Interview with The Virginmarys

By: Song River

Forming back in 2009 in a small market town known as, Macclesfield in England, three blokes with their eye on making rock feel honest and true came about to create a punk sound known as The Virginmarys. Having toured extensively with stage acts like: Slash, Skunks Anansie, Eagles of Death Metal, Ash and countless others in 2013 The Virginmarys took home the award for Best Break Through Act at the Classic Rock Awards. Bandmates Ally Dickaty [lead vocals, guitar], Danny Dolan [drums, backing vocals], and Matt Rose [bass, backing vocals] have released several EP's Cast the First Stone (2010), Just a Ride (2011), Portrait of Red (2011), and Dead Man's Shoes (2012), along with their full-length album, King of Conflict in 2013, and their latest album, Divides is set for release in May 2016. A pure genre of rock, that brings an honesty delivery of smashing new music. All from the heart, all made to be played loud, and certainly sent with a punkish 'tude of in your face. Ally's vocals scream truth, the guitar breakdowns rage, Matt pumps the bass and licks the backing vocals, as Danny beats the daylights out of true rock n roll. This is The Virginmarys.

The Virginmarys
Photo Credit: Alex Wright

Song River: Hey Ally, how are you doing and what time is it over there in the UK?

Ally Dickaty: It is four o' clock here in the afternoon. What time is it there?

SR: It is 8 am and I need more coffee.

AD: So sorry, oh my. [laughed]

SR: Watching your latest video release, “Into Dust.” Where was this shot?

AD: Ah, cool. It was shot about twenty miles from where we are based and it's a big film studio the director set up. It was a really cool day.

SR: The film director really seemed to capture the songs message well.

AD: Yes, I think he did as well.

SR: What are those white things falling down in the video?

AD: [laughed] They were kind of like 'flashing marbles.'

SR: Wow, really sweet. I am super digging on this video. Really the whole album is just amazing Ally. Your sound is real rock n roll and it comes across.

AD: So glad to hear, that was our whole intention we started writing it. We wanted when someone played our music they could hear something real, you know? It's real.

SR: You seemed to have translated something that seems has been missing on this album.

AD: I think it's sad when a band feels that they have to sit down and write music to what they think is popular or happening at the moment. It's not really art then, it's not heartfelt or original. We've been listening to music since birth and of course, we are going to be influenced, but we are diverse in what we like and listen to.

SR: Definitely noticed the diversity in not only your tastes in music, but also in the historical timeline of music. Those qualities reflect in your style. Do you feel since you've such a broad range that you can comfortably slip in to where ever in the music scene?

AD: I think that we are all very capable musicians. We have mastered a craft, it's more than just wanting to play a few chords. I think we could go into any genre and give it a go, but this what we are and what comes out naturally to us.

SR: Did you work with Gil Norton on this newest album, Divides?

AD: Yes, yes we did. That was a dream come true. We had walked into the label and asked them what producer they had in mind. We liked the Pixie's and Foo Fighters... and Gil had always created a clarity in his work. We didn’t want the sound to get lost. We were lucky enough that our label had submitted our demos to Gil and he liked us and wanted to work with us.

SR: Did you find Gil leaving enough open space for you to put your mark on what you wanted to create?

AD: Yes, certainly. And of course, that was a concern of mine going into it, but Gil was very open minded to whatever idea we had. He would play around and develop an idea we would have. That to us was amazing for a producer to do that I think.

SR: Your album carries a certain social commentary. Which is what of course punk would bring. I heard so many elements that you all seem to be comfortable touching. Has music become your social platform to speak about what you think about things in some ways?

AD: I think it is. I mean bands in the 60's and 70's it was quite a common place for bands to be political. You had Dylan, Hendrix then it went into the punk movement. I think it needs to be shaken up a bit again. You switch on the radio and it all sounds the same, very cliché. That’s okay, but we never wrote an album thinking we had answers, but more of we see a lot of unhappiness and inequality going around. We want to take this as an outlet to let it throw a positive in an art form.

SR: We became it seems very apathetic for a while. Many were making great money, had the big house, the two new cars the 2.5 kids, the big vacations... there wasn't anything to fight for. Did that period of time produce apathetic art in some ways? What has the shift been here recently that is saying it is time to speak out again?

AD: Well, um for me personally, I have been sober now for three years, as I used to drink a hell of a lot
and medicate. I feel like now my eyes have been open. You read and observe and you see why people head into drugs and that way of life. You see it and understand it. I think society may be getting more disillusioned. Maybe that is the shift in the music, which is really welcomed in my eyes.

SR: Without the arts where can we go? It is our outlet to expression.

AD: That's a good point. At times, I think it may speak deeper than just words can.

SR: Music in many ways can be very cathartic, healing when we are confused or hurt or even in love.

AD: Exactly. I know our lyrics can feel dark, but I had a fan write me recently about Dust and she felt that it was speaking to how she felt. It made her really happy. It's funny, it's not all about what I think the song might mean- but how the person takes it.

SR: Does music need to be more than just a 4x4 rock stand?

AD: I don’t think it has to be a 4x4. I think the main thing it has, to be honest, and not contrived. Even simple as long as it gets the message across. I listen to a lot of hip-hop music that is in your face and intense. I don’t think there is a formula, I think you feel whether the artist is coming from being real and honest.

SR: The youth is very savvy on seeing through it.
AD: Yes, I would hope that the shift is that people are getting tired of it. I think this is the first time since the X-Factor started over here, that it may not continue, due to the low ratings. People can see. Truth can be seen.

SR: Looking at the cover art used for the single release, “Into the Dust” and the projection of the young person on it looks like a period out of the 20's-30's in a setting. There must be something to this single that is resonating with the younger generation, as you obviously had a young person contact you even about the song. Is this something you had intended when it was written?

AD: No. The main thing when I write I am trying to vocalize and be honest about how I am feeling. There is an art form to and to put the words in the right places. I think people will think it is cool because it is real.

SR: You had actually produced two videos for “Into the Dust.”

AD: Yes. We did. We were asked to do a lyric video. And there is a girl from our town who is just a natural and incredible. We gave it to a friend of ours, and her daughter listened to it and then mouthed the lyrics in the video. And then we used a young guy from our town to be on the front cover of the single release. We are really happy with how it all turned out.

SR: The young ladies name is Lily. How old is she? Did fame in the video change her?

AD: She is 11 or 12 I think. No, no I don't think so. I haven’t seen her since then, but she's just an incredible person.

SR: How are you handling the recognition?

AD: It was funny as we are on tour with Shinedown and people are recognizing us. It's so funny. It's great.

SR: Where is the best place for your fans to experience your music? A coliseum, festival or a local pub?

AD: [laughed] all three of them!


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The Virginmarys "Into the Dust"