Pillow Queens’ New Album “Name Your Sorrow” Is An Ode To The Human Condition

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Photo Credit: Martyna Bannister

Irish indie-rock group Pillow Queens has entered a new era of artistic ambition on their new album Name Your Sorrow. In their third full-length studio release, the indie group – who has earned praise from Pitchfork, DIY Magazine and NPR – writes music featuring emotive vocals and dreamy musicality. Composed of Pamela Connolly (lead vocals, guitar, bass), Sarah Corcoran (vocals, guitar, bass), Cathy McGuinness (vocals, lead guitar) and Rachel Lyons (vocals, drums), Pillow Queens made their debut with their 2016 EP Calm Girls. Since then, the outfit only grew in the UK music scene, going on to grace numerous festival stages and opening for the likes of IDLES and Phoebe Bridgers. After the release of their 2022 sophomore album Leave the Light On, Pillow Queens earned a nomination for Irish Album of the Year and made their late night television debut on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Their third LP displays the maturity that Pillow Queens have harnessed in their sound as well as the vast layers of their artistry. While accompanied by unapologetic guitars and lyrics that embody ethereal poeticism, Pillow Queens writes music reminiscent of 90s alternative rock that effortlessly conveys journeys travelled over troubled water. By embracing their vulnerability through their songwriting, the group manages to sail over these waters rather than drown in them. To discuss the making of Name Your Sorrow, Pamela sat down with Melodic Magazine and told us about the band’s musical influences, what to expect on their new album, and more.

Thank you so much for taking the time today! First, how did the band start?
At the end of 2016, we were all coming out of previous musical projects. I think it was Sarah who had the notion that she wanted to be in a band again. She was a little bit apprehensive about it, just because she’d been out of the scene for such a long time. Then we hung out with Kathy and it was brought up with her, and she said it’d be something she’d be really interested in as well. Then that kind of weeded its way into another mutual friend of ours, Rachel, and then it just naturally came together. When we got into a room, while it wasn’t very polished, it felt like it had seeds to grow. From there we just kept running. 

You guys have such a distinct sound, and I know you all have a variety of influences. The band said that everyone from Frank Ocean to Barbra Streisand were influences on this album. Having that many diverse influences, how do you narrow that down to make your own unique sound?
Generally speaking we all have quite similar influences that we touch on. They’re not all carbon copies by any means, but they’re things that influence certain aspects of the music. Barbra Streisand for instance, there is so many of those little references that if you’re listening to the record as a non-Pillow Queen fan, you’re probably asking ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ We even said Lana Del Rey was a reference. Our music is quite far from Lana Del Rey, but I felt like the music we were making had that general hue of sadness and yearning that her music has. I like that we are attempting to replicate that or use that as a touchstone because, intrinsically, we’re a rock band. We’re not breaking barriers by any means, but we can take from other pieces of music that perhaps are not the same genre. If we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, it makes it less interesting. It makes it interesting for us that we have these little totems that we can hang to little parts of the song. It makes the music closer to us when we have those things.

It’s been said your single “Like A Lesson” is a combination of every band members’ music taste. How did that song come together?
When it comes to “Like A Lesson,” we started listening to Hot Fuss by the Killers, and a lot of songs on that album have these middle eights that could be their own song. The middle eights of this song is kind of referencing that. We also came up with the ‘I don’t want to ruin my life’ line, and I remember us in Kathy’s car when we were leaving the rehearsal space one evening. We record as we write just so we know what to come back to, and we just had that on loop. We thought that could be its own song, but we had to be hold back and remember what the original plan was. That song came about really naturally, because it was one of those days where we didn’t know if we were going to come out with a song or tinker about a little bit. But I think it was a day where we just said let’s see where we go and that kind of fleshed itself out. 

The song is about this longing for intimacy but also a fear of it as well. What inspired the band to write a song about that?
Personally, I think the entire album touches on that longing and desperate yearning, which makes the album quite vulnerable when you’re showing it to people. It’s one of those things where we couldn’t not write about that. It was the space that we were in and if you were to ask us now to not write a song about yearning, we’d probably struggle. I think when we talk about songs individually, it’s hard not to say the same thing about another song because they’re all dealing with the same feelings in different forms. 

