WhenYoung started cooking up brilliant tunes as a group back in 2017 when the Irish trio, formed of vocalist and bass player, Aoife Power, Niall Burns (Guitar) and Andrew Flood (Drums) moved to Dublin under the band’s original name ‘Sisters’. Their debut singles ‘Actor’ and ‘Silverchair’ paved the way to quick success after gaining a few local names as fans – The Pogues frontman, Shane MacGowan, and the man himself; Bono… so no biggy really.
Later that year they were invited to play MacGowan’s 60th birthday in Dublin city centre without even having released an album at the time. WhenYoung, or ‘Sisters’ as they were, must have known from their early experiences that they were onto something special.
And indeed they were… now with an even more developed, kick-ass sound, it doesn’t take long to realise why they gained such legendary fans.
The group met in true Irish rock n’ roll style, sneaking into their local pub in the town of Limerick for some underage drinking and chats about the bands they loved. Later, after forming a band themselves, they moved to Dublin; a city big enough to suit their ambition. They went looking for the excitement they craved, and golly they most definitely found it.
WhenYoung are very much the next generation of bands such as The Cranberries and The Velvet Underground. If you’re a fan of either, this is a band for you.
Nowadays, with their first album ‘Reasons To Dream’ out in the world for all to hear, and with more people than ever having their ears tuned to the group’s unmissable sound, the three friends from a small town in Ireland are set to concur the world. WhenYoung have since based themselves in London, a bigger city fit for the scale of things to come? Don’t we know it.
Sinead O’Brien is the Irish ‘punk poet’ that thrives on the edge; denying herself of anything cosy or familiar and instead opting for a ‘heavy heavy, busy busy life’ consisting of travel and new adventures.
Always doing things differently, her spontaneous attitude and lifestyle result in a lot to be grateful for; helping her to deliver marvellous songs, exploring the beauty in darkness, that we can’t help but love and believe that you will too.
Born in Dublin and raised in Limerick, the singer has never felt much of an attachment to a particular place but has always sensed a calling from further afield. This free spirit and ability to adapt to new ways and places feed their way into her consistently evolving songs. Using expansive language and sounds that vary from punk and folk to a hint of soul and funk, she expertly provides tracks that take you on a journey where, just like her, you’re kept on your toes every step of the way.
Despite her desire for re-location though, there’s absolutely no denying O’Brien’s Irish roots. The moment that she opens her mouth, she has you hostage; her divine accent delivering mesmerising words with equal parts grit and beauty. Painting a picture with every line, including desolate wonders like ”I feel like the daytime chasing the night” to relatable longings for motivation with “Days like this are the wildest way, to tame the flames, to get the head to higher…” she always leaves you longing for more.
O’Brien is currently living (but most definitely not ‘settled’) in London; the city where her real musical journey began. Upon her move, she fully embraced her desire for fresh experiences by taking a page out of Jim Carrey’s book and simply saying ‘yes’ to any opportunities that arose. Fortunately, for music fans, that included attending a spoken word night in Brixton where she first performed her poems up on stage. Subsequently, the natural lyricist joined forces with current bandmates Julian Hanson and Oscar Robertson and began to put her words to equally grand music; turning dreams and expressive thoughts into songs.
Her talent in doing so was undeniable right off the bat which led to Chess Club Records; the same label as fellow alternative rockers Wolf Alice, signing O’Brien up. She then began to release her hypnotising tracks with them, before stepping up a level from South London pubs when king of the punk poetry game John Cooper Clarke invited her on tour. The two immediately hit it off (which is no surprise when you listen to each of their gutsy works), and, thanks to JCC O’Brien was introduced to Mark E. Smith who she describes as one of her “most valuable references ever”.
As well as meeting one inspiration (who showed her the work of another), the tour with Cooper Clarke was also an opportunity to try a stint of something different once again, as like him she performed solo. After doing so she was told by a gig-goer that they could still “hear the music in it” which both she and myself completely agree with. Even without physical music present, you’re always touched by its essence thanks to her rhythm and heart, which is testament to the skill she has for her craft; consistently turning words into something so much more.
Her gifts don’t just stop there either, describing herself as incredibly determined from a young age, she pushed herself to excel in a range of areas both academic and creative- which even resulted in her moving to Paris to work for Dior. Just like her Irish upbringing, this motivation and affinity for style are also evident in her music; producing ambitious tracks that are sleek and well-tailored with a real artistic edge.
