The Virginmarys are Ally Dickaty (lead vocals, guitar), Danny Dolan (drums), and Matt Rose (bass) and they are back in the U.S. in continued support of their 2013 full-length debut, King of Conflict. Having hitched their touring wagon to L.A. rockers Buckcherry, they are currently winding their way across America before wrapping things up April 19 in Lubbock, Texas.
Digital Diversion caught up with the trio in Campbell, California for a pre-show chat on their tour bus which found the guys mildly jet-lagged and still sorting out tour logistics (but not without remnants of their first stop at In-N-Out) as we discussed song-writing, tour necessities and threesomes.
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You guys haven’t played too much in the US … only one previous tour. How would you describe yourselves for someone who hasn’t heard you yet?
Ally: Intense urgent rock and roll music.
Danny: Yeah, same really … just a new face and no bullshit rock and roll.
And is it true that the band name came from a strip club in Los Angeles?
Danny: Yes, somewhere in there. San Fernando Valley somewhere I think.
You are on a tour with what Buckcherry now, just hitting the second day of the tour. How did the tour come about for you?
Ally: It was actually quite recent, wasn’t it? It was a month and a half ago, I think, that we got invited out. It’s great to be back in the States again playing shows.
There has been quite a bit of buzz since the record [King of Conflict] came out last year. You won an award for breakthrough rock band at the UK Classic Rock Awards. Why was 2013 a breakout year for you?
Danny: I mean realistically we kind of started seriously maybe three years ago. We met our manager and made our first EP and I think from there it always has been building up to what our debut album would be, so I guess it’s a lot of that really. I think last year when the album come out was everything that we’d worked for for three previous years to put into [it]. So yeah, that’s why I think it was the breakout year for us.
What took so long to get to the LP? You self-released a few EPs over the last five or six years before you got around to it.
Danny: It was 2010 when we released the first EP and then that was when we first started touring around the UK and got out of Macclesfield where we are from. And then after a year, we had a lot of new other new songs that we had written and it was like we didn’t really have enough money to make a full album so we did another EP and then did another tour for a year and vice versa with the third one. And then after three, it was like we can’t really do a fourth EP so it was just at the right time to do the album then, I think.
And is that about the time that you got signed to a proper label?
Ally: We were going to release the album ourselves because we gained a good following for that time but then, when we had a product there, it was enough that we got interest from labels and chose to go down that road to get more promotion and then to make the whole thing bigger.
Do you feel like going with the label has worked out in your favor?
Danny: In our minds we were going to release the album independently, just like we did with the EPs. And then obviously we did get a lot of interest and we spoke about it with our manager. It just seemed like the right time where it was like we kind of need to sign with a label to try and help us get into the next level as far as promoting it and getting it out to more people. So I think that’s the real reason why we went with it rather than sticking with ourselves because we just needed that extra leg up to try and put it out there and it definitely was the right choice, you know I mean. We never would have got the label lined up in America, we never would have toured in America, probably never would have done all the European gigs we did and we never would have got the Japanese label as well. So it was just the next stepping stone for us, I think … what we were all after which is getting the music out to as many people as we possibly can.
Matt: We also found it important to make sure we picked a record company that wasn’t going to be overly-demanding on what you write and what you do. We’re fortunate that here in the States they have been really kind of cool and just let us do what we do. I like to think that they see it as, “well you know we signed them for doing what they do so let’s let them do that.” I think it’s the same with all the labels in UK, Japan and USA they are all like that, you know.
So one of the things I find interesting about you guys is the diverse set of influences that you’ve stated. Anywhere from blues, the classic rock, all the way to Nirvana, grunge and even punk rock sometimes. How does that all come together in your sound?
Matt: We never closed ourselves off … we listen to everything that’s good. And I think when you write, that is your influence though we don’t ever try to sound like … we’d try and move away really if it was sounding like someone else. I guess you get more inspired rather … we’ve never really tried to sound like anyone. So maybe there’ll be like a blues part of guitar but then it will be put in like a punk-type song. I don’t know, it just seems to manifest somehow.
And it somehow manages to be a cohesive album rather than having one blue song and one rock song and one –
Matt: I think that you got to be careful with stuff like that because if you’ve got loads of influences, then it would be easy, like you are saying, to do one track that is quite bluesy and the other one is like classic rock, the other one is quite grungy. I think you lose an identity there … you are not aware of what kind of band you are and I think it was important to us that we’ve got our identity. This is what we are. We are an amalgamation of all those different sounds you might say and I think it comes across quite well.
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I think part of who you are also is a threesome … I guess that sounds bad …
Danny: How we got together! [all laughing]
Let’s see, how many bunks are there in here?
Matt: That’s how we met, we met during a threesome.
Danny: It was like, “yeah let’s get a band together!”
When you write music, do you keep that in mind? The reason I ask is because you have bands that start out as three pieces [not threesomes] and then they kind of grow into something more over time and you see them at a show and they’ve got eight people on stage.
Danny: I think a lot of it is to do with … just from jamming in the practice room each person kind of has their section. They have to get as much noise, I suppose, out of it because we don’t want it to sound like a three piece, we want it to sound like a five piece but as a three piece. So I think there is a lot of that. I think in each person’s mind it’s kind of like, I have to make this sound as big and fill as much gap as I possibly can.
