One of the hottest three-pieces to come out of the UK in recent memory, The Virginmarys have enjoyed a great run of success since their explosion on the scene with 2013’s King Of Conflict.
A mainstay on Alternative Rock radio with their hit singles “Just A Ride” and “Bang Bang Bang”, King Of Conflict was named as iTunes’ editors choice, and landed the band a nomination for Album of The Year at the 2013 Classic Rock Awards. The band would go on to win Best Breakthrough Act at those same awards, cementing their status as a band on the rise.
Now back and better than ever with their new-age punk-influenced single ‘Into Dust’, The Virginmarys are readying a new album release for later this year, and continue their path towards world domination. We recently spoke to Aly about his thoughts on the upcoming album release. Read our interview below:
AltWire [Derek Oswald]: Let’s start by talking about your awesome new track ‘Into Dust’, to me the track has a very new wave punk sound to it, almost 80s era punk. Tell me a bit about the writing process for this song, and if you can.. lyric-wise, what the song means to you?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yeah, it definitely has a new wave punk feel to it. It’s one of the few songs I’ve written where the lyrics, that opening line, came first. I’ve recently given up drinking and I was at an after-show party, where everyone was not really making any sense and I wasn’t really on the [same] wavelength. I ended up leaving and I had that line in my head, and I wrote it down and kind of wrote the song around that really. A lot of the time I’ll be writing just the tune first and then I’ll put the lyrics later, but that was a poignant message and I just really liked how blatant the line is, so I wrote a whole song around it.
AW: Sonically, can we expect some of the other material from your upcoming record to follow in a similar vein? What would you say are the biggest differences between your new record, and your 2013 release King of Conflict?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: I’d say it’s a harder-sounding record. It’s more urgent and it has more of that kind of punk vibe to it. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride. There’s definitely a vibe going through the album, and it’s a bit of a journey. There’s a few different styles going on but it all ties in together. I also think there’s more a message on this one, more so than we had on King of Conflict. We’re all really proud of this record.
AW: For both of your earlier releases you worked with Toby Jepson of Little Angels but this time you’re working with the legendary Gil Norton. What inspired the change, and how does Gil differ in production style from Toby?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Gil was someone I was familiar with growing up. You’d listen to his Pixies’ records and Foo Fighters’ records and it’d just be like ‘wow these sound…amazing’. He was one of those names that would’ve just been a dream come true to work with. So when the record label asked ‘who would you have in mind’, we thought Gil Norton and it just so happened that they sent the demos to him and he was open and wanted to work with us.
How we did the album was kind of different to how we did King of Conflict. I don’t think we’ve even been so thorough and worked as hard as we did. We just made sure that we had all bases covered and that we were left with something that we all could feel very proud of.
AW: What were some of your inspirations musically going into writing this new material?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: I think there’s a lot of angst and urgency and frustration and anger that goes on inside, and we’re all pretty good at playing our instruments, but we’re not one of those bands that try to sound like a certain band. We listen to everything. I listen to a hell of a lot of hip-hop, because I love the lyrics. I’ve listened to Run The Jewels a lot recently. I don’t know…it just feels like there’s this message and frustration and anger for us to express, and that’s the type of vibe we want to put out there. We put everything into it and that’s the kind of sound that comes out. It’s not necessarily the type of music that we spend all day listening to, but when the three of us get together there’s just this energy that we almost can’t wait to get out. There is some bands that we all like such as The Beatles and Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine but we just get together and this is what comes out. It’s not really thought out as to ‘this is what we want to sound like’, it’s just what’s written.
AW: How close are you to releasing the record? Is it finished, or is there still some slight work to be done?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: This record? It’s all finished and ready to come out. I think we’re just waiting for the release date from the label and we’re good to go.
AW: Could you tell us about some other tracks you’re excited about that you believe will make the cut? Are there any tracks off the new album that you’re really excited for?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: It’s literally all of them. We’ve never been so happy with a body of work that we’ve done. We actually had to take a track off because there was too much material, which is almost like cutting one of your limbs off. We’re mega excited about all of them.
“It’s the best album that we’ve ever made and we can’t to play it live in front of as many fans and new people as we can.”
AW: Since you do double duty as both the band’s vocalist and guitarist, what gear do you use in the studio? Do you have a piece of equipment you’re most fond of?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: I use my Gibson Les Paul Studio that I’ve had for years. That’s what I use when I tour. It’s what I’m most comfortable with and it has this really big sound to it. On this record with Gil though, we used so many guitars and so many amplifiers. It was a completely new experience for us. On a certain song, for example, they’d say ‘right let’s hook up an Orange speaker with the Marshall’ and they’d come up with these concoctions and combinations with the speakers. It was really cool because all these pedals and amps came out that I had never seen before. I’m pretty simple when it comes to live performances. I just plug it and go [laughs]. I’m not a gear head!
