The Virginmarys from Macclesfield, England know a thing or two about making music. In fact, their newest release, Divides, is everything you could ask for in an album and more. Want hard driving music to get you motivated? You got it. Want meaningful lyrics to make you stop and think about what’s going on in the world around you? They have that covered too. Want to lose yourself in the music and take a journey by way of the lyrical thoughts of lead singer/guitarist Ally Dickaty? You need only listen to the album and immediately you will see that it’s all here for the taking.
“I have to write about what I feel strongly about or the lyrics and delivery would lack conviction. I think if you’re being completely truthful and you’re not diluting or compromising to what you think might be popular, then a lot of people on your wavelength will connect with it very deeply.” Ally Dickaty
In an interview with us earlier this year, Dickaty shared the meaning behind the interesting album title and stated it referred to, “Living in society and the divides between money and where people are in their views,” and that some of the songs on the album are, to a degree, a social commentary. He described, “There is an on-going theme of lyrical content, obviously, but there’s definitely light and shade and it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride from start to finish.” Different from writing their last album, King of Conflict, Dickaty explained why Divides covers more political topics, “I always write about what’s going on in my head, so living in today’s society it’s kind of apparent every day of my life.” To be honest, the album’s musical tone takes the listener on an emotional ride as well. While The Virginmarys are a 3-piece band with the traditional guitar, bass and drum combination, the overall sound they have created on Divides speaks volumes to not only their style but the determination of a band wanting to put their best effort in front of everyone.
We recently had a chance to once again connect with Ally Dickaty and also bassist Matt Rose for more insight on the album. Curious if the writing process involved a conscious effort to want to connect with fans or if it was more about Dickaty expressing his own thoughts with the hope that others could relate he shared, “I have to write about what I feel strongly about or the lyrics and delivery would lack conviction. I think if you’re being completely truthful and you’re not diluting or compromising to what you think might be popular, then a lot of people on your wavelength will connect with it very deeply.”
Rose added, “I think it’s important to write about your own thoughts and hopes and experiences otherwise you find it difficult to really connect with the music. I guess we’re lucky in that there are plenty of other people out there who feel the same way and that our music connects with them.”
After listening to the album once through, you will find Dickaty’s vocals are a bit diverse at times. His range is anywhere from screaming his lungs out on I Wanna Take You Home to a softer side on Living in My Peace. When asked how challenging it was singing on the album he replied, “I see my voice as a work in progress and I always try to better what I’ve done previously.” While he admitted he never started out thinking of himself as a singer he added, “Now I love to sing. I was happy to do as many takes as necessary to nail what we were after.”
The first song on the album, Push the Pedal, starts off with an ominous sounding bass line followed by impactful beats from drummer Danny Dolan, which is quickly followed by guitar notes that weave in and around to create what becomes a pretty powerful opening song. Dickaty’s raspy vocals also provide an even keeled tone to the overall sound of the song. This flows seamlessly into For You My Love. The chugging guitar and steady beat are a real driving force behind the music in this song and it’s the perfect compliment to Dickaty’s vocals. The conviction with which he sings, “If I die, I will die for you my love,” is immensely believable.
While The Virginmarys are a three piece band, Halo in Her Silhouette really demonstrates just how massive a sound they are able to create. The amped, high energy, almost punk like sound of this song gives the listener a reason to want to take action. Musically it really gets the blood pumping, plus it really showcases the prominent bass playing by Rose. Free To Do Whatever They Say leads into I Wanna Take You Home with its big sounding guitars, a rhythm you can’t help but bob your head up and down to and the massive screaming vocals from Dickaty. The latter should make for a great live performance.
While Walk In My Shoes starts off a little less aggressive than the previous songs, and includes Rose on keyboard, it’s the chorus that really sets this song apart. Dickaty’s throaty guttural vocals draw you in and really help to paint the picture of what he is singing about, which is a message to the powers that be; the ruling classes. He explained, “They live in a different world and have been brought up used to that way of life, they have no insight or clue of what it is to struggle. Power and money are dangerous things and people never want to give up the privilege once they have it. That’s why there is so much inequality across the board, because enough is never enough.” The emotion heard in this song is on such a deep level, it’s as if you are able to get a true glimpse of his thought process.
