Having just scraped off the mud of this year’s Download mere hours beforehand, I got a chance to speak once again with The Virginmarys ahead of their first Glasgow show in almost two years and the first night of their latest UK tour. Before we start they take the time to ask how my weekend was, checking out my awesome sunburn. The trio are calm and collected, excited to be back on the road.
Just like last time, I turned to the Official Virginmarys Fan Community to provide some questions, a place full of people who are ridiculously passionate about the band and some of the nicest people you’ll have the pleasure of knowing.
Thanks to tour manager, Alixe for setting us up with the opportunity once again and to Ally, Danny and Matt for taking time out to chat with us.
Welcome back to Glasgow! It’s been quite some time since you played here!
Matt: Yeah, too long! [laughs]
Last time we spoke, Divides was yet to be officially announced and it came out last month, what was the reaction to it?
Danny: So far every review we’ve had has been amazing and the feedback from both in America and the UK has been really, really good. So far, so good! We couldn’t really be happier with it. I think there was a bit of apprehension from us where we knew it was quite different from King of Conflict and there was an element how people…certainly how the fans would take to it but everybody seems to have really got where we were going with it and loved it!
What inspired the artwork for it?
Danny: Erm…[laughs] We’re always open to anything, really so I think there was a load of ideas thrown around. The biggest thing about the album, for me, is the lyrics being at the forefront of it. Ally sent me the lyrics and we were thinking about ideas and there’s an old story from ancient times…when they put coins on a dead person’s eyes to pay to get into Heaven; that was essentially the idea. We kinda liked the hypocrisy about it and the ridiculousness of that and how it would work with the lyrics and politically, the social commentary from Ally about what is happening now. That idea went around…everyone liked that idea. It’s that, really, essentially, I think. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else with it but no, I think that’s it. The coins…we tried out loads and loads of different coins but they were the ones that looked the coolest, that’s the reason we used them. There’s nothing behind because they’re American dollars; it was nothing to do with that.
This is the first night of the tour, how does it feel to be back out on the road?
Ally: It’s great, man! It’s always great but it feels like it’s been too long since we’ve done a UK tour, certainly since we’ve played Glasgow. We’re just made up to be back out there with the album, it feels like it’s been long for us where we’ve been…dreaming of being in this position so it’s great to finally have the album out and be able to meet the fans and just get out and do what we’re absolutely here for.
Matt: It feels right to be starting in Glasgow, it’s always a good crowd. I think we all love coming here.
You were at Camden Rocks last weekend, how did that go?
Danny: Yeah, it was brilliant. We hadn’t played the Barfly in years, I think that was one of the first venues we played in London so it was cool to go back there. I think we heard afterwards it’s closed down, that was the last gig, apparently.
Ally: We closed the Barfly down! [laughs]
Danny: The crowd was really up for it, it was rammed! Pretty much moshpitting from the start!
Matt: I think if you go on YouTube and towards the end of the set, this guy got up on stage…our mate, Ross helped him off the stage! I think no-one was hurt which was cool; everyone seemed to look after each other.
Danny: Yeah, Ross was saying to me from the first song, he thought “I can see it starting to kick off” and I could see him stood up and get nearer and nearer towards the crowd and see how it was gonna go.
Ally: I don’t know how many other places would let rock, punk, metal take over that part of the city so I think it’s a really cool thing. I can’t really think of many places like that where all the venues are taken up. I think it’s a good example of people getting on together and having a good craic without anything violent – too violent, anyway – just rock fans, music fans having a good time.
You also recently opened for Shinedown in the States, what was that like?
Danny: Yeah, it was brilliant! We didn’t really know what to expect with Shinedown and I think our music is quite different to theirs in terms of…they’re a lot more radio American rock. We weren’t sure how we’d go down but literally from the first show onwards, it was mint! All the fans really, really loved it. Probably, in my opinion, one of the best tours we’ve ever done in terms of a support tour, in terms of how well it did for us. A good way to start the year.
