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“We’re Just Going To Grab It While We Can“ – An Interview with Spyres

If you’ve checked out our weekly or end of year playlists over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that Glaswegian band Spyres have been regularly featured. The quartet of Emily Donnie (guitar/vocals), Kiera McGuire (guitar/vocals), Jude Curran (bass) and Alex White (drums) have come up with a run of fantastically catchy indie-rock anthems across two EPs and some standalone singles. Their reputation on the UK music scene has been growing rapidly and they’ve had a number of high profile opening slots for bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Nothing But Thieves to name a few.

We were delighted to see that they were playing a couple of shows at The New Colossus Festival in NYC before heading to South By Southwest. After a few technical issues before their first showcase, The Rockwood Music Hall and Bowery Electric were bouncing along to tracks like “Money,” “The Thing” and debut single “Otherside.” The ecstatic reactions of the crowds showed that the US is definitely ready to hear a lot more from Spyres soon.

In between shows, while Kiera and Jude went to find a repair shop for a pedal board that was a victim of the difference between UK/US voltages, Emily, Alex and manager Jim Frew joined me for a drink and a chat.

So how are you guys enjoying the States so far? 
Emily: Yeah, we’re loving it. It’s really good. 
Alex: I don’t know about you Emily, but it’s my first time here so it’s kind of surreal. I’ve not actually flown since I was eight years old and It’s a bit mental.
E: This is my second time in New York, but obviously first time playing here, and coming back the second time, it’s definitely a bit different. Cause I was here when I was a wee girl just pottering about Times Square.
A: And now we’re cutting about with guitars and amps and all that, so it’s a bit of a difference.

Did you get to see any of the bands at the festival yesterday or did you just go sightseeing?
E: Yeah, we all got to sightsee yesterday.
A: I’ve seen a few bands today, I can’t remember the names, but I was in Pianos and seen a few bands in there.
E: We were stuck in the airport for a long time yesterday. Alex was on a different flight from us but we ended up making it! We’re staying in New Jersey so we were pure public transport, like the Metro, all day. So I think by the time we got to the hotel, we were just knackered. 

Which classic cover album art is your current mood?
A: What’s that Fiona Apple record where she’s got a pure….?
E: Fetch The Bolt Cutters? Where she’s making a silly face on it?
A: Aye!
E: I’ll go for that one as well, yeah. We’re feeling a bit crazy right now.

We were really excited to see that you were playing New Colossus – every single you release seems to goes on our best new music playlists. What’s your writing and recording process to continually come up with such great songs?
E: Well, me and Kiera used to play as an acoustic duo before we ended up becoming a four piece band, so it’s always kind of an acoustic start, and then we take it to the boys and just kind of build it on from there.
A: Yeah man. That’s literally it. Some times it’s different. A couple of times we went into the studio and I’ve not known what I’m doing on the drums and just kind of just winged it, but that sometimes works better.
E: That’s usually what happens. Sometimes we’ll be writing a couple of days before we’re in recording, so it’s pure fresh in the room. But yeah, it’s usually, I push the guitar, we’ll find the chords and then try to come up with the topic that we’re going to write about. And then we’ll just build it on there.

You and Kiera both sing in the songs. How do you decide who’s singing which line and do you ever go, “I wanted that one!”
E: I feel like when we’re doing an EP, we’ll go, “okay so, I guess you start this song with this verse and then I’ll do the pre-chorus, then we can both do the chorus, then I’ll do the next verse…” so there’s usually a bit of method to the madness. But we always keep it fair and square somehow, or some songs we’ll just say, “oh do you know what, we’ll just sing this one all together” like, no sharing parts, we’re just equal. And then, usually you’ll find on an EP you’ll be like, I’ll start with my song, Keira’ll start the next song, then I’ll start the next song. Somehow it works and we don’t end up fighting about it which is something I’m pretty proud of that we’ve not gotten to that point yet!
A: Yet!
E: I know, you never know. Maybe you’ll want to start singing a song then it’ll get messy. 
A: Nah. They tried giving me a mic a few times and I can’t concentrate and sing at the same time. 

You’ve done two EPs, no LP yet. Do you think that with EPs you can get the songs out without having to put any filler in?
E: I think we’ve just kind of taken it from how everyone else has done it. It’s usually singles, then an EP,  then maybe a couple other singles, then an EP, then an album. But I guess what people are doing now is just going straight for the album, so, I don’t know.
A: Then you’ve got other people who are just bashing singles constantly, which is also a good thing to do.
E: So I think it just changes all the time, but I think having the EPs has kind of introduced us to the music scene in general.
A: Instead of focusing on one song, you’ve got a full collection of songs to focus on.
E: I think going straight in for a full album could probably be a bit daunting, especially the age we’re at. We started when we were like 15 years old.  So I think to go in there with a full album we’d be like, “oh my god, what are we doing?” So I think it’s quite nice to just kind of ease your way into it a bit with the singles and then the EPs and we’re probably at the right time now where we’re thinking about an album. We’ve got a couple of years experience under our belt.

