Staff Writer Emily Mary Dollery interviews Staff Party.
Formed in late 2021 at MTU Cork School of Music, six-piece indie rock band Staff Party have gone from strength to strength since their first sold-out gig in April 2022. Staff Party are characterised by their energetic live performances, nostalgic yet innovative fusion of indie and dance-punk, and their refusal to take themselves too seriously. The band has played at a number of venues in Cork, including Crack Jenny’s, KINO and Winthrop Avenue. At the time of writing, they have racked up almost 3,000 streams on their debut single ‘Solo’, and have kick-started 2023 with a slot at the UCC Science Ball and their first festival gig at The Next Big Thing in Dublin.
I caught up with Jamie Kierans (vocals), Alexa Newall (vocals, synthesiser) and Daniel Maguire (guitar) to chat about the band’s musical identity, performing post-lockdown and their 2023 plans.
You’ve been gigging pretty extensively since your first performance in early 2022. Do you think performing live has influenced your creative process at all?
Jamie: I’d say so. I’d say the tunes that have been written since we started performing are more fun and energetic.
Dan: It’s probably true to some extent, we had actually rehearsed for months, nearly a year before we started gigging because of COVID. We had some more soft rock stuff, but the ones since we’ve been playing live have been more mental.
J: Not even just the new songs, but the songs that we were already playing are now different. Even if we haven’t even necessarily changed the parts or changed the song, it all sounds different.
D: We all try to one-up each other onstage, like, who can be the most mad.
And would you say you’ve factored that into the writing process of, say, crowds tend to like this, let’s incorporate it?
J: To be honest, not really. When I started writing songs I always wanted them to be for live music anyway. And the idea of a chorus people can enjoy and get involved with without necessarily knowing it was always the most appealing thing to me—making music that someone didn’t have to know to be able to enjoy. Our most recent song, “Magic Man”, didn’t exist before we started gigging, and now it’s one of my favourites to do live ever because it’s purely about craic. It’s not like you sit down and write a meaningful song—it’s purely one that’s just supposed to be good fun.
If you could put on a gig with any artist, big or small, who would you choose?
A: Earlier I saw a Tyler the Creator Tiny Desk concert. He’d be great. Destiny’s Child, Tyler the Creator and Staff Party, what a f***ing lineup.
J: LCD would be unreal.
D: If we’re going the full dance punk route…yeah LCD Soundsystem…My answer is going to be Talking Heads. The energy they bring is something we want to emulate. It’s second to none.
A: Seriously, I would say Everything Everything. They’re great boys, it’d work very well and they’re unreal live, too.
J: I would say Cage the Elephant. When I went to see them, that was when I realised how I wanted to perform. Best gig I was ever at in my life. They hadn’t played Ireland in years and I loved them so my mother got me tickets to see them in Manchester. Their frontman’s energy is ridiculous, it’s feral, it’s like he’s not human when he’s performing. I saw one clip of him before where he went crowd surfing.
D: My joke answer for that would be Death Grips, or Kero Kero Bonito.
A: Kero Kero Bonito would be so funny.
Would you be able to talk me through your main influences starting out, and if anything you’ve picked up along the way or bands you’ve played with have influenced your music?
A: In terms of performing I think it’s weird because we bounce off each other with how we perform. We give off so much energy and we work really well together and we don’t really think about what we’re doing, we just go a bit mental. It’s like, (jokingly) “oh my god, we’re each other’s inspirations!”
A: It’s very much like, I’d be watching everyone go mental and obviously I can’t but I’m just there with my keyboard like woo!
D: I do think the songwriting, a lot of it comes from indie rock stuff, like The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys a bit. But then it’s been more influenced by the dancey stuff like LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads and that kind of thing. In terms of local bands, the fact that we had two members of God Alone in our band didn’t hurt in getting more noisy stuff in there. Me personally, any of the guitar parts I’ve come up with have been very influenced by Johnny Marr of the Smiths.
J: I had very narrow influences before. I would just try and copy The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys, I love bands like Fontaines D.C. and Blossoms as well. Indie rock and indie punk as well as synth-y stuff. Jake put me onto a band called The Rapture, which was a big eye-opener. I got big into Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem as well as IDLE. In terms of performing—exactly what Alexa said—our band started from performing together in college. We were like, “This is energetic and sounds fun”. When we first played, we were like “Oh this is good craic” but it keeps going up a step.
A: It definitely helps that we’re all buds as well though.
J: The other day when we had two gigs in a row…That would have been absolute hell if we weren’t having the craic. It was a whole day that went on for like twelve hours.
D: It was great playing with Conor as well, finally. He’s been in the band for months but those were our first gigs with him. We miss Jack and we love him dearly but Conor’s a lovely lad. They’re both the best drummers. Chris is…
A: The best boy.
D: He’s kind of like…the dad. He does hold it down a lot when everyone’s being mental. He’d put together so much of the recording, he mixed the song, he’s just a legend.
J: He grounds it all.
What have you all been listening to recently?
J: Rowan. They’re from Cork and tick all the boxes that The Strokes do for me. They’re unreal musicians who could play whatever they want and they just make this unreal indie rock.
D: Talking Heads. And Vampire Weekend but that’s kind of a love-hate thing. A lot of Bjork as well. I’ve been listening to a big f*** off playlist of a range of like, Vietnamese folk songs and random stuff.
A: A lot of very obscure bleep bloop music, like glitch music. It’s by Alva Noto.
J: She’s our noise gal.
A: I am the noise gal. I’d be listening to it like “Okay, I’m going to try and implement this in the new stuff now”, because it is very cool. Also James Blake, he’s class. Great boy.
We’ve already seen you play UCC Science Ball and your first festival this year. What else can we look forward to from you in 2023?
D: We’d like to do stuff that’s not in Cork or Dublin.
J: I want to play Limerick soon. There are a couple of Limerick bands I’ve been eyeing up that look cool, and Galway has to be done. I’d like to go to the North. Maybe outside of Ireland. More counties and potentially more countries this year, and some serious recording.
A: Especially when we’re done with college this year.
J: Bigger tunes, bigger parties.
That’s a pretty nice headline there.