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Fan Girl’s Vincent McIntyre talks debut album & preliminary success

Dan Webb
Fan Girl are a rock band from Melbourne who have enjoyed early meteoric success, regularly performing to packed rooms and supporting some high profile acts. We caught up with guitarist Vincent McIntyre ahead of the release of their debut album, Elephant Room – out March 23 via Caroline Australia.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut album, Elephant Room. Am I correct in understanding this album was self-produced at your house?
Yeah, so basically it was a record that me and Jack (Wood), who’s one of the other guys in Fan Girl, kind of worked on for a fair while, just getting the songs together and working on the instrumentation and producing at home, at my place. And then we got Noah (Harris) in and he sung on it, obviously. But it was for all intents and purposes, all done in the basement at my house.

it was a real spin listening to the podcast and hearing you guys talk about that.

I’ve read online that the band started as a concept in the minds of yourself and Jack Wood. What is the exact nature of Jack’s involvement in the band, and how did you go about recruiting the other members?
Yeah, cool. So it started out with me and Jack and I guess Jack kind of – you know, we produce music together and we write music together. I do most of the performing whereas he’s you know, doing a fair chunk of the engineering and the production, as well as just like, helping out with arrangement and kinda like, adding in stylistic choices and – basically it’s like, I can write music on my own and Jack could write music on his own, but Fan Girl, musically, is the combination of us two working together and just throwing ideas around. So that’s kind of what he does. So he’s, you know, he’s part of the songwriting, part of the production, part of the way things are recorded and the way things are presented. And just also, just stuff like videos and creative ideas around releases and artwork and stuff. So it’s kinda all encompassing really, it’s just that he’s not on stage with us when we play. So it was born out of that, and then we searched and searched for the right singer for the project and we came across Noah and that kinda just felt right straight away, so that was awesome. And we got to work on working with him pretty much instantly as soon as he got back from overseas – he was overseas at the time. And then the rest of the band… this is something we talk about all the time, in terms of like, a weird point of difference from most other bands. Like most bands start with friends or friends of friends and start with a conversation and you know, you write music together or you might play someone’s music. This was like, really kind of like, designed almost, I guess. We tried out so many fucking drummers, it was ridiculous. Until we found Krish (Soorkia) and weirdly enough, Krish was someone that we’d like, kind of like, grown up playing alongside in different bands and stuff. So it was a nice full circle moment when we got him on board. But it was definitely looking pretty dire on the drumming front for a long time there, so it was amazing when we got him in. Dom (Buckham) – I’ve been playing music with Dom for eight years or something, and just been in lots and lots of bands and played on lots of projects with him and he’s an amazing bass player and he’s a really good entertainer and he’s fantastic in the band. So when I was starting to think about people who could play bass for the live aspect of the band, he was the first person I kind of thought of and he said yes, which was lovely. And also he actually sings lead vocals on one of the songs on the record which isn’t out yet (“I Knew From Before”) so that’s really cool… And then Luke (Thomas), I was going to uni with Luke, studying music at RMIT and he’s just a very good guitarist and a consummate professional and seemed like a great option. And it was just one of those things where it took – it did take like, you know, the best part of a year and a half to put that band together, but once we get everyone in the same room and started playing, it was just like, ‘yeah we’ve really got something together here, this is really, really cool’. And of course, like, we’ve spent countless hours every week together now, so we’ve become fast friends, but like, it was definitely weird in that I’ve never been in a situation where a band has arisen purely out of my own picking of amazing musicians. And you know, it’s also cool to play in a band where everyone is better at their instrument than you are. Like, I play the stuff on the record, sure, but like, these guys are fantastic live players and it’s an absolute honour to kind of like, share the stage with them and to have our live music be interpreted by them and stuff. So it’s really, really cool.

I actually got a chance to see you guys support The Vines at The Corner last year. I’ve mentioned in the podcast before, I honestly thought you outshone the headliner that night, I was really blown away.
That’s super awesome to hear, man. We actually did hear the podcast, and that was pretty mind blowing to have it kind of told to us. Like, we had a couple of people at the show that, I mean we had a lot of people after that show that came up and were really impressed and really enjoyed the show. And that was a lot of fun, also just because I grew up listening to The Vines and a lot of the guys in the band did too. Like, that first record in particular is really, kind of like a massive part of my childhood if I’m to be honest. So that was a really, really cool night and we got some great feedback. But yeah, it was a real spin listening to the podcast and hearing you guys talk about that. That was super weird but super lovely. So thank you so much.

