What were you doing when you were 14 or 15? Probably sulking or shouting at your parents and slamming doors, determined to shake off the last vestiges of childhood. The members of Little Green Cars, however, were channelling that special brand of teenage frustration into making music. Primary school friends Adam O’Regan (guitars) and Donagh O’Leary (bass) met Faye O’Rourke, Stevie Appleby and Dylan Lynch in secondary school, and Little Green Cars was born, along with their brand of dreamy, lyric-driven, harmony-laden folk rock. If only all our teenage angst sounded this good.
Many such teenage ventures have later been victims to lack of talent, boredom or “creative differences”, but Little Green Cars stuck it out. Faye O’Rourke, vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter of the group, thinks the band kept going because of the “medicinal” qualities songwriting had for each of the five members. “As a group, [songwriting] is a collective effort. We pair off sometimes and do our own stuff but we are connected and we have the same outlook. We’re extremely close and have grown up together, and our experiences reflect one another. It’s easy to work with people you trust. Each of us has a great relationship with each other, and musically and lyrically we share a creative vision.”
As the quintet matured and their catalogue of demos grew, it became apparent that music was more than just a hobby. But was making music for a living always their intention? “I think as a group, yes, that was always in the back of our heads,” says Faye. “Personally, I have a habit of not looking too close too far ahead in the future, because I’m just generally like that. But I think it was always at the back of my mind, I never really thought about doing anything else ever.”
Now, turning back is not an option. The band snagged a place on the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist, marking them as “ones to watch” alongside Haim, The Weeknd and fellow countrymen Kodaline. With two Irish bands on the list, it may be a sign that the Irish music scene is finally breaking free from the confines of the island. “It’s great to be [in Ireland] and in the music scene here, and I think you never want to shy away from that,” says Faye. “At the same time, it’s so small and everyone who writes music wants to have as wide an audience as possible. For ourselves, it’s great to have Ireland reflected in a good way, by getting this exposure for Ireland and Irish bands. I think there’s going to be a lot more coming out of Ireland in terms of music. The standard is really good.”
Little Green Cars’ debut album, Absolute Zero, will be the litmus test for Irish music abroad. Produced by Markus Dravs, who has mixed albums by Arcade Fire, Coldplay and Bjork, it was recorded over one month in the UK. “We recorded it in April and May, and it was being mixed and mastered over about six months or so. We recorded it with Markus Dravs who, basically from the beginning of time, was our dream to work with. We didn’t think it was going to happen, so when he showed interest it was flattering to some degree. He also had a huge respect for the music and he wanted to stay true to what we had made. This is another really great thing, cos it’s nice when someone can come in from an outside perspective and say ‘You’ve done a really good job here.’”
Faye says it is important to the band to not themselves to a particular sound or allow themselves to be pigeonholed. “I think when our album comes out it’s going to raise a couple of eyebrows because it mightn’t necessarily be that folk-esque route that everyone seems to think we belong in. I think that’s because we service the song musically – we figure out what the song is going to be like at its core. We write the lyrics to the song and the music serves that as best we can, so if it means there’s a random synth in there its just part and parcel of the music.”
Literature and film are huge influences in their songwriting, as song titles like “Harper Lee”, “The John Wayne” and “Goodbye Blue Monday” suggest. “Stephen is a huge fan of Charles Bukowski and there are a lot of references to him in Stephen’s lyrics. We’re always swapping books and watching films together, and I suppose it’s a nice way to get inspiration, in alternative ways. I know poetry and literature are huge aspects of us as five people, and as a group.” The album title is a Bukowski reference, and along with the album artwork it is significant to the band in distancing themselves from any niche or genre, and does not give any hints as to the sound of the music inside. “We didn’t want to have a flashy image. In some respects it is simplistic, but it’s something you can look at and think about,” Faye says of the album artwork. “The front and the back covers together are a piece of art. Again, it doesn’t say too much about what the music is. It gives you a chance to make up your own mind, which is what I think it’s all about. The viewers or the listeners can interpret what it means for themselves. We can only go so far – it’s [the listener’s] perception really.”
Are they ever afraid that media hype, which can be both a blessing and a curse, will claim another victim? “We’ve been in a band since we were very young, so there was a lot of apprehension about what would happen when we got to this stage. It’s all kind of like, bam bam bam, really quick,” says Faye. “But because we’re so busy and still writing all the time, I don’t think we’re necessarily too worried about what’s going to happen because we have a product we’re really happy with. It means so much to us. There are moments of pressure, but you just have to keep your head down and get on with what’s really important.”
Judging by what we’ve heard so far, Little Green Cars will have nothing to worry about.
Absolute Zero will be released on April 26th.