_I'm in a pub waiting for a Pee Pee. Seriously. Only this Pee Pee has two legs and has cut her feet walking around in inappropriate footwear. She was also up until 9 o'clock this morning; it's now nearly 5 in the afternoon and, credit where it's due, she looks like she got her head down at 6, latest. I joke, of course; she looks great.
That's the consistent initial impression, though, across the board - you see The Chalets and the first thing that truly stands out is the co-ordinated outfits of the two singers, the aforementioned and her similarly clad conspirator in pop Pony (both contribute vocals, keys and glockenspiel). To their mums they're Paula and Caoimhe respectively; the band is completed by the trio of boys, Enda (guitar, vocals), Dylan (drums) and Chris (bass, vocals). Check In, their debut album has just been released here, having already enjoyed some success in the quintet's native Ireland. Its multiple charms - killer pop hooks and kinky dance boots - should render such lazy, aesthetically-centred writings a thing of the past.
Pee Pee - Paula, second right in every photo - arrives under the cover of (foolishly) unforeseen noise - our meeting boozer of choice, usually quiet enough for such a rendezvous, has been overrun by football fans halfheartedly hollering their support for an England team scraping to a narrow, yet essential, victory over a spirited Austrian side. Still, we find a seat directly in front of the pub's drop-down big screen and take in a pint a piece, me some horrible lager (the ale's off and I don't bother to scan the bottles) and her a cider, "anything expect Magners". We wait. We talk hairdressing - Paula trained to an extent with Toni & Guy, and intends to finish her training next year - about the soiling of footwear and how New Yorkers don't do cider, leading to the singer's current taste for Newcastle Brown Ale. She says she wants some food, having been on the sauce for some while the previous day and losing the sight in one eye in the process, somehow. The football finishes. I whip out the tape recorder, place it between pints. Some people leave and the pub grows a little quieter. Then...
Then more people arrive for the following Ireland match. Can a guy not get a break on World Cup qualifying day? We plough on regardless, fresh second pints nestling in hands, voices all but incomprehensible come transcription. _
The album seems to have taken an age to arrive here - it was originally scheduled for August. Why the constant delays?
Because we're really shit and lazy. We finished it in March but erm - y'know, once it's finished you think "That's it, it'll be out", and then it's like, "Nah, it's not coming out 'til October". We were going, "What?!", like, how can it take that long? I really don't know. I mean, the recording took a long time because we were all working our day jobs, and we did it in so many bits - a weekend here and a weekend there. We put out a few singles but we didn't really know what we were doing. We had enough songs for an album a while back, but it wouldn't have been as good. Hahaha! There would have been so many songs on it, had we released it back then, that we'd be embarrassed about now.
** So does the delay mean that some of the songs are pretty old?**
A couple of them are among the first songs we wrote, and some we literally wrote a week or so before we recorded the album.
** Check In has a really summery feel to it. I suppose it must be a little shit seeing it released in October...**
Well the last single we had out, 'No Style', we_ had_ to release in the summer because it's about _the summer, but then it came out like, last week. What's that about? Well, it is more a song about getting old, but I do think it sounds quite summery, and it says the word summer quite a lot. But, _y'know...
So are the songs reflective of the band's habit of jumping in a car and heading down to a beach?**
(Adopts faux serious face) We're from Dublin._ Hahaha!_ There is no beach. Summer is kind of, like... well, every summer_ does_ get shorter. When you're in school, you're off for over a month and it's_ amazing. But we just had the summer, and I didn't even realise. It's not so fun anymore. Christmas is the same - it was fun, but now it's an expense. _Why is it...?
My mother has this tray, which she obviously got for a wedding present, and it's a cheese and crackers tray. It's so_ Seventies, it's shit, and the only time we use it is at Christmas. We have people around on St Stephen's Day - Boxing Day - and my whole family's over. My aunt's asking, _"So Paula, have you got a new boyfriend this year, then?" "Um, yeah." My brother's had the same girlfriend for ages, so my family's asking,_ "Who will you be bringing this Christmas, Paula?"_ Ha!
So has your current fella (Eddie Argos of Art Brut) met your family?
No! I met his dad. Every time he comes over to Dublin, my parents are away. But anyway,_ the tray! My mother comes around with the tray, pretending that she uses it all the time: (adopts plum accent) "Would you like some cheese?"_ Haha! And smoked salmon, with the brown bread - it's the most Christmas thing you can have. (Adopts same plum accent)_ "Would you like some smoked salmon?" _
** Okay, the record: the music can be quite cute, but the lyrics can be a little nasty. Is that something you like to play around with, the mix of the sweet and the sour?**
I don't know. I don't think we purposefully try to write songs about rape or anything, but a lot of them are... We're all old people, and we've all had_ whatever _happen to us.
