Little Xs For Eyes take to the stage at the Workman’s Club in Dublin on Friday night. The Daily Shift’s Sean O’Brien interviews vocalist Bennie Reilly ahead of the gig…
One year on from the release of the wonderfully dreary yet inspiringly heartfelt debut album ‘S.A.D,’ Little Xs For Eyes take to the stage for their headline gig in Dublin’s the Workman’s Club on Friday night.
They say that when one door closes, another one opens. This is something that can certainly be said for the Dublin-based folk-pop sextet Little Xs For Eyes, who formed out of two diminishing projects blending beautifully into one melodic, harmonic powered surprise.
Six years on from the band’s formation and following one ‘very good’ year for the band after the 2011 release of their debut album ‘S.A.D,’ vocalist Bennie Reilly returns to the beginning of what’s been an interesting and genial journey for Little Xs. Over the dog-and-bone, on the eve of their first headline gig in Dublin in ‘ages,’ Bennie reminisces of how Little Xs For Eyes came to be:
“Myself and Davey (Davey Moor, vocalist, guitarist and jack of all trades) started the band. We met after we both were dumped by our other bands and Little Xs was our rebound band I suppose! And we just called on some friends after that.”
Bennie, however, shares more than musical chemistry with Davey.
“I was quite apprehensive when we started the band as I didn’t know if it was a good idea to be in a band with my boyfriend. But it works for us because we get each other and we understand each other’s way of writing.”
It makes sense then that the debut album is so naturally impartial, perfectly engaging the glistening performances of both boy and girl, tied up in endearment. But Bennie’s relationship with Davey isn’t really the subject of the band’s music.
“I’ve only written one, maybe two songs about my relationship with Davey, if even. Most of the songs I write have something to do with romance but I mostly take it from past experience or imagined experience or if it is anything to do with Davey and I, it isn’t very obvious.”
Bennie says that it is important to separate their personal lives from the band and adopt a business-like approach while not letting personal issues enter the rehearsal room.
“If tension ever arises you have to make sure it’s just solely musical differences and not bring up, ‘oh, I’m so annoyed that you didn’t come home in time for dinner yesterday,’ at the same time we try not to bring too much band stuff home with us either.”
Maybe it is somewhat surprising that the music of Little Xs is not inspired by Bennie and Davey’s relationship. Yet, this in fact lends itself to an increased level of open-mindedness in their music. It escapes the constraints of an inspiration purely drawn from the regular ups and downs experienced through love. Bennie is the principal songwriter for the band, while Davey also writes.
“When Davey and I write songs, we only write separately. When I have a song I will have the melody and lyrics sorted before I bring it to the band so in a way our songwriting is a very separate thing.”
Bennie admits to drawing inspiration to write from all around, including the things she sees and thinks about, even when going for a simple stroll.
“I write most songs when I’m out walking and a melody or a lyric will come into my head and I’ll develop the song in my head then I’ll pick up the guitar or keyboard and flesh it out a bit. Once you’re in that space, you don’t come out until it’s done.”
With influences ranging from 80s and 90s charts stuff to Bright Eyes and Roy Orbison, Little Xs For Eyes possess a unique ability to captivate an audience with their elegant accounts of the universal portrayed through delicate harmonies while also providing us with some catchy hooks.
“I think it’s really important that a song has a lot of good catchy hooks, I suppose it comes from the 80s and 90s chart music in me. When I was growing up we always had the radio on in the house, so that’s why I think I have so much naff for the 80s and 90s stuff. I mean, I love a good pop song, but there’s nothing really in the charts nowadays that I like.”
The music of Little Xs For Eyes is not a showcase of what you’d hear down the local nightclub on a Saturday night and the bands out there at present don’t impress Bennie much. However, she revealed her own experience of being the crazed fan lost somewhere between a riff or an edgy falsetto note, waving arms and singing much to the displeasure of the surrounding crowd.
“The last gig I went to that completely blew me away, it was at Electric Picnic, I went to see Metronomy then I can’t remember the last time I got so excited and so overcome about seeing a band live, It was really embarrassing, I couldn’t help myself from singing their songs. It took me days to get over it!”
Despite not having much amour for today’s charts, Bennie admits that radio still plays a huge part in her life today.
“I’ll always listen to the radio in the morning to see what’s going on. When I’m at home I’ll always have it on too. I think its important that Irish bands get played on daytime national radio. I think the music scene in Dublin is really exciting, there are more Irish bands at the moment that I love than there ever has been.”
With Irish artists such as Two Door Cinema Club and James Vincent McMorrow, and more recently bands like Little Green Cars and Kodaline making their names on the international stage, the Irish music scene is indeed electric at present. However, it can take a combination of hard work and luck to make it in Dublin alone, admits Bennie.
“It’s just not that easy for bands because you generally have to pay to play anywhere and I think that’s a pity. You’re putting yourself at risk financially.”
After over six years in the Dublin music scene playing nearly every venue the city has to offer.
“It’s great to see a band like Little Green Cars get swept up as there are an awful lot of great Irish bands that don’t get picked up, so it is encouraging to see bands like Little Green Cars and Villagers getting the reception they deserve. I think it should happen more because it doesn’t happen enough. It seems that when certain bands finally get exposed whether its because they’re on an ad or maybe Ray D’Arcy decided to play them one week on his show, suddenly they can make it really big.”
Last year, Little Xs For Eyes opened for Ham Sandwich at their Academy show and Bennie sees the success of Ham Sandwich as an example of how radio airplay can really boost a band’s reputation.
“The great thing about Ray D’Arcy is that he will just play a band on his show, like he plays Ham Sandwich all the time. He just heard one of their songs, he really liked it and started to play it and now he plays them all the time. They packed out the Academy last year, we supported them and the place was jammed. Ham Sandwich appearing on Ray D’Arcy proves how that can work for a band because suddenly people are hearing them.”
Following a busy year for Little Xs, the band are preparing to get back to writing for a follow-up to ‘S.A.D.’ Tonight’s gig in the Workman’s club kicks off at 8pm and Bennie and the rest of the Little Xs gang eagerly await the opportunity to bless an audience with their delicious harmony-driven folk-pop wonder and spread some serenity around the room. Bennie said excitedly ahead of the gig:
“It’s a big deal for us as it’s our first headline gig in Dublin in ages. We’re also gonna be playing some new songs, trying them out.”