Isn’t it always the case that our favourite bands just so happen to listen to the coolest music? But how did they stumble upon such great tunes? Concentric Circles takes a step through featured artists’ evolving sonic tastebuds, beginning with Bennie Reilly from Dublin indie-pop sextet, little xs for eyes.
1. Kylie Minogue
Kylie’s Hand on your Heart was my first ever record and it was the first addition to the family vinyl collection in many years. Up until then I’d been twirling around the front room to the likes of Billy Ocean, The Bangles and Gloria Estefan – no complaints there really but I was excited to have some ‘current’ music to invent dance moves for. My personal collection slowly expanded over the coming years with the addition of The Simpsons Sing the Blues and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous; I practically wore a hole in the carpet dancing to that one.
When I discovered the music of Blur I promptly tore down all of my Take That posters and replaced them with pictures of Damon Albarn’s dreamy head. Blur were my teenage crush band and my gateway into a whole new world of music. Their posters were soon joined by Pulp, Sleeper, Menswear, Suede, but Blur were always my number one. When I was thirteen I waited outside their hotel the day after a Dublin show, I met Damon but could barely speak to him, he gave me a hug and I almost died. For weeks afterwards I would repeatedly watch their performance of ‘The Universal’ at the MTV European Video Music Awards (which I’d taped off the telly), the one where he collapses and lies on the stage during the outro, and I would lie on the carpet beside the telly and cry because I loved him soooo much.
1996 is the year Ash released their album 1977 and also the year I got my first electric guitar. I picked out a Telecaster for my fourteenth birthday and Ash had an awful lot to do with that. When I first heard ‘Girl From Mars’ I didn’t just want to sing along and swoon to it, I wanted to know how to play it. My big brother had taught me chords on his acoustic guitar years before but now for the first time I had an urge to play. Every Saturday morning from then on I would drag my new baby blue Tele across Dublin to my (unconventional) guitar teachers house. We had a deal that every week he would teach me a song by Ash or Radiohead if I would let him teach me how to play a piece by Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, needless to say I ended up with a varied repertoire and skill set!
4. Mazzy Star
Ash were the first band to make me want to play guitar but a few years later Mazzy Star were the first to make me get serious about singing and writing songs. I started college when I was seventeen and I’d always play ‘Give you my Loving’ and ‘Five String Serenade’ when the guitar got passed around at house parties. Hope Sandoval’s breathy tone and her simple, sincere songs really suited me and I started to write music in a similar vein. During my college days I got into loads of other atmospheric and shoegazey bands like Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Rollerskate Skinny as well as lofi American indie like Yo La Tengo and American Analog Set.
5. Jenny Lewis
Around the time of little xs’ beginnings I was really into folk music and Americana, I was listening to early stuff like Burt Jansch and Loudon Wainwright Jr, but also the likes of Wilco, Conor Oberst and M.Ward. It was Jenny Lewis though that had the biggest influence on me and my song writing. Her album Rabbit Fur Coat combined folk, 50’s style soul and pop which I found really appealing. Her candid lyrics and the emphasis she placed on big backing vocal arrangements were also factors in my admiration. I’m still a huge fan. Her latest album The Voyager is great. It’s pop but with a slight 70s soft rock vibe.
And so we come back around to pop music for dancing to! I listen to a lot of electro/synth pop these days, current favourites being Blood Orange, Future Islands and most recently Yumi Zouma and Shura. In my ears though Metronomy can do no wrong, their last three albums are just perfect; dreamy, dance-y, complex and unpredictable. I think their sound has gradually become less challenging and more accessible since their first album but it’s no less impressive. They put a lot of effort and thought into their live shows too, great sets, outfits and even a bit of choreography. I have twirled around my sitting room more than once to their music.
little xs for eyes’ new album Everywhere Else is available now
little xs for eyes play Whelan’s, Dublin on 29th April 2015