September Girls are ambitious, productive

Music Notes / By Colleen Taylor

In a world where the Strypes are making retro sounds young again, a Dublin band is reinvigorating nostalgic rock from the 1960s and ‘80s with modern-day electro-pop. That band is the September Girls, a quintet of Caoimhe, Jessie, Paula, Lauren and Sara, who burst onto the scene with their languid rock chords and pop vocals less than three years ago.

While I admit their genre and style—which they themselves define as “reverb-soaked noise-pop”—might not always be my first preference, the ambition and productivity of this band over such a short time period is noteworthy. Toward the end of 2014, they released a follow-up to their much acclaimed debut album, “Cursing the Sea,” released earlier in 2014: an EP entitled “Veneer.”

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I first encountered the September Girls at Ireland’s Body & Soul festival last summer in Westmeath. They by no means drew the biggest crowd (in fairness, their competition was Jape and John Grant) but there was ample buzz about their performance throughout the weekend, which led me to take another notice. And I wasn’t the only potential fan noticing in Ireland, or in New York for that matter. An exciting New Year’s Eve gig in 2013 rocketed these girls to the center of musical chatter in Ireland, earning them instantaneous fans and leading to a kind of “September Girls” branding—you can now buy tote bags, T shirts, and other merch with their logo displayed on the front. They earned the praise of critics as well as teenagers, and within the year, by the end of 2014, The September Girls had toured the UK and made a couple trips to the U.S., one of which included a performance at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon. Ireland is still the September Girls’ main market and they play regularly at local pubs like Workman’s Pub and the Grand Social. Nonetheless, their international fan base is still kicking: the girls were in Birmingham, London, and Cardiff last week for another UK tour. What’s more, their releases hit the music shops rapidly. In early 2014 they released their debut album, “Cursing the Sea,” which came to the U.S. in November under Kanine Records, and at the end of last year they also released a short EP, “Veneer.”

The September Girls don’t exactly qualify as “easy listening” but what they do offer is innovative, even evocative musical fusions. Behind a track like their “Ships” there’s a allusion to ‘80s grunge, while their harmonies on “Secret Lovers” recalls a style drawn from the 60s, like that of the Ronettes. Female groups seem to be a clear inspiration for the September Girls: they take their band name from a cover done by all-female American ‘80s rock band the Bangles. At any rate, it’s clear the influences of this group are various and non-limiting. As a result, no two tracks sound the same. The marriage of melancholia and light vocalization, of ominous chords and sweet singing, seems to be a signature of their music. In their latest, the 2014 EP “Veneer,” this fascinating fusion is displayed in the title track, as well as in my personal favorite from the short collection, “Melatonin,” which chimes a tambourine with heavy percussion and a dooming set of chords from the bass. While I might argue their debut album, “Cursing the Sea,” is a unique and more interesting collection in its incorporation of 60s rock-pop stylization, the latest release, “Veneer,” which looks forward more than backward, demonstrates that the band is trying to keep up with the times and with the competition. It really asserts the September Girls within that indie-electro-rock genre that is so popular today, particularly in Ireland.

In a genre like electro-rock where male musicians tend to take center stage, it’s refreshing and exciting to see an all-female ensemble who are backed by an all-female PR support team. If nothing else, the September Girls are mixing it up, bringing new faces, along with some female empowerment, to the stage and genre of Irish modern rock. Keep an eye out for another New York trip and introduce yourself to their work, starting with “Cursing the Sea” on Spotify. You can also visit their Tumblr site or their Facebook page.