“It’s good to talk.”
Belfast Trio Girls Names have recently released their fourth album after three years. This includes new single ‘The Impaled Mystique,’ which sees the trio venturing into more experimental territory. We chatted to frontman Cathal Cully about pacing yourself, dealing with anxiety and the pressures of being a musician.
Life appears to have got in the way of you releasing your album ‘Stains on Silence’, as you all had to return to full-time work and the album was put on hold a few times. What advice would you offer to musicians who are struggling to make ends meet and who don’t feel as though they have enough time or money to fully invest in making music?
Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Take your time. Make everything at your own pace – don’t be concerned with trends, or what’s popular. And most importantly, if it’s starting to sound weird – make it weirder and then more weird.
Do any of the songs on your new record deal with the subject of anxiety and mental health? If so, which ones?
The last record did massively. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I was suffering from anxiety issues for years and was totally oblivious to it – not oblivious that something was up, as I knew something wasn’t right but it just wasn’t in my vocabulary. I did’t realise anxiety was a condition and that it did strange things to your mind and body and unfortunately it hit my body hard one day and it took me out of action for a long time. I think this new record as a whole deals with the aftermath of all that and the coming to terms with life under new circumstances and a new outlook in myself and the world in general.
What’s one record that means a lot to you?
TRK – Psychic 9-5 club. It’s a beautiful record that simply reminds me of a really beautiful yet weird time in my life.
What has been your biggest life challenge and what did you do to overcome it?
Touching on what I’ve previously said, I got super sick at Christmas 2014, both psychically and mentally, just right after we finished recording the last record. Inside, times were bad back then and I burnt myself down to a mental wreck and my body did’t thank me for it and I learnt the hard way that i wasn’t invincible anymore. I don’t think I was fully present during that time. It took me a long time to get through that just by a slow process of recuperation and listening to my body and talking and crying. Truthfully, I hadn’t talked in years. My mother was amazing for me through that time.
How important has music been to your mental health?
Connecting with music is one thing and yes there are those moments that bring home a certain clarity and beauty that help with the madness of life. I think that’s why I got heavily into quieter, more gentle, experimental and emotional forms of music – listening to ear shattering guitars and drums can be terrible for the nerves. But as for making music and dipping my toes in the music industry- it’s a bloody murder picture. A life of constant self doubt, financial stress, highs, lows and anxiousness and a general malaise. But we endeavour to create as it’s in us. What ever we do next will see us plough further into these beautiful fields of abandonment away from the conformist ideas of the ‘but this is how you do things’ mentality.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
Sunshine, blue skies, little to no breeze. Up with the lark and out on the bike for 3-4 hours, another few tinkering away in the studio experimenting running something through something else and then back into something else again. Possibly a glass of Sangiovese. A light dinner with Basinski on the stereo. Magic.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Peace and love.
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
It’s good to talk. And exercise – it clears the mind, get the endorphins pumping. It’s hard to worry when you’re knackered.
What three songs lift your spirits?
Ellen Arkbro – For Organ and Brass
Yves Tumour – Limerance
Bartosz Bruczyński – Parco Degli Aquedotti
Do you have any routines that help you through stressful situations, such as right before a live performance?
I’ve been ‘experimenting’ with not drinking any alcohol before shows now. Just chilling. Years ago I was a constant bag of wiry energies before a show in denial of any nerves. To be fair I used to feed off and almost live for all that nervous energy on stage but now some very chill music, peace and quiet and a moment to myself is good for bringing the anxiety levels down to a minimum.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
Beetroot juice. Nitrates – oxygenates the blood. I’ll tell you what I don’t eat anymore to stay healthy – animal flesh.
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
Cycling. It’s my thing now. I hadn’t cycled in years, dabbled a bit when I was a kid – my Dad was a cycling nut but I rebelled and chose football, then music. But I got a bike last year to get fit again and for commuting purposes and ended up catching the bug. It was the best thing I’ve done in years. I’m really exited as I’m treating myself to a new proper racing machine when I get back from tour and ramping up the miles and fitness.