The overall feel of Pillow Queens’ debut ‘In Waiting’ is both wistful and triumphant — a combination that is unexpected, yet infinitely enjoyable.
Stream: “Holy Show” – Pillow Queens
We may have done all this stuff but we’re also a country that does not actually cherish the people that live here.
The last few decades have been monumentous for Ireland. A country that has attempted to destroy all that binds its complicated past, it’s building itself anew. Gone—or at least heavily reduced—are the church and its repressive traditions and expectations. Instead, it’s a nation now dominated by tech bubbles, high-rises and recessions.
In short, the heavy shackles of post-capitalism replaced the steely chains of Catholicism—all in the name of progress.
But progress is fickle: Constant vigilance is necessary to make sure what is given with one hand isn’t taken with the other. As we replace old gods with new ones, there’s a price that must be paid.
Few bands capture this essence better than the airy-rockers Pillow Queens. Their debut In Waiting is a mid-tempo, punky stroll through both sides of Dublin, with their themes and influences invariably shared with the city they’re growing with. “A lot of the songs that we end up writing always touch on the same themes of like, you know, love, lust, but also just like kind of living in Ireland and living in Dublin,” says singer and guitarist Pamela Connelly.
This idea — of Ireland changing its overlord but keeping a system with a punishing core — always bubbles just below the surface.
“Look at the progress that we’ve made over the last few years, like with the marriage equality and the criminality of abortion being repealed. You look at it like ‘wow, look how far we’ve come from being at the grips of the catholic church and now we’ve slowly but surely gotten rid of those shackles,” says Connolly. “But now there’s a hangover, obviously.”
“We may have done all this stuff but we’re also a country that does not actually cherish the people that live here. We have institutions which basically imprison refugees that come over here; we have a housing crisis which is completely ignored; homelessness that is, again, completely ignored. And you can celebrate all the great things that have happened, but you also have to see the country for what it is: We replaced the catholic church with neoliberal capitalism.”
While not overly a political band, Pillow Queens know that it seeps into everything: “You know what, the personal is political so when we’re mentioning these things in our music, we’re just talking about our own experiences.”
And Pillow Queens are a band who know about growth themselves. “When we were starting out, things felt like they were going so fast. We went from getting together in a practice space, rehearsing songs to suddenly selling out our first gig and then from there like gigging non-stop, and then very soon after that, going on our first tour, and we just kept on going and going and going and going.”
“We didn’t necessarily have a plan, but we knew what we didn’t want to do,” continues Connelly. “We knew that the only way we could be happy with how the band is going is if we keep on striving and expect more of ourselves.”
This preparedness, plus their experience, meant it was obvious they had something special. Knowing—and sharing favourite artists—with each other since they were teenagers, there’s a safety that allows good music to flow: “I will fuck up in front of them all day and still feel comfortable,” says Connelly with a laugh.
The ensuing years — filled with European tours and two EPs — have seen them continue to grow while keeping the core of their melodic, charismatic sound. “When I look back on the music that we were making starting out, it’s not obviously leaps and bounds are different to that—which would never have been our intention—but it’s a very visible growth that you can hear,” says Connolly. “Everything just seems full and thought out.”
This brand of dreamy-punk differs from the Dublin bands who have exploded before them, but they belong right alongside them. The overall feel of In Waiting is both wistful and triumphant, a combination that is unexpected yet infinitely enjoyable.
While they’ve never found one genre they’re completely “comfortable” in, they know what they’re trying to channel. “For this record we listened to a lot of Manchester Orchestra—in terms of the bigness of it—and that’s something that we strived towards. But would I say that if you like Manchester Orchestra that we would be a recommendation? I’m not sure, but it is a band that we were like ‘okay we want a nice big churchy, big fuck off sound.’”
They nail it—and nowhere is this more evident than on “HowDoILook.” Everything on this track is huge: The interplaying, reverbed guitars create a wall of sound; the harmonies feel more like a choir than a punk band; and the constantly changing tempo keeps you on your tapping toes throughout. It’s lyrically powerful and relatable, sprinkling self-love through society’s lens of control and body-shaming norms.
It took a while but I don’t mind
How does my body look in this light?
It took a while but I don’t mind
How do I look now, how do I look now?
I’ve stopped my thoughts
It’s the only way of keeping sensations from creeping up on me
And crushing whatever’s keeping me going
I just can’t let my mind wander
It always takes a dodgy street and I get nervous
And just retreat
In Waiting is a testament to growth—both personal and as a city. It stares hard into the mirror and doesn’t flinch at what stares back — even the bits that hurt the most. “I would say that I have a very turbulent relationship with the city because you know, you love it, but it doesn’t love you back.”
I would say that I have a very turbulent relationship with the city because you know, you love it, but it doesn’t love you back.
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? © Faolán Carey
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