A sparse feeling is present in Sinead O’Brien’s songs, similar to that heard on Unknown Pleasures where space is intentional and meaningful; a bold move that not many even attempt to pull off. Each track contains an aura of magic, whisking you away on a different experience, that can vary from a trip to the dance floor on the snappy rhythmed ‘Taking on Time’ to dark dreams thanks to the strutting guitar and twinkle of keys on ‘A List of Normal Sins’. In doing so, she has laid the foundations to progress in any direction she wishes and seamlessly built her way up to releasing recent EP ‘Drowning In Blessings’; which to listen to feels like exactly that.
O’Brien’s intense voice cuts straight through the musical foundations of Drowning In Blessings’ tracks, her strong delivery inducing chills and making every word hit. Exploring the cynical side of modern culture in the likes of single ‘Most Modern Painting’ she generates such existential excitement with her observations on this and ‘Roman Ruins’ that you can’t help but feel riled up and ready to rock. She perfectly balances this edge and gloom with slightly more gentle elements though; resurfacing distant childhood memories of lullabies and carousels on ‘Fall With Me’ and closing with ‘Strangers in Danger’, her packed song on relationships between people and life- a perfect opportunity for reflection after the journey.
Filled to the brim with talent and creating songs jammed with ideas that are not only personal to her but can also touch each listener, O’Brien creates worlds within her work, and I firmly believe that it’s about time you’re swept away into them.
Meet Jessica Smyth, better known as Biig Piig. Born in Ireland, brought up in Spain and now based in good ol’ London town, the neo-soul/hip hop singer has been gaining traction over the last couple of years with her silky smooth tracks and emotionally in-depth lyrics, taking inspiration from classical folk Irish music, Latin Jazz to modern indie and hip hop. But with that all in mind, you can’t hold Smyth’s music to just one style, I mean how could you with that diverse a range of inspiration? But her vibe is complete chill, as if you’ve stumbled into a run-down bar with the local jazz band pulling you in.
Smyth grew up in Spain and spent a lot of time in the Irish pub her parents owned there. Growing up around a pub setting definitely shapes you differently, as stated by Smyth before “I think you learn a lot about people when you’re surrounded by adults a lot of the time, they don’t treat you like a kid. Maybe that’s where the writing came from when I was younger.” And from living in Spain for so long, you start to learn the language which is where Biig Piig’s music gets interesting. Not only does deep classical Spanish music flourish throughout her work, but also slipping into the Spanish tongue giving her music this double-sided feel that’s irresistible.
Biig Piig’s first single was dropped back in 2017 on Soundcloud, but that caught the attention of COLORS, who gave her a spotlight at their Berlin studios, helping her soon-to-be-fans find her sensual songs. Fast forward a year, and she released her debut EP ‘Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol. 1’ Further answering to the deserved hype and solidifying her fanbase. Tracks such as ‘Dinner’s Getting Cold Ft. Mac Wetha’, ‘Perdida’ and Flirt’ really demonstrated the talent Smyth has; lo-fi beats with velvet-like vocals to shatter dimensions.
Upon meeting Mac Wetha at sixth form after moving to London, the two have become good friends and regular collaborators within her own music and with their DIY Art Collective NiNE8. ‘A World Without Snooze, Vol. 2’ was released in 2019 and whisks you away to that special place in your mind where you can breathe easy and relax.
The track ‘Vete’ caught a lot of attention from the expansion of the smooth sound incorporating a cheeky bit of Sax to really hone in that chill Jazzy vibe. And thus Smyth signed to RCA Records, then immediately starting work on the final instalment to the trilogy. In November that year, she dropped ‘No Place For Patience, Vol. 3’.
Really perfecting her sound here, it feels as if the journey had really taken you somewhere. The production of the song ties every little nook and cranny together into this ear-melting sound. Roses and Gold kicks off the EP, introducing some funky slap bass to shake things up whilst staying inside the proverbial box. Smyth does new things here but nothing feels out of place. ‘Lie to Me’ closes the EP and shows off some of the complexity to her lyrics; “I don’t wanna go, but this heart ain’t a home / Peace of mind, my peace is fucked. lucking out when he won’t listen / Risking trust to prove a point”. Smyth somehow just has this immense control of singing (in both English and Spanish) with such depth and on the flick of a switch completely nails these free flow rap verses which blend with her sound so perfectly.
Earlier this year, Biig Piig treated us to her political commentary of the 2019 snap election; ‘Switch’ which is a fitting title. This is a Biig switch indeed from her earlier work, fast-paced, angrier and with more drum ‘n’ bass inspiration. Smyth has said “I thought when I was writing it that it was about a relationship, but then I was like actually nah, it definitely isn’t. It’s that same hate but just for something else.” Switch is the kind of left turn an artist needs to take after solidifying their sound from 3 EPs worth of material. The track goes out of bounds but still suits Smyth’s voice, like something was suddenly realised inside her mind. The content of the song definitely needed a more prominent sound, so it all compliments each other ridiculously well really.
