Sunday, July 25, 2010

I have played music on and off for my whole life,

starting very young with the Violin (I was a Suzuki child) but I think I pretended to play most of the time. We had a piano at home and a guitar and when I was about 8 or 9 I formed a band called 'Eco' pronounced 'Echo' (to this day I defend my misspelling as a form of creativity and not deficiency! Although I'm glad for spell-check technologies). I started writing surrealist lyrics around that time too and was told by a guitarist-Mom who had children in the same primary school as me that I had great song writing potential. I played Keyboards for awhile, and then eventually the harp, although I really disliked the posh and competitive element of the classical approach and was hyper aware of what I now recognise as class divisions, even though my parents could afford the music lessons and stuff (they felt spending money on such things was important which I think is significant to my experience - how free I was to try different things). At 10 or 11 I was a late beginner for harp and that was added pressure. I had to take music theory lessons alongside harp in the Royal Irish Academy and remember getting 98% in one test when all the other younger kids got 100%. They were extremely mean and it was hard to feel able to express myself openly, be creative or even openly curious with the instrument when I was in an environment which emphasised a false showyness and was directly linked to an economic class. I went for a one week harp tuition holiday in the Irish countryside one Summer and caught a stomach bug from my roommate. One of the harp-ladies (real stuck up bitches) left me upstairs puking on my own with a can of flat 7-up all day, saying, 'we couldn't have you do something untoward in front of the old ladies in the dining hall'. They called dinner 'high-tea' on the programme. Needless to say I decidedly gave up the harp having had these bad experiences, which I think is a real pity because I love traditional Irish music and feel it's close to my cultural identity as an Irish person.

When I was 17 I was going out with a fella from school who's younger brother played the drums. I was fascinated with the drum kit and wanted to know how it worked. I had no idea having only really listened to dance music up to that point (I was a dancer all my life). Colm (the brother) showed me the notation and soon I was learning bits and pieces and playing every time I called around. Then I saught out lessons and got lucky with a fantastic teacher, Paul Cantwell, in what was yet to become the Irish Drum Academy. It stuck fast. I was very good at sight reading and I found the excercises addictive, even before I owned a drum kit. I got a drum kit off a boy down the road who was a musician, who had himself inherited the drums from another boy on a different street in the estate where we lived. Eventually, my teacher Paul gave me a good deal on a handsome kit which he needed rid off to free up some space in his lock-up. I never looked back. Colm actually regained his interested in the drums when I surpassed him in skill! I think he's studying music now...

After playing the drums for awhile the next step for learning was to play with other musicians. I got into a band with some boys I knew from school - guess it was in my first year of college. I had drummed for a talent competition in my final year, but that was before I found my own style and was still playing off crappy tabs from the internet. We were called cadenza and were mostly awful, but had lots of fun and usually met up to hang out in one of the guy's shed and smoke a lot of weed and laugh a lot. I would have been about 18 or 19 then. Soon after that a drummer friend told me a woman was looking for a female drummer on the gigsmart forum and I immediately responded. Cara had placed that add two years previously! We got together and started swapping ideas. We found another woman who I went to college with and started Pinboy Skinny - I would have been about 19 then I'd say. Pinboy Skinny recorded five brilliant songs and broke up without ever playing a gig. I was heart broken and stopped playing the drums for awhile. I then met Alan and we started playing music together, eventually forming StarKicking which brought me back into my drumming self.

(Poster I discovered today while clearing out my room at home, which
artist Ross Clarke (mentioned here) produced for an art and music event I organised back in the Star Kicking days. Have some cool footage of that gig somewhere too...)

I also started playing really heavy grunge music with a guy called Kenner under the name 'Killateen'. We met online and exchanged some tapes. It was relatively short lived, but still worth mentioning. My most vivid memory of Killateen is having green hair-dye running down my face and arms from sweating so much. YUSS.
During that time (my temporal memory is non-linear so I think in hair styles... I had bobbed red hair in Starkicking...), Starkicking used to play weekly gigs downstairs in the International Bar, hauling gear to town from BLANCH every week. Cara came to see a gig of ours and a couple of weeks later asked me if I wanted to start a new band. I think I jumped at the chance and Party Weirdo was born shortly after and soon took priority.

