Ireland’s Little Green Cars’ debut album is appropriately titled Absolute Zero—the reason being that they wrote a majority of it while in high school, a time when we all felt like zeros at one point or another. Like most stealthy musicians, being detained by school made them want to blow it off even more, so cutting class and doodling in textbooks instead of highlighting the bejesus out of them comes as no shock. The quintet was so committed to their craft they had the notion that having a backup plan could actually deter them in the grand scheme of things.
While they don’t have any tattoos of Thin Lizzy lyrics on their body, Irish artistry and relationship woes may have had a hand in contributing to some of Little Green Cars’ heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics, not to mention those blissful harmonies. Moments before their Artist to Watch Live performance, which you can watch above, Hive sat down with the quintet — made up of vocalist/guitarist Stevie Appleby, bassist Donagh Seaver O’Leary, vocalist/guitarist Faye O’Rourke, guitarist Adam O’Regan and drummer Dylan Lynch — at the Studio at Webster Hall to rehash those pre-pubescent days and heavy tear-jerking lyrics.
What you guys were like in high school? I ask because your album, Absolute Zero, emulates those adolescent struggles we can all relate to.
Stevie: Abnormal. I would have to say I was a weird kid.
What do you mean by weird?
Adam: Well, we were definitely the only kids who played music at our school. We went to a very athletic orientated school. Stevie and I were kind of the two dorky kids who played guitar, and at lunch breaks we used to write songs together. Then, we met Dyl and discovered that he was secretly a drum aficionado.
Stevie: We definitely weren’t the most popular kids.
Did you make a lot of girls swoon back then?
Stevie: No. [Laughs]
So is “Harper Lee” a real person?
Stevie: Well, she is a real person, but I’ve never met her. I wouldn’t say we had a lot of girlfriends or anything. We didn’t have a lot of friends let alone girlfriends.
All you guys?
Adam: Yeah, we’re all dorks.
Faye, I know you joined the band later on. How did you all meet?
Faye: I knew the guys because we used to skip school together. I was at an all-girls school. They’d skip school; I’d skip school, then we’d go record and stuff.
Adam: What was that situation…do you remember something about a boat? I remember when we were skipping school one time and there was a boat.
Faye: Yeah, I skipped school one time, and Stevie collected me in a boat. Stevie and I met when we were 13 or 14, so we would skip school and go do that.
So you would go to record when you skipped school?
Stevie: Yeah, I don’t think any of us wanted to be in school at that time. Especially at that age of 15, 16, when nothing seems too important at it’s all about future, but nothing seems as important as the present.
Adam: Well, I feel like when we started the band, for me it was like I couldn’t get myself into school whatsoever. I was like this is what I want to do, and I felt if we put all of our eggs in one basket, then we can’t fail.
Stevie: It was hard to concentrate on something that seemed so unimportant because we felt like what we were doing outside of school meant something. It did to us.
Adam: And people always say you need to have something to fall back on, but I kind of feel like that’s a copout for you. If you have something to fall back on, you’re not going to give yourself over completely to what it is you want to achieve. That was important for us to not have something to fall back on.
Stevie, you wrote “Red and Blue” when you were 16, and then you guys remastered it for the album. You must have been mature for your age.
Stevie: As you can tell from the recording, I had a lot of time on my hands as a kid. I suppose what was was good about that song was that there was an element of imagination in it, and if we had rerecorded it, we would have lost that. It’s almost a dark song in how it was conceived, and we didn’t want to lose its naive side—its demented side. They go hand in hand.
Did you write the lyrics to that first?
I wrote the song when I was having writer’s block, so I decided that I would make up someone and pretend to be them. They wouldn’t have writer’s block and could write a song. I got a cardboard box and I covered it in tin foil, and I put it on and pretended I was a robot. The idea behind the song was if art could be better than the artist. I wrote this backstory that this lonely robot from Mars was in love with this girl, so he built the world for her as a present, and when she went down to go see it, she never came back up. Now, he’s waiting for her, but she’s somewhere down on Earth and he can’t find her. I didn’t really write the song. That robot wrote the song.
Were you writing a lot of songs when you were in high school in general?
Stevie: Well, we were writing a lot from the time we were 16 until we were 20 and 21. The songs that we were writing when we were 16, we were writing in the middle of what was going on and what we were experiencing at the time. Now, we’re writing songs and looking back on those experiences and probably have a clearer view. The songs that we’re writing now are almost the same songs we were writing back then but in an easier context.
Specifically, could you talk about the lyrics in “My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me” because that song could have a multitude of different interpretations.
Faye: It’s funny, I think I wrote it when we were 18 or 19. Everyone can relate to it in their own sort of way—it’s that itching to remove a feeling or emotion that you just don’t want to have anymore. It gets to the point where you’re done with it, and you just want to get rid of it. You want to move on, but it kind of contradicts that by saying, “Well, actually I can’t remember what it was like beforehand so I’d rather feel this forever.” I’d rather feel this shit forever then go back to the way it was because I need to feel this shit.
It’s kind of like when you’re a child and you have the ability to get over something, and then you become a teenager and you can’t shift the emotion. You can’t get rid of it. You can’t do anything. You can’t really feel like you used to feel anymore because an event happened in your life that subsequently changed you.
I had written some bits of poetry on paper when I was 13, and I remember when I was cleaning out loads of crap, I found it and thought, “That’s a really depressing thing for a 13-year-old to write.” So I decided to tidy it up a bit and make it into a song. Adam had had a post-chorus that he had written, and we put it together. It’s kind of funny singing it now because at the time when I wrote it, the person that I was writing about and now that a couple of years have past, it’s kind of sad. I remember being optimistic. In our music, there’s always a slight optimism even with this whole melancholic thing.
It’s like reflecting on a diary.
Faye: Yeah, documenting your feelings. The intimacy of that is just insane. It’s a surreal thing to relive over and over again. Now, we’re 21 and it’s kind of sad because sometimes you just want to forget those thoughts, but you can’t.