‘Don’t Turn Around’ was dropped in July this year and samples Love for the Sake of Love by Claudia Barry, more commonly known from being sampled in Montell Jordan’s Get It On Tonite. You may also recognize the directing style in the music video and you’d be onto something, frequent Beabadoobee video collaborator ‘Bedroom’ directed the song’s video, complimenting the sound of the track with a rich visual paradigm. Once again showing off her flow with some insanely catchy rap verses, bookended by delightful vocal hooks in the chorus. Lyrically being quite a jam-packed song as you’d expect with rap verses, but really shoving that emotion into the listener in a really exciting way. Smyth spoke about the song, saying it’s “my post-breakup, pre glow up tune. Finally getting to confidence through self-love and letting go of toxic relationships”. All we can take from it is that it’s such a good song and Biig Piig’s artistry really shaped it into something new and refreshing, leaving us with open arms for whatever her next outing may be.
Biig Piig is someone who needs no real introduction, just an open mind and a good pair of ears because no matter what the Irish-Espanol singer dishes out, it’s no doubt to be something that gets you hooked. In fact, Clairo and Billie Eilish have proudly announced themselves as fans, so why not join them? For once I can safely say that it’s right to believe the hype.
Like what you hear? Check out Biig Piig’s latest release and double single ‘Oh No / Liarh’ on Spotify.
It’s a real surprise that after the release of two impressive EPs and supporting several big-name bands from IDLES to Future Islands that Dublin based Pillow Queens haven’t had people shouting about them left, right and centre. Nevertheless, their experience with fellow artists fronting the current rock movement and a knack for turning out sonically rich songs in their own right has proven that they’re an indie force to be reckoned with. All things combined they’ve just delivered a record you didn’t realise you’d been ‘In waiting’ for but after a listen won’t be the same without.
The album encapsulates a hazy sense of hope and instantly has you hooked on all manner of components from sweeping melodies, flourishing tones and lo-fi layering. Together, the result is ten all-star tunes from the female foursome that met on a basketball court in their hometown (a fact that I had to drop to further emphasise that they’ve been cool since the get-go). There’s an almost magnetic draw in the first few twinkles of the haunting ‘Holy Show’ and you’re instantly connected as soon as Sarah Corcoran’s crooning voice pierces through. From that moment up until the last echoes of closing track ‘Donaghmede’, the band take you on a journey where you can’t help but feel all of the emotion that their songs are created and delivered with. Each track seamlessly melts into the next; ushering you into a new stream of thought before you even have the chance to realise, leaving you in a dreamlike trance-ready to become the monarch of your own pillow.
The journey doesn’t just happen as one tune flows into the next though; you’re taken on a voyage with each individual song. Not only are they gentle and melodic but also fierce and rocking, transitioning as effortlessly as one of this era’s most iconic alt bands Wolf Alice. ‘Handsome Wife’ is a great display of how they start gracefully, then seamlessly build to raspy exclamations and when ‘A Dog’s Life’ gets going it delves into even edgier territory with grungy guitars and more punk-like chants in a prominent Irish twang. Overall, I’d compare the Queens’ arrangements to a crisp winter morning, sun piercing through the clouds and glistening on snow; bright and refreshing but not without a hint of gloom and bite.
There’s an abundance of stand-out elements besides their progression too, like the poignant folk cries repeated at the end of the self-love reminder ‘HowDoILook’ that help to provide a shining example of their flawless transitions into the emotive melody that is ‘Liffey’. Further messages of positivity can also be heard in fan favourite ‘Gay Girls’; a wake-up call to people of strict religion and those alike that there’s no need to worry when it comes to different sexualities, featuring a catchy hook and accompanied by a cracking music video. It’s exciting to hear more top tunes from such empowering female representation in the rock industry, using their talent to draw attention to causes that many listeners will care about just as much as they clearly do. I also love that they have a rock ‘n’ roll attitude with regards to their opinions and approaches, saying “feck em” to any critics of Corcoran and accompanying vocalist Pamela Connolly’s accents for example and instead embracing their roots; using them to their advantage in adding to the raw emotion to their sound.
I believe the ride that is listening to ‘In Waiting’ can best be described in the final words of ‘Harvey’ as the expansive sound truly leaves you feeling as if you’re ‘floating ten feet off the floor’. Earnest and atmospheric, claims of coming up short in the heartfelt ‘Brothers’ evidently aren’t in reference to their album as it’s an absolute beauty and I can’t wait to watch Pillow Queens flourish like their songs and take everyone by storm.