In addition to The Vines, you’ve been supporting some fairly big names in the local scene. Do you find it intimidating at all, and is there a particular highlight that leaps to mind?
Long story short, we don’t find it intimidating, but that’s because we’ve become really good at kind of like, understanding that people can be the best in their field and it doesn’t mean that we can’t be the best in our field and just take what we can from all these other legends that we seem to play with. There’s been a couple of highlights, playing with Catfish and the Bottlemen at the start of 2017 was insanity, because they obviously put on a very slick and professional show and they’re amazing to their fans and we played at, what was it, The Enmore Theatre to a sold out crowd and a really appreciative crowd and we got an amazing response and stuff. So that was a really good learning experience as well as just a real like, bucket list, like, holy shit, we’re playing in front of this many people. And it went down really well. But in terms of more local acts like, we went on a – we played on all Victorian dates for Ecca Vandal‘s tour in November and that was phenomenal. Just because like, she’s amazing and that band are absolute pros and they’re the loveliest people, just like, total model citizens in every way. They’re just you know, true craftsmen and craftswomen on what they do, and then they’re just so generous with their time and wisdom and it was really nice of them to take us under their wing and kind of take us on tour and really, you know, put on what were some of the best shows we witnessed last year, let alone the fact that we got to support them playing those shows so, that was really cool. And then, you know, also, we’re pretty pedantic with who we pick to share the stage with in terms of supports or when we’re putting on gigs or whatever. And we did a – we’re always really happy with the supports but we did a fundraising gig at the start of 2017 as well, at the Gaso, and we just got to play with some of our favourite Melbourne acts. Like, Arbes are amazing, if you haven’t checked out Arbes, they’re fantastic. And Sophisticated Dingo, who are really starting to get a bit of traction, they’re awesome too and they feature in our new video so, that’s a bit of a laugh. But yeah, it’s kind of like we – I’m rambling here, but like, we have been really lucky to play with a lot of acts that we’ve really learnt a lot from, whether they be big or small and whether the venue be big or small. So it’s been really, really cool, like, there hasn’t been a bad show.

we’re just trying to straddle the line between being really tight and punchy and then also being really frantic and energetic. So that works sometimes and doesn’t work so well other times. But I do feel as though it keeps it interesting, at the least.

You’ve only been playing together a year or two. What would you say is the key to your success?
(Laughs) Thank you for assuming we have success, that’s really awesome. We’re all perfectionists at what we do in terms of like, you know, like I feel like everyone plays their part as well as anyone could ever play that part. So I guess it’s commitment to the cause. Like, we rehearse a lot and we do, we think a lot about, you know, how we play the songs, how we’re delivering the set. We change, like, everything’s different every time we play. Yeah, so I think the commitment to just like, providing a good experience as a music listener. Whether that does provide a good music experience or not is kind of out of our hands, but it’s a commitment to trying to do that, to doing what we would see as being that. I feel like that’s probably our strongest suit. And then the live show’s just like, we’re just trying to straddle the line between being really tight and punchy and then also being really frantic and energetic. So that works sometimes and doesn’t work so well other times. But I do feel as though it keeps it interesting, at the least.

Your reaction to that previous question makes me think that maybe you don’t consider yourself successful. So what’s the end goal with all of this? What are you hoping to achieve through your music?
I guess, like, yeah, it depends on what your – one person’s classification of success is. I mean, there’s definitely a great feeling of success in just, you know, putting on a show that you’re happy with and having people actually, legitimately enjoy that and let you know that. As well as just kind of like, pursuing and just doing something as well and as hard as you can. That’s definitely a success that we strive for. In terms of actual industry success, we’ve been really lucky and we hope the luck continues in terms of seeing the band grow, seeing the audience grow and playing bigger shows and stuff. So I guess we’re – we kind of like, work towards multiple concepts of success. That sounds really wanky. But yeah, so I guess, you know, the beauty of this band is that everyone is an individual and we all have our own other projects and stuff as well, but everyone is really driven and determined to just kind of like, do what they do as well as they can and as you know, as uniquely as they can. So I guess it’s just the pursuit of like, you know, really doing something awesome, kind of (laughs). If that makes any sense. But also, also, like, putting the album out is a massive success. We’re really rapt about that. You know, we’ve got a great label, we’ve got a great team around the band. That in itself is a success, like, we’ve had people invest time, effort and money and love into the project, and you know, that’s something that you never expect when you start writing songs for something. So that’s been super fantastic and you know, it has been a super success. And whether or not it gets picked up by the mainstream audience or not, is like, out of our hands. As long as the people who hear it enjoy it or, you know, are opinionated about it, love it or hate it, whatever, that’s fine. As long as we get a reaction, that’s kind of, you know, the success that we’re going for.

we’re trying to imitate like, a hundred things at once and all subtly.

Many of the songs on this album start with various sound effects. What was the intent behind that idea, and were these sounds improvised, or preconceived?
That’s a really good question. Those sounds were all from – so most of that stuff is me and Jack in the studio kind of like, just playing around with motifs, normally while we’re recording the song, it’s never really an afterthought, it’s normally a part of the full package of the song. But basically, we just, you know, it’s a common thing between most of us in the band that we like records that have a flow and have atmospheres and have kind of like, moods and sections and stuff. And we found that a lot of the tunes were really upfront and in your face and it was nice to have these like, bits in between songs or bits at the start of songs, or whatever, that kind of just like, take you somewhere else, before you snap back into the next song. So they’re preconceived in that we always plan to do them, like it’s part of the songwriting, we’re always like, ‘oh, we’ll do an intro like this for this song and then we’ll do something at the end of this song like this, and then that can lead into that’. But a lot of the time, it’s just you know, we’re in the creative space of writing and recording that given song and then we just have to think of another part that can be the beginning or the end or the drop out section or whatever it might be. So the concept’s preconceived, but the actual thing is normally spur of the moment. And then we do totally different renditions of those in the live show, which is cool.