AW: You’re heading back across the pond to tour with Shinedown after playing a few radio festivals over here, and a very successful run of shows in 2013. How does it feel to be returning to the US? How different is it to tour here vs over in Europe?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: We’re absolutely made up that we’re coming back over to the US! It can’t come soon enough for us and we can’t wait to get over [there]. We’ve always wanted to play in Seattle as well, and we’re getting to play there this year. I think touring in America is different first because it’s so massive and you can drive hours to the next venue. In the UK you only tend to take a few hours to get from place to place. In America, everyone seems really up for a good time and everyone is so welcoming to us. We’ve only had great experiences from playing in the US. With the UK it’s more kind of a ‘home’ thing I guess. It’s kind of different but kind of the same. We literally love playing both.
AW: Branching off of that last question, you’ve headlined your own tours and have a pretty impressive list of bands you’ve toured with already. Do you have a most memorable tour you’ve been on so far? Is there anything you’ve learned from your favorite tour that you’ve applying to future touring experiences?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yeah we’ve played with some absolutely incredible bands, and everyone that we’ve played with has been really nice and really supportive. Ironically I think it tends to be that the biggest egos seem to come from the bands that are up and coming. The bands that have already made it tend to be really nice guys and can’t do enough for you but we hope that as we go on and get bigger, that we can do the same thing for up and coming bands. It’s really useful to you when you learn how the thing works, and how the ‘machine’ operates.
Playing with Slash was just really surreal. To have him wear a Virginmary’s shirt when he was in Manchester, which is really close to our hometown, that was just mind-blowing really. Queens of The Stone Age were just absolutely amazing. Also, a band called Skunk Anansie, who we toured the Europe and the UK with, they’re all just really great and cool guys. They’ve all been a pleasure and I think we’ve taken something from all of them.
AW: You mentioned Slash. What are your thoughts on the Guns N’ Roses reunion?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: I have to see it to believe it I think. If they can do it and pull it off it will be an incredible moment for live music. I think, especially with the death of Lemmy as well, there’s almost not enough legendary rock bands still about. You need this type of thing. You need for a few of them to still be doing it. I don’t know. If they can pull it off it will be amazing. I’m made up that they’re all still getting on and that they can do this!
AW: I definitely get what you’re saying, and I agree that there’s very few classic rock acts still remaining. if you had a choice of all the classic rock greats, who do you wish you would’ve been around to do a show with?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: I would love to have played with John Lennon and to have played guitar with Jimi Hendrix. To have me and Jim Morrison singing on the same stage would’ve been incredible. Also Janis Joplin. There’s so many, it’s kind of sad if you think about it. To share a stage with Kurt Cobain would’ve been amazing too.
AW: Scott Weiland was another big loss recently too.
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yes! It seemed like he had a lot of inner demons, and it’s just such a sad thing.
AW: Going back to a previous question, you mentioned that you feel almost in way that the smaller bands are the ones that have the egos, and that the bands who are more established are a lot more down to earth. Do you feel maybe the smaller bands maybe sometimes have egos, because they feel as if they have something they need to prove to the world?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yes and no. The bigger bands, they seem to be able to have a ‘confidence’ more than an arrogance, because they know that they can do it, and they’ve proved that they can do it each time, just by being who they are. Up and coming bands look at these bands, who are established and are full of confidence and I think that they feel that’s part of who you have to be, but they haven’t got the skills yet. So I think they kind of try to overcompensate in attitude. Perhaps it’s something like that if that makes sense.
AW: Definitely. Perhaps some artists feel like they have to invent a rock star ‘persona’ to stand out to people.
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yeah for sure, but if you look at the likes of John Lennon, and Jim Morrison, and even Lemmy, they’re very sure of themselves but they’ve got the skills to back it up. Perhaps might be an ‘ego’ there, but it’s because they’re that good and they know what they’re doing.
AW: It’s sad we’ve lost so many of those greats, but that’s why it’s up to bands like yourselves to carry the torch and inspire future upcoming bands to follow. Before we go, is there anything more that you’d like to add that you feel fans should look forward to in the year ahead? Anything that you’re very excited for?
Aly Dickaty [The Virginmarys]: Yeah! It’s literally going to be all about this album for us. We worked really hard and so thoroughly on it. It’s the best album that we’ve ever made and we can’t to play it live in front of as many fans and new people as we can. I think it’s going to be a really exciting year for us, and for live music and for music in general!
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