Interview // Tieranniesaur
I interviewed Annie Tierney of Tieranniesaur ahead of their performance at Body & Soul last Sunday. They’ll be playing at the Popical Island #3 compilation launch on July 7 with Squarehead, Patrick Kelleher, Land Lovers and loads more.
Originally published in the Irish Sun on June 22.
“I don’t stop” sings Annie Tierney deadpan over a heavy synth line on Tieranniesaur’s self-titled debut album – and it could easily serve as a metaphor for the Dubliner’s rapidly rising star.
Tierney is the chief songwriter and focal point of what has become a seven-piece indie funk orchestra, a beefy line-up that masks their origins as a splinter project of Yeh Deadlies, the band she fronts with husband Padraig O’Reilly.
“It’s something we set out to do. I definitely wanted to do something different, something upbeat and fun. Padraig and I like lots of different types of music and I’d never been in a band like this, and it had been knocking around for a while. There are a lot of influences in there, but it’s mainly punky kind of disco stuff.”
Within 18 months of releasing their first track – ‘Sketch!’ – merely to fill a spot on a compilation by the brilliant indie pop collective Popical Island, Tieranniesaur had released their self-titled debut record to near-universal acclaim, and were ultimately rewarded with a Choice Music Prize nomination where they competed alongside the likes of Lisa Hannigan, Bell X1 and eventual winner Jape.
“We were just grateful to be there. I don’t think we had much of a hope, but it did a lot of good for us just being nominated. We knew it would go to somebody who was more ‘universally praised’ – I know a couple of people really liked our record, but I think for something like that you’ve got to have something more powerful behind you.
“I was really happy Jape won because he’s an old friend of mine since the 1990s, so it was nice to see him win. His music is awesome so he deserved to win, and Oceans of Frequency was a really popular record as well. It would have been fun to win, but it was still a really good night.”
While she possibly underestimates how strong their chances were of winning the €10,000 prize, Tierney is quick to point out how positive the effect of merely being nominated has had on the group’s visibility.
She says: “It was an album we kind of put out ourselves – we didn’t have any distribution or PR or anything. The plan was to make a cassette and sell it at Popical Island gigs. There was a big jump in expectations during the year. Now we’ve got distribution for it – we’ve got the record on sale now in HMV and it hadn’t been before that. That was a definite boost for us, so we’re selling more copies and we’re getting more people down to our gigs.”
Tierney’s music business credentials stretch back to the 1990s and her first band, Chicks, who were signed to Dreamworks in the late 90s while she was still in secondary school. More recently, she performed and recorded with her brother Mik Pyro’s band Republic of Loose, before re-emerging with Yeh Deadlies in the last couple of years.
Tieranniesaur’s sound is certainly cut from the same deep funk cloth as Republic of Loose – and clearly the siblings have grown up listening to the same records – but whereas Loose are all note-perfect studio sheen, Tieranniesaur have made a conscious decision to keep it defiantly lo-fi.
“We have discussed that quite a bit. Mik will do demo recordings, and Padraig and I will knock around and listen sometimes and they just sound so awesome in their raw form. Then he’ll go into the studio and polish things up and take a lot of time to get everything right. I kind of like things to sound a little rawer like on the home recordings, and Padraig loves home recording, so it works for us.
“Padraig has always recorded at home ever since he was a teenager. I’d never worked that way before, but it’s a natural thing and I love it now because it gives you so much freedom. You can come home from work and be like ‘oh, we need to work on a song,’ and 15 minutes later you’ll be done, as opposed to having to book into a studio and prepare and have all that pressure, and then try to translate what you want through somebody else. I’d always like to do it this way.”
While the music on show is unerringly upbeat and poppy, there is a dark undercurrent to the entire record, much of which was inspired by a friendship gone sour, as typified by these scathing lines from ‘Sketch!’: “You disrespect my family / You tend to act the bollox / You broke the rules and act the fool / You clearly are a mollusc.”
Tierney says: “You don’t realise it at first but a lot of the tracks are quite dark and angry. A lot of the record is about one particular relationship that went bad, and there was a lot of anger and upset there, but it actually ended up being kind of an upbeat, dancy record. I guess when you’re annoyed at somebody you seek inspiration from that, and that’s when I tend to write a lot of songs.”
Ahead of their appearance at Body & Soul this weekend, the group have been working on their second record for release later this year. The first track from the album is set for release on the final Popical Island compilation, which is set to be launched with a free all-day gig in Whelan’s on July 7 with performances from most of the label’s acts including Squarehead and Land Lovers.
“In some ways the new record is poppier and in some ways it’s darker. There’s lots of different sounds on it again – a glam rock vibe, a French disco vibe, lots of different influences. It’s still too soon – we’re too in the middle of it to describe it. It’s like a melting pot of everything. I could describe the last record to you, but I couldn’t describe the new one just yet.“