Interview… with Louise Macnamara from Heathers

Questions: Christopher Parkhill

CP: It’s been four years since (2008 debut album) Here Not There, and it seems there’s been a lot of change since then, including the addition of the band. How do you think that that’s changed your music?

LM: Well, when we started four years ago it was just an acoustic guitar and two vocals, so I guess that’s what we wanted to do then. We were seventeen, we’re now twenty-two – it has been five years – I think we wanted to challenge ourselves this time round. We listen to so many different types of music ourselves, we wanted to bring in parts of that, we wanted to have a fuller sound. We were both in college over the past three years actually, I went to Maynooth in Dublin, I did music technology, so I learned a lot in that, I started messing around with a lot of different technology, synths and a lot of different instruments. That again, I guess, encouraged us, influenced us to write with more instruments. And then, when we went into the studio this time last year, we had two guys working with us: Tom, and a guy called Rob who plays in White Lies, they both played other instruments on the album. But it’s great, it’s so nice playing live and having other people there, and having that bigger sound, the atmosphere is just different. We still like playing the two of us, but it’s just a completely different feel when you have more people there.

CP: Is it the kind of thing you’ve wanted to do for a long time, even with Here Not There but now you’ve had the capabilities to expand things?

LM: I think so, definitely, I think when we recorded Here Not There we wanted to do an acoustic thing. When we started Heathers it was just for fun, we didn’t really think anything of it, we weren’t taking it that seriously or anything. Now I think definitely, since we recorded and released Here Not There, it’s always something that we wanted to do, bring in more instruments. It’s also added an element of difficulty to the whole thing as well – now we have backing tracks and in-ears and so many other things. This is only our sixth or seventh gig as a full band because the guys live in London so it’s kind of difficult for us to play together. So we’re still getting used to it and trying to get used to sound things and stuff like that, but it’s coming together and we really enjoy it.


CP: On [new album] Kingdom there’s quite an uplifting theme throughout  – “Forget Me Knots”, “Gather Up” and “Circular Road” all seem to have quite a reassuring sound. Is that a conscious thing you’ve been trying to do, write songs that can instantly make people feel better?

LM: Not necessarily; with “Forget Me Knots” yes, because we wrote that for a friend of ours who died two years ago. As you say it’s a hopeful song, “it’s alright not be OK” is the chorus, it’s trying to get that message out there to people that it’s alright not to feel OK, you can talk to people if you’re feeling down or whatever, don’t feel like you’re on your own, so it’s definitely a hopeful song. It’s probably one of the most important to us on the album, but that’s the only song we consciously wrote like that. I think we’re reassuring ourselves if anything. A lot of them are about escapism and trying to find this kind of utopian place.

CP: So is that what the concept of Kingdom refers to?

LM: Yeah, escapism, trying to escape to this utopian world which is ‘the kingdom’, it’s kind of reflected in the artwork that’s on the album as well, which was done by a guy called Stephen Halker who does a lot of Sufjan Stevens artwork, he did an amazing job. It’s all kind of like, a big forest, there are animals in it and crystals and stuff, it’s cool.

 

CP: You must hear this a lot now, about a certain David Guetta? What’s the story there?

LM: [Laughs] Yeah, well our managers were approached a couple of weeks – I guess maybe a month and a half ago now – by his A&R team [responsible for scouting talent, liaising with songwriters]. They’d heard “Forget Me Knots” – seen the video for “Forget Me Knots” actually, on a blog in the States and really liked it, and contacted us and asked us would we be interested in writing for his new album, which caught us by, you know, complete surprise, never would have thought in a million years that something like that would happen. So we’ve spent the last couple of weeks, month and a half really writing non-stop when we’re not touring or playing gigs. I mean it doesn’t guarantee anything, it doesn’t mean that something will be on the album. But where we are right now is basically, we’re still writing stuff, back and forth, we’ll see what happens. It doesn’t guarantee anything but it’s an amazing opportunity and it’s been fun writing different stuff.

 

CP: So for now you’re finishing off your Irish tour…

LM: Yeah, we have a couple of days off then we’re playing Cork, Kilkenny and Galway next weekend. Then I think after that, we’re planning to tour a bit more outside of Ireland, over in the U.K., a bit more around Europe and then hopefully over to the States, and maybe hopefully further afield, just kind of touring and touring…we’ll have to wait and see.

CP: So while you’re working to get the album out there, do you get much time off to do your own thing?

LM: The past few weeks have been extremely busy so haven’t really had much time off, but we do sometimes. I’d say the week after the tour, couple of weeks after that I’d say we will.  I’m really looking forward to that!

 

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