw a lot of my inspiration for writing.

TG: On the drive to rehearsals, we listen to a lot of Hip-Hop. Grime usually take the top spot but there’s a fair amount of math rock thrown in there too. It gets us pumped up for rehearsal.

What has been the band’s most memorable moment to date? We got to play the Button Factory which is a pretty huge and iconic venue in Dublin. Sillier highlights would include Hannah thanking ‘Whelan’s’ for hosting a gig – when we were actually playing in the Workman’s Club, a completely different venue – and, drummer Cian getting overconfident and dropping one of his drumsticks right before a big crescendo final chorus!

How different would your lives be if music didn’t feature? Unimaginably different. All of our identities are pretty much based around music so it’s hard to envisage what life would look like without it. 

‘Studio recording is more of a creative graft while performing is purely for enjoyment and exhilaration!’

Do any of you have other creative talents and if so do they influence your music in any way? For most of us, our primary creative output is music. Although Hannah and Aran are quite aesthetically inclined and helped design our single artwork and tour posters with the help of Aran’s sister Karis who is an amazing graphic designer. 

And finally… What are your three pieces of advice to other artists wanting to start out in the music business?

  1. Play as much music with as many different people as you possibly can. Even if someone approaches you with an opportunity you think is beneath you – or that isn’t quite your musical preference – do it! It can only make you a better musician, and life starts outside of your comfort zone.
  2. Make music you enjoy listening to, not music you think will be commercially viable.
  3. Work with musicians who you get along with. If the music is great, but the people aren’t, it’ll never last. If the people are good, the music will follow.

Follow TOYGIRL on: Facebook & Twitter
Listen to TOYGIRL on: Spotify
Find out more about TOYGIRL’s music at: Track Review: TOYGIRL: Reign and Track Review: TOYGIRL: Moonlight Velvet.

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