Of all the albums out today, on this very busy New Music Friday, it’s quite possible – probable, even – that Pillow Queens here have produced our favourite. An absolute blast from start to finish, ‘In Waiting’ is a whirlwind of camaraderie and feelings, both joyous in its warmth and fearless in its delivery. Frankly, we don’t have enough good words to spew here. A 5* album? Go on then, have all the stars. Sarah Corcoran (vocals, guitar, bass) tells us more about one of our favourite new acts.
Hi Sarah, how’s it going? Are you guys enjoying summer so far?
It’s going very well, all things considered! Summer has been more uneventful than we’re used to, but we’ve been using the downtime to put the finishing touches to our record which has been exciting.
Tell us about your band, then. Who are you all, and where did you meet? Whose idea was it to start making music?
So the band is me, Pamela, Cathy & Rach. We all met separately along the way because Ireland is a very small country and it’s even smaller when you’re part of the queer scene. We made the decision to start a band in late 2016 after a game of basketball. The pints started flowing, and we bonded over our love of music and our lack of skill in anything sport-related and decided to start Pillow Queens!
Can you remember the first song you wrote together?
Not really to be honest. It was a bit of a whirlwind for the first two years. Lots of very clunky demos being shaped into songs. Lots of learnings. Lots of mistakes. Tons of live shows. More learning. It was a really cool journey getting to where we are now. Our writing styles have grown so much over our time together, but it’s only really been this last batch of songs that really capture the essence of Pillow Queens as a four-piece. We all have our stamp on the songs, which is a really great thing to be able to say.
What do you most enjoy writing about? Is there a particular vibe you aim for?
We have never sat down and made a decision to write about certain themes or try to strive for a certain vibe. I think we’re lucky in so far as we have a lot of similar interests and influences, so they’re a common thread throughout our songs. Sometimes someone will bring a song to the table, and the response is ‘that’s not very pillow queeny’, but once everyone’s put their stamp on it becomes a whole lot more Pillow Queeny.
Your debut album’s really great, how long has it been in the works for?
Thank you! I think in a way that album’s been in the works since we were all teenagers. There are a lot of influences on there which attached themselves to us in our early teens and never left. Themes that we’ve been carrying around with us for years that we’ve finally found an outlet for. The writing and recording process was incredibly cathartic, and it’s really cool how comfortable we all feel around each other in how we express ourselves. That’s been noticeable from the beginning of the band. From a structural perspective, though, we started the recording process last November. I’m not sure if you know, but Ireland is a very very cold country and swimming in the sea is seen as a brave task even in the depths of summertime, so we decided to kick off the album recording process with a very brave (and brief) dip in the Atlantic Ocean. 10/10 would recommend it if you wanna write an album like ours.
Did you hit upon any unexpected challenges while putting it together? Pandemic aside, of course.
Good question. I wonder if the pandemic hadn’t struck in such a dramatic way would we have found other things to complain about. We had meetings booked with potential labels and distributors, which all fell by the wayside once the pandemic struck. It was such a knock, but we built our own label from the ground up and made connections across the world just by being really open and honest about the support we needed. We were met with hugely supportive responses and have been able to power on. It’s cool to know that we can be vulnerable and that not negatively affect people’s opinions of us.
Are you nervous about releasing it during such a weird time?
Not in the slightest, which is weird. It feels like everyone in the entire world is at camp together right now. Everyone’s bonding over this weird, surreal time and suddenly it’s coming to the end of camp, and we’ve prepared this singalong we’re going to do by the campfire, and everyone seems to be buzzing about it. We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished, and it’s all building up to this release, so we’re very excited for people to finally hear it.
If you had to pick one’ favourite thing’ about the record, what would it be?
Maybe the end of the closing track ‘Donaghmede’. Maybe it’s because I know the layers that went into it from a musical and production sense, but to me, it’s just a really epic song, and it really soundtracks the weirdness of the moment. “I feel so safe in the warm embrace of the northern bay” being repeated over this drone grunge guitar mixed with synth layers and feedback feels just like the juxtaposition of releasing a piece of work we’re really proud of against the backdrop of a pandemic: that or the artwork. The artwork is sick.
What inspires you, both in music and in life?
I could probably answer the same to both, and that is my friends. I feel really lucky to know so many incredible artists in Ireland and across the world who I’m proud to call friends. Watching them grow and evolve and struggle and come back fighting is the most inspiring thing to me.
What would you most like to achieve with Pillow Queens? What’s on the bucket list?
Our bucket list is a very real and physical thing that we’ve been crossing things off pretty proactively for the last two years. Next on the cards is an Aussie tour, a Triple J Like A Version session, a US tour and a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. So specific, but hey it’s worked for us so far!
Pillow Queens’ album ‘In Waiting’ is out now.