It seems like things are changing and people are going more for singles and playlists and I wondered if that was why you were going that route.
A: I blame TikTok for that.
E: Yeah, TikTok algorithms – it’s just short content, short snappy songs are just getting all the airplay right now. 

Do you feel the need to try and make something go viral?
A: I think if you’re a part of a band you kind of need to do that now.
E: I know, you always need to kind of have that in your head now. If you’ve got that 15 second part in a song that you think “that’s the bit. That’s the catchy bit that everyone can post a video to, and dance to.” It wasn’t something that we’d ever thought about, but it’s definitely something now that we’re going to have to integrate into the writing sessions.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be? 
E: My favourite band called Alvvays from Canada – they’re my favourite band. I’d probably pick their second album, Antisocialites.
A: I think Nevermind by Nirvana for me. Cannae go wrong with it.

To get here, I noticed you guys had to have a fundraiser. With all the costs of flying to the US to do unpaid showcases, how did you manage to pull this together?
A: Scraping by!
E: We’re in it together, it’s just all about the experience for us. We’re at a time now where to get any opportunity to play outside of the UK, you’d be daft to say no, do you know what I mean? So we’d do anything, whether we’re getting paid or whether we’re not getting paid just to go there and experience it
A: And let people see our music.
E: Exactly! This is our first time, never mind playing New York, playing outside of the UK, so even just being here together just means so much.

What are you hoping to get out of South by Southwest?  Is it just to get yourself out there, or is there something specific you’re hoping for?
E: I mean we’re there for the experience, but we also know that it’s such a great place to network and, and get yourself out there. So, just meeting people and socializing with people you’re never gonna see if you’re only online and we’ve got the opportunity to be there and talk to people. So we’re just going to grab it while we can and you just never know what’s going to happen. 
Jim: We’re there to see which labels are interested in publishing that record and coming to see the band. There’s also agents and stuff like that. So yeah, I guess it’s playing in a different market and exposing yourself and trying to get a bit of investment in that market.

There are so many great venues in Scotland that I miss – what’s your favourite venue to play, and what’s one venue in the world you dream of playing?
A: In Scotland, it would be The Barras (The Barrowland Ballroom).
E: I think all four of us would collectively agree that Barrowlands would be the best. Fortunately enough, we’ve played there a couple of times as well.
A: I don’t know the name of the venue, but what’s that where there’s like the rocks up the side there? Red Rocks, I’d love to go there.
E: Or Las Vegas. The Sphere. You’d have to do all like the pyrotechnics and all that!

Where did the name Spyres come from?
E: So when it was just me and Kiera, we started getting a few gigs and we were just going by Kiera and Emily. We were like “we’re gonna need to brush up a bit with something a bit better.” I was quite young so I can’t really remember but I’m sure we were driving along the motorway for one of our gigs with my mum and dad and we saw the church spires in the distance. So my mum was like, “oh, why don’t you call yourselves steeples or something?” I was like “Dunno about that one!” And then my dad or someone said “what about The Spires?” So we used to be called The Spyres and then we took off the “The” so it could just roll off the tongue a bit better and get through to the point.

You also went for the olde worlde spelling of it as well.
E: Yes, exactly. We just wanted to be a bit different so people can search you up first time and not get confused with the name.

What made you want to become musicians?
A: I remember as a young boy watching the movie “School of Rock” and literally watching that made me want to play drums. And then one of my primary school teachers gave me like a Nickelback record.

Oh, I’m sorry. 
J: School of Rock and Nickelback! Don’t put that in.
A: Don’t be sorry, my friend. I sing it loud and proud!
E: For me, it was probably my dad. He’s been in bands since he was young and always played the guitar and sang. So I come from a very musical family as well. I kind of got no choice to carry on the legacy. Growing up, I went through a really big indie phase. I loved Oasis, and I was like, “oh my god, I want to do that!” It was kind of when they were doing their solo stuff and then I got into the band as well. I feel like my music taste has definitely evolved since then, but that would probably have been the start of guitar playing for me.

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called? 
E: For me, controversial, but I’m a pineapple lover. And I recently found out about hot honey for a bit of a kick. Maybe need to have some meat on there? Maybe some pepperoni or chicken or something like that. I’d probably call it “Chaotic Pizza”.
A: The New Yorker pizza, that’s my favourite. Mushrooms, ham and pepperoni.

What else do you have planned for the rest of the year? Obviously South by Southwest next.
E: Yeah, I think that’s kind of what we’ve been leading up to for the past six months. So, being here, we’re just living in the moment right now and then I think when we come back it’ll just be like our heads down. We’re doing a couple of festivals during the summer. We’ve got one in Scotland and we’re doing Why Not? Festival (in Derbyshire, UK) as well. So, it’ll be good to do some summer shows back home and then just keep on writing again and just recording and releasing music.

You can follow Spyres on Instagram and Twitter for all the latest on new releases and upcoming concert dates.

Feature Image Credit – Daniel Blake

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