The press love to talk about bands “conquering” America. It suggests that rather than simply taking their instruments on a flight over to the US, playing some shows to audiences there, and maybe talking to their journalists, it’s more a case of musicians battering the American population into sonic submission, making them accept new music from this side of the Atlantic. The reality is, it’s nothing to do with forcing people to like the music made by Little Green Cars. The Dublin band’s reception has been nothing but warm and appreciative, due in no small part to their striking similarity in sound, not to Mumford and Sons, with whom they share a record label, but with sixties music icons The Mamas and the Papas, whom they echo with their ringing complex musical harmonies. But as is the way with any new band emerging and causing the sort of interest being turned onto Little Green Cars, from the press come the comparisons, the labelling, the “sounds like” approach, as though potential fans are not able to hear what they are like for themselves, but have to be guided through the process by indicating a simplistic “If you like this, you’ll love this…” hand-holding.
Far more important is what the band actually think, and this first question receives an instant and honest response from guitarist Adam O’Regan. ‘It’s probably the least favourite question any musician can be asked, but over the years we have all developed our own influences and likes and dislikes. I don’t think we started out intending to sound like anyone else, I don’t think any band does to be honest. Hopefully, now that our next single is out, the “like Mumford and Sons” label should get dropped as we get a little better known for being ourselves.’
Indeed it should, and the sooner the better. But on to other matters concerning the band, and their development, starting with Adam’s introduction to the guitar, not as is standard, by finding an instrument lying around the house, but by the conscious decision of his dad to give young Adam a focus for his teenage energy, in danger of being misdirected as it was. ‘I am actually the first in my family to be a musician,’ Adam recalls. ‘No one in my family played an instrument until I started, although they are all huge music fans. When I was making the transition from being a child to being a teenager, I was going through a bit of a difficult time, a few rows with my folks as teenagers tend to do. My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to learn the guitar, get rid of some of that angst, so he got me one for Christmas, and I went on from there. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to play the guitar; I played it every chance I got. I think the electric guitar had that aspect of cool about it that kept my interest, although now I probably enjoy playing an acoustic guitar more.’
Although there will be luthiers and guitar companies with their eye on Adam as a prospective customer as 2013 unfolds, to date he doesn’t actually own his own acoustic – although he has ambitions, as he explains. ‘I did have an Epiphone which was a sunburst colour with a cutaway body, and I sold it. I have a Guild now, which I have borrowed from a friend, and I do like it a lot. It’s a big body model. We did a short tour of America a couple of months ago, just a couple of weeks, and Stevie (Appleby, singer and guitarist) picked up a Martin D-28, a vintage one, which is absolutely beautiful, it just plays itself, so I am really keen to get a hold of one myself. It’s his prized possession, so I don’t think it will be coming my way any time soon! I think people develop a more personal relationship with an acoustic guitar, you get to know the guitar, and the guitar gets to know you. The thing with an acoustic is, it’s sitting around and you can pick it up any time to write songs on it. It’s the guitar you spend your alone time with, so it is always with you.’
Listening to the music of Little Green Cars, it’s clear that the band don’t believe in giving themselves the easy option when it comes to guitar lines, as is apparent on their single ‘The John Wayne’. ‘I am not up to speed with a lot of technique,’ Adam confirms. ‘So we as a band are always discovering things as we go along, which is great. I don’t think we go looking for things, they just come along. If I was more technical, I may hit on an Eb major, but because I have no idea what any chord is, I don’t get bogged down with what music is in technical terms, I just find what I like for the song I am working on, and the rest of the band take the same approach. I think working that way leads us to work in a better way than if we were more formal and structured about it. George Harrison’s acoustic playing is a huge influence on me, and on the band. We were all brought up on the Beatles, but Stevie and I are huge fans. I can never understand where he got the lines from that he used to create. We were listening to ‘Taxman’ in the car a couple of days ago, and the guitar solo in that is just unreal. I am just discovering his solo album All Things Must Pass, although a lot of the guitar work is from Eric Clapton. We also adore Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey Buckingham is a fantastic guitarist; I really love his style as a player.’
Although it is still early days for Little Green Cars, the interest in them from audiences, and the faith placed in them by industry heavyweights, proves that their potential is clear to see, even though the band members are all only 20-years-old. Already lending their considerable support is vintage (and seriously respected) record label, Island. ‘The band all met in school, and we started writing while we were still there. When we signed our first deal, it was with Glassnote Records in America, which is the same label as Mumford and Sons, which probably leads to the connections we talked about earlier. Our choice of producer was Marcus Dravs who has worked with Coldplay and Arcade Fire. We really wanted him to produce our album, so we sent him a song, and after some back-and-forth conversation, he agreed to do it. Island got on board through Glassnote, and we just went on from there. We have been very lucky in our career, getting the right people at the right time for us.’
Breathtaking as the experience is for anyone hearing the harmonies produced by Little Green Cars, from the inside out; it feels natural, as Adam says. ‘It did feel natural to us when we were putting the songs together, and recording them; it always has so we went along with it. I suppose that’s the feeling that any band gets when their playing and singing starts to take shape. It’s a development process for the band, but an impact for an audience, when they hear the finished article for the first time.’
‘When five people sing a lyric together, it drives it through. It’s hard for me to look out from the inside, which is where I am. I can’t imagine how it feels to someone to come to the finished sound. We all feel that the blend of five voices is always going to have a massive impact. That said, we don’t underestimate the power of the single voice as well. We are aware of not saturating all our songs in harmonies, because that would push the effect over the top, it’s something we all talk over when we are getting the songs ready for recording. As songwriters, we work from the inside out – that’s the only way I can describe it really. The lyric is the first and most important part of the song, and the sentiment that is conveyed. We are all very respectful of that as the core of the song, so that has to be beautiful, but it has to be firm in terms of the way the song is actually put together.’
‘There are songs on the record that have taken weeks to get to a finished version. They can be five different songs on the way to the finished song. You just know when it’s right; the same way you know when it is not right. It’s something that comes with experience, and we are learning all about that process as we go along.’
Little Green Cars will be touring the UK on their return from their stateside dates, by which time their debut album will have been released in the UK. If you are someone who likes to be the first to find bands that the world eventually loves, then buy the album and catch them live – before America claims them once and for all.
‘Our version of success is just to make music, as obvious as that sounds. It was only ever what any of us wanted to do as a band, so we are so lucky to be able to do this. We appreciate that gift every day.’
Little Green Cars’ Absolute Zero is due out May 13.