Ally: I think like playing the likes of the Paramount Theatre in Seattle…I know Matt’s been watching all the Nirvana tapes of them playing there. To me, it’s about the chance to play those fucking amazing buildings to a packed out house is always gonna be good, no matter what band it is. They were really nice guys, really, really cool. We got on great with their fans.
Fan Community Questions:
There was a live EP of the Stoke gig doing the rounds recently; can we expect a full live album/DVD or another Stripped album at some point?
Matt: Was it the Stoke gig you interviewed us at?
Matt: Someone owes us some money then! [laughs] There’s a live EP of the Stoke gig going around!
Danny: It was like live videos and stuff.
Yeah, wasn’t it Noisetrade or someone like that?
Matt: I’m joking; it’s part of the fun! [laughs]
Danny: We’ve always talked about doing a proper live DVD; we’d really like to do it. I mean, maybe later in the year if we do another tour…maybe.
Ally: We filmed that whole Stoke gig though, didn’t we?
Danny: Did we?
Ally: Yeah! It’s been released, like certain bits [live versions of “Into Dust” and “Motherless Land”].
Danny: Oh, right, yeah! Sorry! I’m thinking of another gig [laughs].
Ally: Definitely. That was the first show we’d done for a long, long time. I think if we were gonna do a proper DVD, I think it’d be great to plan the whole thing; get the perfect set in the perfect room. You kinda want everyone there who can make it to be there. You just want certain people to be there who’ve been there since the start.
Matt: Weirdly enough, a friend of mine text me the other saying saying “Are you gonna do a live DVD?” I said it’d be really cool.
Ally: It’d be incredible if we could pull it off…
What’s been the most unusual thing you’ve come across to inspire a song?
Matt: You’d need to ask Ally, really!
Ally: Erm…it’s a good question…[laughs] but I dunno. “You’ve Got Your Money, I’ve Got My Soul” – I was taking a load of mushrooms around that time and that kind of gets in there alot. That’s kind of an influence. As for the most unusual experience…sleeping rough in Liverpool made it into “Off to Another Land”. I dunno, loads of shit used to happen when I was drunk and took drugs…[laughs] Take your pick!
What’s your equipment setup for gigs and does it vary much from studio work?
Danny: The kit I’m using just now I only ever used to use when recording. I dunno why, the sizes are just slightly smaller than what I’d normally use but I started using it maybe eighteen months ago, I just love that drumkit so that’s changed for me, I always used that now. But otherwise; no, I’ve always used the same snare. I’ve tried loads of other snares but mine’s better! Less cymbals because I just break them.
Ally: How long you had them?
Danny: Since I started so I dunno…no, no. I bet I’ve had it ten years now. I’ve just down-sized over the years, I used to have more cymbals and now I just have two: crash cymbals. More toms and now I just have two, I think less is more for me. I know Ally’s changed his amp setup quite a lot.
Ally: Studio work this time around, Gil [Norton, producer of Divides] used loads and loads of amps. It was him and the engineer and me like “Right, new song, what do you think we’ll go for?” and it was like “Well, I’d say try the Orange with the Marshall and maybe put a bit of a Fender. But on tour I just take the Marshall. I’m not really into the gear all that much. I think a lot it is how you play when it’s live, anyway; always been the way.
Matt: No, nothing different, I’m afraid [laughs]! I’m a bit like Ally, I don’t really know much about gear.
Ally: Few different guitars we used, wasn’t there?
Matt: Yeah, I used a couple of different guitars and stuff but…I don’t have much to comment on that, I’m afraid.
Who’s the biggest diva on tour?
Matt: Probably me.
Matt: None of us are really divas, to be honest. None of us, really. It’s not like we go into places and demand stuff like “I asked for white Egyptian cotton towels! Not black!” None of that shit, you know? I’ll put myself forward if people want an answer. I’m happy for that to be me.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Ally: Yeah, we always have a group hug, kind of solidarity-type thing. And we’re always together, at least ten minutes before. Tends to be more now…
Danny: At least fifteen minutes! [laughs]
Ally: It tends to be now about half an hour before which is good for me, definitely good for me. I’m not that keen on everyone rushing around before.
