Thursday, November 6, 2014

Featuring X: interview

Hailing from Drogheda, Co. Louth, Featuring X have been making waves of late, gigging around the country and performing on national radio. All the more impressive is that the girls are eighteen and nineteen years of age, in their first year of university. I sat down with Featuring X ahead of a gig in DCU to find out about all things rock and roll in their world…
When I first meet Niamh, Dara and Sarah, three of the five members of Featuring X, I’m taken aback by how friendly they seem. Having watched their video for “Wild Love”, featuring the band clad in heavy eyeliner and scowls, I presumed that I was in for a clichéd sulky rock band interview. Afterwards, Sarah notes that “that was actually a really good interview!” and I’m inclined to agree. Affable, chatty and bubbling with energy, there’s an air of excitement around the trio. Excitement that is, of course, warranted. When the band met their manager two years ago, it wasn’t long before they were signed to a label. Fast forward two years, an EP release and a record deal, and the young women have the world to take on, as well as college degrees. “We were on the road all the time [just after their Leaving Certs]” recalls Niamh, fondly. Despite their obvious passion for music, none of the band study it at third level, though college is a place they can share and grow as musicians. They are playing DCU tonight – “just a Halloween thing” that Dara, the band’s guitarist, organised – but later this year will go on tour with The Strypes, another young and hotly tipped Irish rock band, increasing their already large fanbase.
It’s a lot to handle at once. How do they juggle college and being in a band? “it’s easier than it was in sixth year”, they think, as now they’re all based in Dublin with more free time on their hands. “If there’s something on, it’s easier to get to” notes Niamh, especially now that they live in Dublin. “There’s a lot more leeway with college than there was in school”. It’s admirable, all the same, that this group have managed to stay together through the trials and tribulations of the Leaving Cert. and beginning university. 
Aside from their age, the most striking thing about this rock band is that they are all-female. There’s many a rock group with a female vocalist, but only HAIM spring to mind when I consider all female groups. “Does it affect the band?” I ask, pondering if this question was in any way sexist. It seems that it hasn’t been thought about much – there’s a small pause when I ask the question. “In the beginning I think people underestimated the idea of girls playing their own instruments and that kind of thing…They had no expectation for us lasting” Niamh says, and Dara and Sarah agree. “Lads [at gigs] try and help us with our amps and stuff!” But, they think that the tides are turning; Sarah says that younger girls in Drogheda are forming bands now. It’s certainly encouraging: so are their responses when I ask them about breaking the mould. Are Featuring X (whisper it) feminists? “You can call us that if you want, we don’t burn our bras like” shrugs Dara. At this point, I’m beginning to feel deeply uncool…

                                                                                                                      Thankfully, the group hinge just on the right side of scary rock star cool. The typical “influences on the band” question brings giggles. Arctic Monkeys and Alt-J are favourites – but so is Dolly Parton. They listen to her after gigs, Sarah tells me, as a tradition. It’s quirks like this that make Featuring X so likeable, and also reminds us of their youth. After the interview, Sarah says that “it was actually really good” to talk to someone who knows about the band. Local radio stations often think they’re someone else; they’ve been mistaken for soap stars in the past. Hopefully for the vibrant, bubbly students, this won’t be the case for too much longer – if Featuring X keep the trajectory they’re on, world domination can’t be too far off. Check out their Facebook page here and keep an eye out for their Christmas tour with The Strypes, starting in early December. 

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