Matt: We were aware if it weren’t … when we were recording the album … that obviously you can layer and put in too many different guitars and sounds and stuff and then you lose it. So when you get to play it live, people are like, “what the fuck is this, this isn’t what I heard!” When we recorded the album, it was just the three of us but the tracks you hear in the back is just the three of us playing and we picked the best take that we had of that and that was the basis for the track. And then obviously in regards to over-dubs, Ally just put bits in just to beef it up a bit. But obviously there is not too much in there to make it sound like you are saying … [no] keyboard player, six other guitarists and stuff.
You’ve described yourself as “dynamic,” as a “live” and “touring” band. How does that translate into the song writing process?
Danny: I think in general, Ally will bring the song to the practice room but is not like a precious thing. It’s not like he says, “right, it’s got to be like this, the drums have got to be like this.” So it’s literally like he brings it and then everybody piles in and we jam over it. It could start out as one song and then turn into something completely different. So I think luckily there is a massive element between the three of us where anybody can put their own impression on it and their own expression. So I think for now anyway, that’s the way it is going.
Matt: I think with the three piece as well, we know that it’s got to sound full and it’s got to sound right and if it’s sounding too sparse, we just won’t use it. So stuff will get jammed over and if it’s not right, then it just gets saved maybe for something else.
And do you find yourself road-testing songs before you put them down?
Danny: Yeah, we like to as much as we can. Before we came out [to the U.S.] we did like 19 demos for our new songs and obviously, because they are so new, we just want to play the new songs but people still want to hear what’s on the album. So I think, for instance, we’ll be doing like two new songs on this tour.
“New” meaning they haven’t been released yet?
Danny: Yeah, brand new. This will be the first time we play them.
Ally: They went down ace yesterday [Anaheim] so we got a lot of people saying that they love them. So that’s always good.
Looking forward to hearing those. You just released a video for “Just a Ride” which I think is one of my favorite song off the record. Would you say that that is a good representation of your live show?
Matt: We don’t have a couple making out. [laughing]
Oh, that’s not part of the show?
Matt: Not yet but who knows, the mood might take …
Ally: We haven’t got the budget yet for that.
Matt: I think it betrays a certain attitude and intensities.
But you do have some more live band action shots in there.
Ally: Yeah, of course and you are never going to quite capture how you are and all what the vibe is until you actually go out there to see the live performance.
I understand you are working on the next project and already have a number of songs. Do you feel any pressure?
Ally: No, I think it’s a good pressure. There is always that pressure that we would put on ourselves. There would be a hell of a lot more pressure if the material wasn’t there or there was a drought of ideas but there really isn’t, so it’s exciting.
Danny: Yeah, I get that vibe. I’m genuinely a lot more excited about this record than I was the first which is really strange because I was massively excited about the first one but I just can already sense from the way Al is writing that it’s going to be a progression. It’s not going to be like the first record which is brilliant; I’m just excited to get it out and get it done, you know.
And any idea when that will come out?
Danny: We definitely want to put it out as soon as we can. I think the plan is … certainly in our minds … that we record it this year and put it out as early as we can next year.
Ally: We’ve released “Just A Ride” over there and it’s gotten into top 40 … we are in the rock stations. So I guess it depends on whether they [the label] want to release another single … sadly for us, if you’re really eager to get something out, there does have to be some kind of strategy for the good of all. We’ll just make a stronger product anyway, if we’ve got more time.
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And I understand you have Sonisphere coming up in July? Which bands are you most excited to be sharing the same stage with?
Matt: It’s easy for me. Prodigy for me.
Ally: Chas & Dave.
Matt: Yeah, Chas & Dave would be pretty cool actually.
Danny: Wow, I don’t know actually…
Ally: I think Deftones are playing, are they?
Danny: I think I’m the same as Matt here. Prodigy … will be amazing to be on the same stage as them.
Matt: Sonisphere is a great festival.
Danny: It’s not been in the UK for a couple of years … like a two year hiatus … so it’s nice that it’s back. The last time we played there was one of the best rock shows we’ve ever done.
It’s got a pretty phenomenal line up this year.
Matt: Yeah, I think that Metallica are doing a “by request” so hopefully a load of early stuff for me.
Ally: Are Maiden playing?
Danny: Yeah, Maiden are playing.
Ally: I’ve never seen Maiden play live.
Danny: Yeah, I think that would be cool to watch them.
You guys are in for a treat. My first metal show ever was Iron Maiden. One last question … when you are on tour, what one luxury item do you have to have?
Ally: I’ve got to have Yorkshire Gold tea bags. It’s like a British tea bag that I have to have.
Danny: What do I have to have …? Well, I’ve got my books with me this time, so that’s cool to sort of do a lot of reading.
Danny: Yeah, I try to take as little as I can, I suppose.
What about you, Matt?
Matt: Probably my home perming kit. I like to get a tight curl every now and then, you know. [laughing] I don’t know man, I guess being able to have music is always nice. That’s like quite luxury. I always buy CDs, I never download anything. But I will say that it is nice to be able to put my CDs on to my computer and get ‘em onto my MP3 player so I can bring a lot of my CDs with me and have them. So yeah for technology!
Ally: It’s always amazing to have Wi-Fi on the bus and you can keep your contact with fans that you gained from the last show and spread the love.
Well, I’m looking forward to the show tonight. Thanks a lot for sharing your time for the interview.
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