Pop Goes The Wonder Villains

The quartet from Derry~Londonderry have a new EP to promote and a wealth of stories to tell after a momentous year in the spotlight

As Derry~Londonderry quartet The Wonder Villains prepare to release their new EP, TV, their effervescent and ever-excitable lead vocalist Eimear Coyle is understandably animated following a 'lethal' year in the spotlight.

Talk in 2012 about the band’s rapid rise has been widespread, following a slot at the much-publicised Peace One Day concert in Derry's Ebrington site (see video below) and a recording session at the BBC's iconic Maida Vale studios.

With a headline slot at the imminent Belfast Music Week Showcase event in the Limelight on November 8 lined up, Coyle took some time out to reflect on how the past 18 months have effected Northern Ireland's most colourful, fun-loving new act.

Let's start with the new single, 'TV'. Could it be viewed as an attack on the likes of The X Factor and similar reality talent shows?

It's actually totally not. I think it's more about our genuine love of TV. That's pretty much how me and Cheylene [Murphy, keyboards] became such good friends, talking for hours about our favourite TV shows in extreme detail.

It's also about how the age of TV is over, in that I watch most of my TV shows online now. It used to be so exciting waiting until 9pm on a Thursday night with a cup of tea to watch the new episode of Lost. There were no internet spoilers or sneak peaks. It was awesome. Although, I’m not complaining. We get episodes here hours after they premiere in America now.

You describe your sound as 'anti-pop'. What exactly does that mean?

We think of ourselves as a pop band. We play pop songs, but we write our own tunes and play our own instruments. I think it's a way of letting people know we're as much of a ‘band’ as we are ‘pop’. Like ABBA, but a bit cooler.

As your PR blurb quite rightly points out, the last 18 months or so have been pretty incredible for Wonder Villains: winning the NI Music Awards 'Contenders' title, appearing on national TV, a session on Radio 1, UK and US tours, playing the Radio One Big Weekend Festival and supporting The Human League. What have been the highlights?

Recording a session in Maida Vale last year was an amazing experience. Getting to record our songs in such a historic place was definitely a highlight. We had a lot of fun running around the corridors of the studio as well.

And winning the NIMA was pretty awesome. We were like, ‘If we do win, let’s just play it cool’. But when Rigsy called our name, we all just jumped out of our seats with our hands in the air. We ran on stage and I made the silliest speech of all time. 'Ah, this is awesome!' We've had such a fun year.

You've also played in Morocco, which is quite unusual for any band. How did that come about and what was the experience like?

We were in a Travelodge in England when our manager emailed us saying something like 'There's a gig in Morocco. Want to do it?' I think we emailed back within one minute saying, 'Of course!'

'It was one of the most crazy weeks of my life. It was so warm. I was very close to melting. It's crazy that we can say we've played in Africa. We have friends on Facebook now that we met when we were over there, which is really cool. We also got to go to a kick-ass waterpark, which was a lot of fun.

You're still very young and have come a remarkably long way in a very short period. Has it surprised you how quickly things have happened?

Yeah, it's been amazing. We've actually been around for about five years, so in band-life we're getting a bit old now. It just so happens that I started performing when I was about 15. It took a while to come together, but now the band is the four of us, and it's going well. Everyone has been so kind. We're very lucky with all the opportunities we've been given. It feels great.

All your singles to date have been produced by former Oppenheimer frontman Rocky O'Reilly, who has an incredible reputation on the Northern Ireland scene. How important is it for a young band such as yourselves to have someone of his experience and pedigree at the helm?

Yeah it's so cool. We actually recorded the first couple of singles with Peter Doherty in Strabane, which taught us a lot, but Rocky's always been there giving us advice.

We won a competition to play with Oppenheimer in 2009 and after we played Rocky came up to us and said he wanted to help us out. That moment is definitely in my top five favourite moments of all time. Me and Cheylene were only 16 at the time and didn't really know anything about anything. Rocky totally looked after us. Now, four years later we're having the best time ever.

You've released three singles in just over a year. is there an album on the way? If so, when can we expect it?

We finished recording the album a few weeks ago and it feels so good to have it done. We're all really happy with it and can't wait for everyone to hear it. No definite plans at the minute, but hopefully it'll be out nice and soon.

Belfast Music Week is looming on the horizon once again. You're playing the showcase gig in the Limelight on Thursday, November 8. Are you looking forward to it?

Oh yeah, of course. Belfast Music Week was lethal last year, so we can't wait. I think it's great because throughout the year you don't usually see such amazing line-ups every night of the week. It's such an exciting week for music in Northern Ireland and it feels really cool to be a part of it.

What other bands on the bill are you looking forward to seeing yourselves?

All of them, really. I haven't seen Rams' Pocket Radio since Glasgowbury, so I'm definitely looking forward to that show. I've heard awesome things about Katharine Philippa, but I haven't got to catch her live yet. Really looking forward to it.

Do you agree that last year's MTV Europe Music Awards created a momentum that has enabled Northern Ireland's musical artists to shine in the international spotlight?

Yes. That was such a great night. I thought it was so cool hearing big stars tweeting about being in Belfast for the awards. Lady Gaga and Brian May hanging around town. I didn't happen to run into them though.

TV is set for release on No Dancing Records on October 29, 2012. Admission to the Belfast Music Week Showcase event is free. Register for tickets (maximum two per person) via the Limelight Facebook page or by emailing info@limelightbelfast.com.