Matt: The calm before the storm.
Ally: Yeah, going on a football field or something like that, gather it together. No kind of weirdness.
As you’ve just been announced for Reading and Leeds Festival, who do you plan on seeing whilst there?
Matt: I’ve not even looked at the line-up yet. [laughs] I don’t know; someone. Someone fun!
Danny: I saw Coheed and Cambria play, maybe two and a half years ago, when we did our first tour in America. We did a gig, then they played; they headlined it. They were really cool so I’d really like to see them play again. I’m quite interested in seeing Biffy Clyro; I’ve not seen them for a while so I’m definitely gonna check them out.
What was the first ever album you bought?
Ally: First album I ever bought? I think I got Let it Be on vinyl by The Beatles because my dad had a separate box of all The Beatles’ albums and that one was missing. I bought that, I think I must have been seven or eight.
Matt: I think mine was either Bad by Michael Jackson on cassette or The Simpsons’ Sing the Blues on cassette.
Ally: Both fine albums.
Matt: Both fine albums.
Ally: Simpsons has the edge.
Matt: Simpsons? Yeah.
Danny: Mine was Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. A mate of mine had it and I thought it was great so I got my mum to go and buy it for me because I wasn’t old enough to buy it.
Danny, how many drumsticks do you reckon you go through in a year?
Danny: Fuckin’ hell…I dunno! [laughs]
Matt: You know the plight of the rainforest? This man, for his fucking sticks!
Danny: Yeah, my dad was getting onto me the other day like “Can you not get metals sticks?” and it’s like “Nah, mate, doesn’t work like that”.
Ally: Why can’t you get metal sticks? Does it sound shit?
Danny: I figure it sounds shit.
Ally: You can get metal sticks.
Danny: I don’t think so. Can you?
Yeah, Joey Jordison’s has a metal rod in the middle.
Danny: It’s got to be weight distributed as well, hasn’t it? If it’s a bit heavier, you’re going to be fucked by the end.
Ally: I gaffer taped one of his sticks the other day, kept on getting shocks from it each time you were coming back it had slipped.
Danny: It’s a false economy. Drumsticks and cymbals are a massive false economy. When they’re broken they’re literally not worth anything. You have to buy a load more and it’s ridiculous how expensive they are. I try my best not to break them, it’s not like I do it on purpose. I’m gonna go with…if it’s proper gigging. Last year we didn’t really gig that much because we were recording but if we were doing proper touring I reckon it’s gotta be like…
Ally: Fifty pairs?
Danny: Twelve…twenty-four…twenty-four…twenty-four. Nah, I think it’s more than that. Yeah, like fifty pairs so a hundred!
Ally: You could get a garden shed made up of broken sticks.
Danny: Yeah, like lollipop sticks.
Danny: Freddie Krueger’s house made out of drum sticks!
You seem to get asked a lot of weird questions in interviews, what’s been the weirdest, excluding this one?
Danny: Uh…yeah, nice! [laughs] There’ll be one. Was it like “What flavour of lollipop would you be?” Didn’t we have one like that once?
Ally: Wasn’t there something about cereal?
Danny: Yeah, “If you were cereal, what kind of cereal would you be?”
Ally: Yeah, ice cream flavours it was! I can’t remember what I came up with, might have been a double-barrel name.
Danny: Yeah, it was definitely a quip [laughs].
You’ve got the tour for the rest of the week, what’s in store for the rest of the year?
Danny: Probably just a load of touring. Obviously, we’ve got this run now which came about really quickly. We weren’t really sure where we going to be, whether we were going to be in America or here when the album came out. So thankfully we were here and did this tour. I think the plan is we’re going to go back to America and do some more touring before Leeds and Reading. Then come back for that and do some more touring in the UK and then possibly go to America again. I’d imagine just a lot of touring, really, that’ll be the plan. There’s been a bit of talk of possible doing some type of acoustic type stuff but we haven’t tried anything out yet. Yeah, it’ll just be a lot of touring.