You know that new sound you’re looking for? Dublin noise quartet Girl Band may have found it.
As long as there have been electric guitars passionate players have searched for unique sounds to summon from the belly of the six-stringed beast — seeking to lay claim to a wee bit of fuzzy amplified tone to call their very own. During the final hour of SXSW Saturday, i.e., Sunday morning at 1 a.m., the misleadingly named Girl Band (none of whose members are female) brought their noise rock to Latitude 30 for the closing set at this year’s British Music Embassy, and the fury they unleashed was unlike anything I can put my finger on.
It’s a common problem for the band. If you manage to successfully Google navigate your way to Girl Band and find the four gentlemen from Ireland you’ll see people, including the band, tend to have a hard time describing their sound or listing comparables. The “grunge” label gets thrown out there, and while that doesn’t feel right to my ears there were brief milliseconds of Kurt-ness in their live show that I picked up on before being able to blame someone else for incepting that label in my head.
Singer Dara Kiely took to the stage blond and handsome, a sweet, clean-looking guy with a Chris Hemsworth/Hollister model look that might have led the uninitiated to think we were about to see some light beer-sipping pop rock. Then Kiely starts singing. In his gentler mode, there’s a delay before he falls into his lines — like he’s pulling in a quick gasp of air where you or I might naturally start singing if in his shoes. His cadence and annunciation has the slacker-like, stuffy nasal sound of Stephen Malkmus or the Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison. (There are definitely some D-Plan vibes in the drumming too.) But he’s not afraid to bare his teeth and go for the growl.
Save for the drums, which are inhumanly perfect whether maintaining a techno beat loop for six minutes or swapping funky time signatures and tempos on a dime three times a song, all of the elements of Girl Band’s sound seemed to have two modes. There’s a clear sense of on and off, left and right. It’s minimal post-punk that gets furiously loud but isn’t always running.
While other noise rockers have guitar and bass that sound abrasive, Girl Band’s sound like they’re coming from machines. Alan Duggan’s guitar is television static nails on a rusty chalkboard, and he shifted it sharply from the left to right speakers in the venue for a surprisingly cool, jarring effect on some tunes. Daniel Fox’s bass sounded like twisting oscillator knobs, accomplished through a unique and fun-to-watch style of sliding and bending those fat bass strings until stretched to a point I assumed would be far past breaking.
While there’s a hardcore rage to their energy that fans of Metz will find appealing, throughout it all there was a danceable undercurrent courtesy the bass and drums that the packed house at Latitude 30 responded to. (No moshing here, though it would have been equally appropriate.)
Girl Band is off to California for a few shows next week wrapping up their first brief trip to the states before heading back to the UK.