- 23 Jul 19
Since forming in 2016, Pillow Queens have quickly become one of Ireland’s brightest new acts. Here, the band’s guitarist Sarah Corcoran takes us on a stroll through the Dublin that she loves….
Rising Irish stars, Pillow Queens, burst onto the scene with their debut EP Calm Girls in late 2016. Since then they’ve been championed by Hot Press, lauded by every critic worth their salt, hailed by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamaq as “deceptively infectious, with sharp hooks and sharp nails”, and been nominated for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for their single, ‘Gay Girls’. At present Pillow Queens are hard at work on their debut full-length album, due for release in 2020.
“It’s been going really well,” guitarist Sarah tells us. “We were so intimidated by the process of making an album that we were kind of running from it, thinking, ‘No, we’re not ready!’ Then we realised we just needed to do it in dribs and drabs and it began to come together. We’ve recorded three songs so far and the rest are taking shape now.” Before jumping back into the hard graft of recording, Sarah kindly took some time out to be Best of Dublin’s rock ‘n’ roll guide for 2019…
LIVE & LOUD
Sarah will spend most of the summer on the road with Pillow Queens, rocking some of the nation’s biggest festivals. However, she still prefers the magic of getting up-close-and-personal with an audience on Dublin’s more intimate stages.
“The Workman’s Club (10 Wellington Quay, D2) is our favourite venue to play. There’s always a good vibe and I think everyone there is really interested in checking out new music. You never have to convince a Workman’s crowd: they’re guaranteed to be on your side from the get-go. I’m really into that! It also has one of the best smoking areas in the country (laughs). Even if you don’t smoke, you’ll still end up hanging out in the smoking area at some stage during the night!”
As a fan, Sarah gravitates towards seeing gigs at one of Dublin’s more hallowed halls.
“Whelan’s (25 Wexford Street D2) is just the right size. It’s quite an intimate venue and looking at the names on the walls, it’s amazing,” she marvels. “It’s obvious that it’s been a home to so many incredible artists over the years.”
Everyone from Jeff Buckley, Ed Sheeran and Nick Cave to Arctic Monkeys, Lisa Hannigan and The National have graced the stage at this Southside institution at various points during their rise to stardom.
“To catch a band on the way up, when they’re still playing venues that size, can be a really special occasion. I remember seeing Mitski in Whelan’s a few years ago, before she got massive over here. That was just phenomenal.”
Where a good traditional music session is required, Sarah tends to follow her more knowledgeable bandmates.
“If there’s one going, then sign me up,” she says. “The rest of the girls in Pillow Queens are mad for it. We used to practice up in Harold’s Cross and afterwards there’d be the usual, ‘Will we go for a pint?’ We’d always end up at the Cobblestone (77 King Street North, D7) in Smithfield, even though it wasn’t remotely near our practice room! There’s always a great trad session happening there.”
GET IN THE VAN
With a full summer of gigs (both outdoor and indoor) on the cards, it’s inevitable that the Queens are going to run into some issues with their road-worn gear. When guitar strings and drumskins break, is there somewhere they rely on to replace or rejuvenate their ailing equipment?
“I have to say Musicmaker (29 Exchequer Street, D1). Everybody who works there is so helpful and kind. If you want to try out a new pedal or amp, they’ll let you sit there for hours and talk you through every feature on it. A lot of them are musicians themselves; they really understand that you mightn’t have the money to spend on rakes of gear so that you can experiment with different sounds. They do repairs in-store now too, so any time we’re going on tour we’re like, ’I know there’s nothing wrong with my guitar, but I just want to check’.”
The Pillow Queens currently practice at Yellow Door Music Studios (North Dock, D3) in East Wall, home to the best and brightest of the Dublin music scene.
“We share a space with Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital and Loah,” Sarah says. “Girl Band are in the room next door to us and any time they plug in, we’re like, ‘Alright, better call it a day’, because you can’t fucking hear anything (laughs)! It’s really special because you can go out into the communal area to make a cup of tea and you bump into everyone from the local music scene.”
Most of those same faces are stocked in any one of Dublin’s fantastic record stores.
“If I’m looking to buy music, The Record Spot (16B Fade Street, D1) is probably my favourite place right now. The fact that they stock a lot of Irish music is brilliant. That’s usually what I’m searching for when I go to buy vinyl. I’m more often than not looking for Irish bands, because this is a special moment in Irish music and I want to capture it properly. I want to have the vinyl in my hand – that’s important.”
THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
Where would Sarah bring friends on their first trip to the capital?
“I couldn’t not bring them to Street 66 on Parliament Street in Temple Bar (D2). That’s our go-to place. It’s dog friendly, they do delicious cocktails, there’s music on a Friday and Saturday night and the staff are just absolutely lovely. That would be number one. Then I’d probably bring them to the Hacienda (44 Arran Street East, D7), because it’s such an exclusively Dublin thing that this tiny pub has such a huge place in everyone’s heart. All of my friends have at least one story, if not countless stories from the Hacienda.
“They walked in and fucking Ed Sheeran was in there having a pint and they were like, ‘What the fuck is this pub?!’ Shay, who runs the bar, welcomes you with open arms and it’s always an incredible night. Even Ed Sheeran has to wait for his pint with everyone else when Shay goes to open the door!”
For food, Sarah recommends heading towards Capel Street, D1 which is lined with purveyors of delectable delights.
“Currently, our favourite is a great Vietnamese soup place called Aobaba. We’re obsessed with it,” she says. “Then, across the river, there’s Coke Lane Pizza, which is out the back of Lucky’s on Meath Street (D7). They, honestly, do the best pizza that I’ve ever had. They also have a really nice smoking area in Lucky’s, that has been done up by local artists. Obviously, Boojum is a staple and Umi Falafel. Also, Yamamori is delicious, I could go on and on!”
While Sarah is effusive about her love for many a Dublin eatery and watering hole, when asked about the best spots for fashion she bluntly offers a hands-up, “I don’t have a fucking clue!” With a conciliatory smile, she proffers a solitary recommendation. “The men’s section in Bershka (Jervis Shopping Centre, D1). I don’t think they realise that they’re actually a lesbian shop!”
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
So, what does she like best about Dublin?
“Probably everyone says this,” she muses, “but the best thing is the people. I know when I travel I’m always assessing whether I could live in the places I visit. Usually, even if you can get 9 out of 10 things you’d want from a place, you’ll never get the same people as you have in Dublin. There’s the craic that you can have when you randomly sit next to someone on a bus – they make some comment and you end up having a laugh for the whole journey – I don’t think that would happen anywhere else, and if it did people would probably write movie scripts about it. But it’s just the everyday in Dublin, which I love.”
And now for the quick fire round: Who is your Dublin hero?
“Panti Bliss. What a legend!”
Favourite Dublin song?
“‘Big’ by Fontaines D.C. We were at Forbidden Fruit this year and it was absolutely pouring down with rain. Fontaines came on the main stage with this huge rumbling drum beat and Grian’s voice singing, ‘Dublin in the rain is mine…’ It was just like, ‘Yes!’ There was such empowerment in it.”
And finally – who are Sarah’s favourite Dublin band?
“There’s so many, but I think I have to go with Burnt Out. They were a collective from northside Dublin and they put out incredible music that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. I think everyone should check them out.”