How does it feel to release music where you’re that vulnerable?
We’ve always dealt with big emotions in the band, but when it comes to songwriting, we do use analogies and stuff heavily in the writing in order to convey emotions and heavy topics. That’s something that we’ve veered away from on this record. It is a lot more raw and people are not going to ask what the songs are about, because it’s laid there in black and white. It’s quite uncomfortable when people bring up the topic of a song, because you feel a bit on the spot. It’s like, do I have to talk about it further even though we wrote an entire album of it? But I also really like it for the people that we have shown the album to, because it is so easily relatable and there’s not much dissecting to it. A lot of people have said they were very touched by it or that they could relate to it heavily. While it’s uncomfortable being so vulnerable, the pro is that people get closer to the music in that uncomfortableness. 

How is this album different from your previous releases?
For this one, the biggest difference for us was the writing of it. Our first album was an amalgamation of all the music that we had at that point. Then with our second album, because of lockdown, when it came to us getting into a room and creating music together, it was a very short time. We didn’t have as much time as we probably would have loved. So when it came to this album, it felt really natural. It felt like it was at an even pace and we were able to leave things and come back to them and not feel like we have to finish it right away. When it comes to the sound,  we sound like we’re willing to make more stylistic risks when it comes to certain songs. We weren’t thinking about how many of these songs were going to be radio friendly singles. We came at it in a more relaxed way that cherished each song as we went. 

The music video for “Like A Lesson” seems like one of those risks you’ve decided to take. Visually it’s very different from your previous videos. What inspired you to take a different route with that video specifically?
It’s by an artist called Jacob Stack. We think his artwork is really beautiful. We approached him, and videos weren’t something that he’d necessarily done before. We said, ‘We don’t need you to go crazy, we just really love your art and if it can be incorporated into a visualizer that would be great.’ We talked to them about what we wanted the song to represent and visuals that we’d like. There’s a line in ‘Like A Lesson’ that references the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Leander used to swim through choppy seas in order to get to his love, and then one day she turned the lighthouse light on and he went in the choppy seas even though it was way too dangerous and perished. So there’s a line in the song that refers to that and he leaned in that direction and played into what the song is about, which is feeling insecure in a relationship and wanting to be enough for someone, and perhaps thinking that while the aim of the game is for this to all work out, you know in the back of your head that it’s probably going to be more of a teaching experience.

On the album you make several different references to literature and mythology. What inspires you to pull from old stories or poems?
Some of them kind of reference it as the writing happens. There’s some other references to Greek myths on some of the other songs. I was going down a bit of a rabbit hole with Greek mythology at some point. They’re usually very short stories, and when you just reference a line it says so much. There’s a whole story behind it. It’s like adding another paragraph to a song by just referencing one line of a Greek myth or a poem. There’s light references to C.S. Lewis lines as well. He wrote a book under another name called “A Grief Observed” about losing his wife. There’s a reference in one of the songs about that. After the album was finished, we were struggling to find a name. We knew in ourselves that it felt like a unit of work and we knew exactly what the vibe was, but we just wanted something to represent that. We were looking through poetry to fine something, and we were sent a poem by the Irish poet Eavan Boland, and it’s called ‘Atlantis – A Lost Sonnet.’ That poem is where we got the name of the album. There’s a line in it that says, “they gave their sorrow name and drowned it.” 

What should the world know about Pillow Queens?
They should know that we’re actually very good (laughs). No, I guess what they should know is that they should go to shows. That’s truly where you’re going to get the sense of a band. You’re not going to look at a promo photo of those four chicks and be think, ‘I’m going to like that band.’ You should know that we put a lot of our hearts into our music and I think that shows a lot. We make incredibly relatable music on a human level. You might look at us and think, ‘I don’t think they’re for me. They don’t look like me.’ But essentially, we write music about the human condition. Give us a listen. You might cry.

Follow Pillow Queens: Instagram // Twitter // YouTube // Spotify

Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen is a Chicago-based music journalist and freelance writer. She is a recent graduate from Columbia College Chicago, having earned a journalism major with a concentration in magazine writing and a minor in music business. Justice regularly contributes artist interviews, On Your Radar features and various other articles for Melodic Magazine, serving as an interviewer, writer and editor. She also writes for several other online magazine publications, including Ghost Cult Magazine, Chicago Music Guide and That Eric Alper, and her work has been featured in Sunstroke Magazine, Fever Dream Zine, ChicagoTalks and the Chicago Reader. Her favorite band is Metallica and her go-to coffee order is an iced vanilla oat milk latte with strawberry cold foam on top.

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