he new album by GCN’s two-time cover stars was christened Leave The Light On by band member Cathy McGuinness who took inspiration from a lyric in the Wolf Alice song ‘Bros’. “It’s a lyric that I was talking about with somebody, we talked about it for like half an hour and the complexities of what it means,” the guitarist explained. “The lights on for the nurses, or when you go out to the pub and there’s a light left on, or you’re coming home from the airport and somebody’s leaving the light on for you. It’s just that someone’s waiting for you.”
Fellow Pillow Queen Sarah Corcoran added: “I picked up on it as being leaving the lights on during an intimate moment, and how that’s quite lovely as well.”
While the title is certainly open to an array of interpretations, it’s clear that its sentiment is warm and welcoming, boasting an accessibility that is apparent throughout the album’s ten tracks.
“Sonically, I think it sounds quite strong and I think we wrote it wanting it to be performed live,” Sarah began. “We wanted it to sound confident like it could be performed in fuck-off stadiums across the world.”
However, lead vocalist Pamela Connolly commented that despite that desire, the band also wanted it to “still feel really intimate regardless of the size of the room”.
“I would describe the sound as intimate, but that doesn’t mean that it’s small. It can be big,” she concluded.
Journalist and author Una Mullally penned that Leave The Light On is a project that encourages this duality, being both “soft and hard, delicate and muscular, intimate and anthemic, alone and together”. This approach to creating music exudes a subtle queerness as the record refuses to bow to any rigid definitions and is not afraid to break boundaries. “It’s in the subtleties that [queerness] comes out more naturally,” Pamela expressed. “When you’re writing about your experience, and you’re experiencing a queer experience, that’s not something that’s so obvious to you. It’s just something that is, and it’s a fact.”
She also mentioned that when audiences listen to Pillow Queens’ music, they say that they can hear the queerness, but that’s something that is “never intentional”, rather their authentic “natural state of being”.
While not a ‘Covid record’ by any means, the album was produced during quite a unique transitional period as the nation emerged from tireless lockdowns and a sense of normality was beginning to be restored. When asked of the influence that the last two years had on its creation, Sarah commented, “It was influenced by the pandemic only because we had a lot of time for reflection and a lot of time to spend together, the four of us in a room.”
Cathy added, “We were only seeing each other, so we weren’t having outside experiences. So I suppose that made it very insular.”
“It kind of made it hard to write music actually,” Pamela began. “You’re like ‘Oh we’re not really experiencing much at the moment, so you really just have to…” “Go very introspective,” said Sarah, finishing her bandmate’s sentence.
“The pandemic sort of forced you to be like, ‘Okay, if I’m going to make art, I need to actually sit with my thoughts and listen to what I’m thinking and feeling and everything else’. So I think it was a good thing, because it feels like a very raw album. It doesn’t feel like it went through many drafts, and I mean that in a good way, that it was very honest,” she continued.
As a result of the pandemic, the band are also getting a very different album release experience compared to that of their first album, In Waiting. For that momentous occasion, Pillow Queens were limited to celebrating over a pint in Lucky’s.
If I’m going to make art, I need to actually sit with my thoughts and listen to what I’m thinking and feeling
We got cans and sang on the bridge. We sang ‘Liffey’ because it was just like -we need to mark this...
“We could only get a table outside for like an hour and a half, and that was it,” Sarah recalled. “Then I think we got cans and sang on the bridge. We sang ‘Liffey’ because it was just like -we need to mark this.”
The experience was a far cry from the second album’s release, as the group got to celebrate on their US tour which travelled to Salt Lake City on the eve of April 1. Before going overseas, they played a sold-out Irish tour, and since departing, not only have they headlined shows across North America, but they also performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden.
Despite the international acclaim, the band stays very connected to their roots, and the Irishness of their creative output is unavoidable. “It was an album that was written in Dublin with the four of us just in one room [...] We’re still very much Irish,” Sarah reinforced.
“It will be interesting to see how people perceive it because when I hear the album, I can picture the North and South [side], the places in Dublin,” Cathy added. “It just sounds really local.”
In terms of their favourite songs on the album, each band member recommended something different.
Starting with Pamela, she confirmed ‘No Good Woman’, one of the singles, as her favourite track. “I just think it’s very visual, I can see everything in the song like it’s a little story. It’s like a little movie playing over and it’s just a joy to listen to.”
Sarah recommended another single, ‘Hearts and Minds’, saying that as soon as it was recorded and played back to her, she had a moment when she knew that the song was something special. “That can happen at different times throughout a record but it really happened for me in the studio, and I was just so excited for people to hear it, and then really fucking excited to play it live. It just felt like this was an important song, and I think lyrically as well it blows my mind every time I hear it.”
Returning to the theme of duality, Cathy revealed ‘Historian’ as her favourite, explaining: “It’s super tender and restrained almost on the verses, and then in the outro, it’s pure chaos. It’s the most fun to play [...] It kind of clashes but in a really beautiful way.”
Drummer Rachel Lyons was also leaning towards ‘Historian’, but settled on anthemic track ‘Delivered’ instead. “It’s really intense and I love that in a song,” she said. “I also love the end of it as well because we did a gag vocal -we were all just kind of shouting and shout singing and then I think we all sang at the wrong time and looked at each other and laughed, and it’s really creepy. It’s my favourite part of it probably.”
And with those recommendations, there is little left to do but play Leave The Light On and determine your own favourite song. Following their stint in the US, Pillow Queens will be touring the UK and Europe in May through to July, before returning to the Emerald Isle for shows in October, with tickets still available to be snapped up.
Our national treasure has gone international, and GCN couldn’t be prouder.