Kill the Messenger is another fast-paced and upbeat song that starts off with quick tapping on the cymbals from Dolan before gradually turning into a hard driving beat that accompanies an almost electronic sound. To be honest, if you were to strip away the lyrics, I could easily hear this as part of a score in an action movie. However, the powerful lyric, “Force fed fear washed down with shame as history repeats again,” combined with, “don’t shoot the messenger,” really makes you stop and think. Once again, Dickaty gave insight to his twist on this common phrase. “I’m talking about governments and media spoon feeding the people who to love, who to hate, what to look like, how to act, who to blame etc., etc. I say shoot the messenger, kill the messenger because those who expose the machine for what it is tend to be ridiculed, cast aside or in some cases assassinated. When all the bad shit happens as symptoms of the bigger problem in our society, rather than take responsibility for the f–ked up system it’s….’we can’t be held responsible for you.’”
Into Dust, the first single released, is almost the final cry of a man begging to be saved. The tone in Dickaty’s voice as he sings, “Give me something I can feel, give me people I can trust, as I sit back with my poker face and I crumble into dust” is powerful. Watch a live performance of the song below.
The band take a break in tempo and slow it down a bit with a song that lyrically is very honest. Moths To A Flame is an affirmation that no matter what you are going through, someone is there to help you through it. Dickaty explained the idea behind the deeply moving lyrics by sharing his own. “I have been a long time sufferer of depression and anxiety and I know first hand how wide spread it is. No one has to suffer in silence and it’s so sad to see lives taken by self medication. The deaths of Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman goes to show how you can have all the talent and all the money in the world and still feel alone. It’s extremely sad. So it’s a pledge to be there for fellow brothers and sisters.”
The Virginmarys are really good at creating music that you want to react to and the frantic opening on Falling Down definitely gets the body moving. In fact, if you find yourself picking up subtle hints of familiar sounding notes, Rose adds, “We’ve all been listening to loads of different stuff so some of it’s bound to come through in the music we make.” But make no mistake, each song is original and fresh and definitely something you’re going to want to immerse your ears in time and time again.
In our previous interview with Dickaty, he explained their second single, Motherless Land was about escape. He described a scenario of a couple people who wanted to live their life off the grid because they were sick of fitting into how society felt they should, even if that meant giving up everything they had. He defined the title, Motherless Land, as a take on Mother Nature and how it’s possible she is past the point where she can look after it anymore. His description of the line “a couple of pills in the hand” are related to drugs, whether prescription or recreational, and how people just want to escape from what’s going on. Watch a powerful piano only version by Ally Dickaty below.
The album ends with Living In My Peace, which is possibly the most open and honest song lyrically on the album. Initially you may be caught off guard by the very mellow opening, considering the fast-paced tone that makes up the majority of the album, however, I honestly feel it does a great job of allowing the focus to really showcase Ally’s vocals. When asked about adding such a different sounding song to the album Rose commented, “I think we always thought that it’d be an amazing way to close the album as it’s a beautiful tune. To me, it’s like the rainbow at the end of a storm.”
If by chance the lyrics connect to you, this is a prime example of Dickaty laying it all out on the table. We asked him to share his reference of home within the song and he described it as a place within himself. He went on to add, “I gave up drinking a few years ago, I was heavily relying on it for years and it’s kind of been like the end of a long relationship.”
His honestly continues as he described the lyric, ‘However far I go they’re right behind, reminder of a place I cannot find, I left them all behind,’ explaining, “however far I go, the temptations are always still with me. However much I drank I never made it to the promise land, it never did what I wanted it to do, certainly not in the end…..so…the temptations remind of the big void I feel in my own life to be content, and I had to leave them behind.”
If ever there was a positive line, it has to come with the words, “The only thing I need is buried deep in me.” Dickaty concludes, “Everything that anyone needs is within them already for contentment and enlightenment.” I can’t think of a better reassuring statement. The larger than life ending goes out on a high note and is made up of group claps and stomps, and Dickaty adds, “In fact there’s nearly everything at the end of that track.”
Bottom line, not only is Divides an album you need in your collection, it should be played at a volume that allows those around you to also be able to bask in the audio glow of new material from The Virginmarys. Not only are the songs catchy, you may quickly find yourself humming the songs long after you’ve stopped listening. If Divides is the band’s answer to overcoming the potential stress associated with creating a second full length album, imagine the heights they will reach with their next one.