What would you say to cynics who might say that you’re just imitating your favourite bands?
I would say they’re right, but I reckon, the thing we always say about this music – and this is really easy to say when you make it and you’re not listening to it from a distance, but a lot of our issue with bands that we are not big fans of is that we find that they’re imitating their favourite artists, but they’re always imitating one or two or three artists at once. Whereas we do this (laughs) – we haven’t got a name for it or anything, but we’re trying to imitate like, a hundred things at once and all subtly. So sure, there might be some like, more identifiable strains of a certain artist in a certain song or across the album, like that’s something you’d probably have to tell me. But we like to take a lot of influence and then mash it together, as opposed to just taking one or two or three influences and kind of, you know – we want there to be some mystery and we don’t want people to be sitting there being like, ‘oh, this sounds a lot like Dolly Parton‘, or whatever. And the other thing is, it’s very eclectic between me and Jack and Noah in particular, it’s a very eclectic music palette that we listen to and there’s a little bit of crossover but honestly there’s not a lot of crossover. Like, I like a lot of stuff that Jack can’t stand and then Noah likes a lot of stuff that I can’t stand, like, respectfully. So it’s cool to be able to bring those influences into the group but put them into a different setting as well. So there might be something about a band that I can’t stand but then Jack suggests we try this sound effect, and then all of a sudden it doesn’t sound like that band or anything else, it just sounds like Fan Girl. So it’s just kind of like, hiding your tracks, basically.

We just acted like fools, running around the city in pink outfits with balloons and big letters and stuff, scaring everyone on their lunch breaks… it was very awkward.

Fan Girl - Elephant Room album cover
Fan Girl – Elephant Room album cover, 2018

I think we need to talk about this awesome album cover of yours. Can you talk us through the concept and how it came about?
Thank you. So basically with the album cover, that was an idea that I had because we were just – we’re not super visual people and we’ve always struggled with that, we tend to rely on fantastic artists that we know to come up with our albums covers, for instance, like our “Small Town” single cover was done by a really dear friend of ours, Julia, who’s an amazing photographer and an amazing artist. It was also done with this other fantastic artist named Haley, and that was a little collab that they did and we got to use that as our cover and we were really happy with that and previously we’ve had photographs that friends have taken or bits of art that friends have made so it’s never really been on us. But I did come up with the concept of kind of like, the birds eye city shot, about a year ago. Just because I thought like, ‘that could be cool, I don’t know if it’ll work but it could be cool’. And it was a bit like that the whole way through, like, we decided, ‘oh, we’ll give this a go, it probably won’t work, but we’ll give it a go’. And then long story short, we got in touch with a photographer who we’ve been working with a lot, a different Julia, she’s also fantastic, and she was keen to do it. And then we managed to wrangle some access to a building for a couple of hours and then we just acted like fools, running around the city in pink outfits with balloons and big letters and stuff, scaring everyone on their lunch breaks. And lo and behold, Julia edited all of kind of the photos together. And by the way, there’s like, there’s no Photoshopping, as in, there’s no – nothing that wasn’t on the street is on that cover, it’s all there, they just – the images have just kind of been laid upon each other as opposed to kind of like, faking it. That all happened and it was very awkward, so (laughs). But that was all put together by Julia and it just turned out phenomenal – like, it’s so good. We’re so happy with that album cover, it’s just so much more than we though it ever would be and it’s what we all like in an album cover, which is something that is immediately striking, but then also something that you can look at for ten minutes and just continually see new things. It’s a bit of like a, Where’s Wally, like a dark Where’s Wally kind of vibe going on. But yeah, we’re really happy with it and Julia is an absolute legend. She is just so good at what she does and it was such an honour to work with her, so, super happy about that, yeah.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
That’s a really tough question… I would say David Bowie, but also I would preface that answer with, I don’t even know if I would have anything that I could possibly like, add to him and collaborate with him on. I’d just like to be in the room, like, let me make coffee for David Bowie doing a session, kind of thing. So that would be my dream collaboration, just making lattes for David Bowie. In terms of Fan Girl, there’s so many people we would love to collaborate with at some point down the track. I guess the first one that comes to mind for me, just because I think it would be an amazing combination and she’s got an amazing voice, is this fantastic British singer called Lianne La Havas. She put out a great record called Blood a year or two, and she put out – her debut album was amazing as well. But she’s got a phenomenal voice and she’s just got such an amazing songwriting sensibility and the music doesn’t sound anything like Fan Girl, although she’s a big influence, but I feel like that would just be absolutely phenomenal. So she’s probably the answer in terms of people Fan Girl would love to collaborate with, that’s my personal answer anyway.