With a provocative band name and hard edged sound that owes much to both grunge and punk, Manchester three-piece The Virginmarys are a hard act to ignore once you've come across them. They've become a big hit on the UK alternative scene, and have toured alongside the likes of Skunk Anansie, Feeder, Eagles of Death Metal, Ash,We Are Scientists and Slash. The former Guns N’ Roses guitarist has even been spotted wearing one of the band’s t-shirts.
The Virginmarys’ debut album 'King of Conflict' gets its official release on 4 February, but Ally Dickaty (Guitar/Vocals), Danny Dolan (Drums) and Matt Rose (Bass/Vocals) have been playing together and touring for some time. “We wanted to wait a while so we were sure we had the right set of songs,” Ally explains. “We released a series of EPs and pretty much toured constantly which I think was really important for as a band.”
This cycle of intensive touring allowed the fledgling band to develop a strong fan base. Ally explained how lucky the Virginmarys have been able to “meet and hang round with loads of our fans from being on the road so much. We’re really glad that we waited for the time to be right to record our debut. I don’t think its something that should ever be rushed.”
Now that 'King of Conflict' is on the verge of general release, the signs all point to a big splash. “The response from those that have heard it has been fantastic,” Matt explains. “We’ve had some great reviews already and had the likes of Kerrang Radio, XFM, Planet Rock playing tracks off it and they seem to be really into it.”
But where did the band’s provocative name actually come from? “We came up with the name from another band me and Ally were in,” drummer Danny says. “We spent six months in Los Angeles recording and the digs were literally in the middle canyon country. There was only one bar for absolute miles called The Londoner in Santa Clarita, so after recording we’d tend to go down there for a few drinks. One night we were in there and overheard these five guys talking about going to a strip club in San Fernando called Virginmary's.
“I think it just kinda shocked us that there’d be a place named something like that and I guess it always stuck in my head.”
The time in the US is also reflected in the band’s sound. “I guess we'd all sit somewhere in the same boat as Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age,” Danny says. The band has a lot of respect for the music scene they originally emerged from too. According to Ally, they've “always been influenced by the energy and intensity of bands like the Sex Pistols and The Who.”
But, Ally repeats, “we don’t close ourselves off in a certain genre. It’s whatever comes natural at the time.”
One thing which sets the Virginmarys apart, and recalls Nirvana in a big way, is the intelligence and social commentary they imbue into their lyrics. “I think lyrics are a really important part of any song,” says Ally. “I grew up listening to a lot of Neil Young, I think he was the first to make me realise how good it can be. I always like to take time on writing them and make them as good as I personally can. That’s not always about being clever with them, it’s just what’s best for the song.”
With an album ready for release, the Virginmarys are ready to get back to touring once again. They start on familiar territory touring the UK in February and March (they haven’t yet announced any Irish shows). After that they’ll be hitting the US, where they have just signed a deal with Wind-Up Records (also home to Evanescence, Creed and Seether), something the band are very excited about.
And after that? “I guess we’ll be looking at doing festivals this year too,” says Matt, “and then hopefully over to Europe. In between all this we’d like to be getting down new ideas for the second album and potentially get that recorded towards the end of the year. So busy, busy, busy!”