Sarah (the third member of Pinboy Skinny) had introduced me to Riot Grrrl, so by the time I was a member of Party Weirdo my feminist self was fully alive and negotiating all this anger and joy at having discovered a lasting passion. I loved everything about the drums, the physicality mostly but also the performance - how I could grab the attention of audiences and engage people in a non-verbal, fun way and make them wanna move! Making music was a hugely positive experience for me and was just what my personality and ego needed as a young wild woman. In the final year of college all I did was write and play drums all day and all night. It was just myself and my Mam living in the house then and I had the run of the place. It was one of the best feelings ever, complete immersion. I did really well in my dissertation too. Having had no interest in academic achievement up until that point I exploded all over the final year of college and achieved the highest award granted to an undergrad thesis in the country that year. That was a huge achievement for me and something that fueled a whole new level of ambition and determination for myself. I directly attribute my academic success to drumming and making music. Discovering Riot Grrrl also encouraged me to start singing and playing the bass and the guitar and taking my own composition seriously, which then led to the formation of other bands, Janey Mac being the product of most of my guitar based music and later when I lived in Berlin, Holy Ghost Toast.

After Party Weirdo broke up, I was fatigued and stopped playing the drums for awhile. I worked with a few different types of performers, dancer Deirdre Murphy for awhile, but having moved out of my family home at that stage, I had no access to a drum-space and my head was in a non-drum space. I wrote a lot of angsty guitar music and began getting experimental.

Eventually I knew I needed a kick to get me back into drumming, and felt I needed to commit and become highly disciplined or else bail and concentrate on other things. I also felt myself moving away from the gig and music writing formats I had become familiar with as an active musician. I had begun working with visual media and writing with theatre and performance in mind. I had also become involved in the variety, cabaret and burlesque scenes in Dublin, which was a complete departure from the shambolic, punkish performances I had been enjoying with Party Weirdo. But I wasn't ready to let go of my drumming self and with my yet to be recognised potential for physical heft in mind, I sought a new percussive opportunity.

A band called Sylvan had caught my attention a few times and I wanted desperately to make the kind of hefty, intense music they were playing. When I heard that their bassist had left I practically begged them to let me join when they told me in fact, their drummer had also left and so I should join as a drummer. For a long time I felt like a fake, because I felt unmotivated, unrehearsed and like a pretty measly drummer. Plus, for the first time I was playing with a band of sweaty, math-rock toting males already established within a music scene of complicated boy-noise guitar bands. It took ages to start feeling like a competent drummer again, but the tides are turning and I feel like drumming is once again becoming a really important part of my life. It's SO good for me. SO SO SO good for my soul - my spirit and as domestic as it sounds, my well-being. NERD! Olde-core. We are now called Fringilla Montifringilla and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. It's nice to play with people as urgent about performing and creating as I am.

Although the energy for music comes in waves, I hope it never disappears completely. I have some of my biggest musical endeavors yet to come. I'm making lots of music, drumming with Avanti Maria! intermittently (which has now come to an end since Angeline is playing her way back in N.Z.), and had some shows with United Bible Studies occasionally for a bit, a good while ago at this stage.

Drumming has also really informed my relationship to writing electronic music too, as can be seen by my current bed-time laptop computer project Cixous Ghost. John Dermody of the Jimmy Cake has just joined for the long haul. I'm excited to have such a talented drummer in the band... And of course the beloved Aardvark, Jon Kelly, a sound genius. There's an adventure to be had there, to be sure.

TOTAL Drummer girl.

(In response to questions asked by a Women's Studies student regarding Riot Grrrl and Irish women musicians currently active in Ireland)


  1. That is quite a history with music! I really wanted to go to the gig on Thursday but I couldn't in the end, hope it went well.

  2. Yeah, bit of a non-eventful rant! Thursday wasn't the best, but the next gig in the Lower Deck will be brilliant. Might see you there - make sure to introduce yourself!

  3. v interesting, hope the gig night for Estel went well

  4. I will indeed, when is the next gig?

  5. @ Rosary Beard - how are ya? Write to me! Estel gig was good jah.
    @ Irish - methinks it's the 6th in the Lower Deck... and the 8th in the pint...