** Do you write about your own experiences often, then?**
I think a lot of our songs are about things that've happened. We all write the words - well, Dylan doesn't - and Caoimhe writes most of them. I wrote a lot of the lyrics to earlier songs. A lot of the songs are, I think, about things that've happened to us. I remember the night we wrote the lyrics to 'Theme From Chalets', and Chris had written the boys' parts, and he was like,_ "You've got to write the girls' parts". We were in Dylan's flat, and the boys went off to do whatever boys do - I don't know - and me and Caoimhe were like, "Oh! That rhymes with that, and that's funny!" _We didn't think they'd ever let us keep them.
** And do you like to play up to the conventional critical reaction, where the writers will concentrate on the girls and your appearance rather than the music, and the contribution of the boys? I'm thinking of 'Two Chord Song'...**
That's another old song. And that's just the way we are, really - the boys have been our friends for years, and Caoimhe and me have always dressed up like fucking Christmas trees, y'know...
** Well perhaps that's something you could pull out for festive shows?**
We did the best photo shoot ever for this Irish womens' magazine, in a fancy dress shop. They let us choose the costumes. They were pointing us at these lovely dresses, but Caoimhe dressed up as a Christmas cake, and I dressed up as a Christmas pudding. I wore this big, brown ball. That was the_ best_ photo shoot, ever.
Is such a shoot - in a non-music magazine - indicative of your profile in Ireland now? We actually have things about us in womens' magazines, really! I did an 'At Home With' piece for Hot Press. It's supposed to be like Ireland's_ NME_, but they cover movies and stuff too. That was loads of fun.
Didn't you have a manservant in the shots, though?**
Oh yeah! That's my best friend Richard. I was like,_ "Can you please, please get naked while you're serving me a can of drink", and he was like, _"Yeah!" I said they could take a picture of me on the toilet reading Jordan's book, and the photographer said he didn't think so, but we did it! They do that every week now, with whoever, but they're always,_ "Oh look at how many books I have, aren't they beautiful?". And, clearly, the only book I've ever read is Jordan's biography. It's compelling reading - I can't stop reading it but I hate_ it. It's like The Da Vinci Code. You've never read it? I always said I was never going to read it, ever ever ever, but then my brother got it for my dad for his birthday. I sneaked at the first few pages, and then I wanted to see what happened next, and then you read the next the next chapter and it's the best book that's ever been written. It's a page-turner, y'know. It_ is_ a good book. We used to ask, as a joke, for the latest best-selling paperback on our rider. We got it once, and never again, and it was The Da Vinci Code.
_ A massive cheer goes up, as Ireland have scored._
These people are cheering for me... I'm that famous.
** The music's often quite nice and sparkly, but I'm pretty sure you all bring different influences to the table, as it were...**
Me and Caoimhe have similar tastes, but the boys really like bands like Shellac. (The band formed, sort of, while at the Shellac-curated ATP.) I mean, I really like Shellac, but not as much as the boys. The boys really like that sort of music. I do like it, but it's not what I would necessarily listen to when I'm at home. Obviously we quite like bands like Le Tigre.
The noise is now getting pretty loud, making identifying single words, let alone sentences, almost impossible.
** Have you had many live reviews that didn't mention the outfits?**
(Shakes head) No. It doesn't bother me at all, but it bothers the boys. They're just not into it, and are like, "Whatever". I mean, in Ireland we get so much more attention than other bands [because of the outfits] and I think that does annoy the boys to some extent, because they're not about that. (Looks at my pint, half drunk) You're fairly working through that drink, aren't you?
** Sorry, I don't mean to (Paula still has a full pint). Anyway, the album's been out in Ireland for a bit - has it done well?**
It got to number 15 in the album charts, higher than Bob Dylan and the fucking Rolling Stones. So technically, we're better than Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. It was so funny, but Ireland is so small, so it's easy to do okay. I hope it's going to sell some copies over here, y'know, because we've played London a lot of times, so people know us. But we have been to Birmingham and had, like, four people there.
Another cheer. For what isn't obvious.
You know that's Ireland on the TV now? They're winning one-nil.
Are they? Yay. There are a lot of people in Ireland that like football.
** Yeah, I figured there probably are. So what are you going to do if the band takes off, and you can't go back to hairdressing?**
I don't know. The thing is, I'm going to finish my hairdressing training, and then me and Eddie are going to get a pub and be landlord and landlady, that's our long-term plan. I have my eye on The Portland Arms in Cambridge - it's got a nice little venue in the back, and a pool room, and the food's good. I really like Cambridge because it's _so_ posh. We had some photos done there once, for the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine, although it turned out we weren't [on the cover]. In Ireland we have a different magazine to here, but they were amazing photos.
We give it up - the noise is too much and time's ticking. We wander up a damp road to meet DiSsers Adams and Roberts for a pie, only now Paula doesn't want any food, preferring instead to have another cider or two. _"It's where I get my vitamins," she says, "I'm a fussy eater and I don't like vegetables." "My pie's really nice," I counter, and she picks at the pastry. "I can't believe I spent a whole interview talking about cheese!" she laughs. I laugh right back. We all laugh. And drink a little sunshine into our dull autumnal evening.