April 6, 2016 Interview – Ally Dickaty of The Virginmarys
Music should move the listener, more than just physically speaking, but figuratively. It has been said many times that Rock-n-Roll could save one’s soul, and Macclesfield, England three-piece band The Virginmarys would like to think so as well. Come together back in 2009, the band spent a few years developing their sound and finding their voice prior to signing on with Wind-up Records to put out their major label debut in 2013, King of Conflict. An internationally acclaimed album in the eyes of Rock fans and critics, The Virginmarys would soon go on to be named the Best Breakthrough act at the 2013 Classic Rock Awards held in London. Now three years later, the band is looking to raise the stakes with their forthcoming album Divides. Looking to provoke a deeper emotion within their audience, The Virginmarys seem to on the right path to the top of the Rock food chain. Recently we caught up with Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Ally Dickaty for a look into The Virginmarys’ crazy ride, their new music, his passion for creating, his favorite movies, and more.
CrypticRock.com – The Virginmarys came together some time ago, and the band’s sound has morphed through the years through a lot of hard work. You debuted in 2013 with King of Conflict. First tell us, what has the journey been like thus far?
Ally Dickaty – The journey has been very intense, but it has been fun. There have been ups and downs, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Yeah, I wouldn’t change it because here we are now.
CrypticRock.com – Right, everything is a learning experience, like you said, it has led you to the point you are at now.
Ally Dickaty – There has been some incredible experiences. We’ve been all around the world, we’ve met a lot of cool people, and we have gotten to play the music that we love.
CrypticRock.com – The positives outweigh the negatives. The band’s sound certainly has grown from your early days. Some of your early material would be considered perhaps a little more Punk Rock leaning. Was it a challenge for you to find the sound you are comfortable with, or did it just sort of happen naturally?
Ally Dickaty – I believe it happened naturally. It is never a conscience effort. You sit the down, same as you would with a guitar, and that’s what comes out so. I think you grow as people and the things you see around you as the world changes, the music changes as well. We never really wanted to be a kind of formulated band, we just want to keep progressing.
CrypticRock.com – That is a good way to look at it. As a musician, you try not to box yourself into one type of music. You want to be able to do what you want to do and expand creatively.
Ally Dickaty – Definitely, it really just depends on how you are feeling at the time. We had a lot of different material for this new album. I think maybe we had about 30 songs/demos and brought it down to 12. It was just about the songs that made the best album collectively, though a good song is a good song and hopefully we can keep on writing them.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, what matters most is the music. King of Conflict was basically the international world being introduced to you. That record garnered a lot of attention, and it was even nominated for some awards. How redeeming was it for the band’s first international Rock introduction to get praised so well?
Ally Dickaty – Incredible, it seems surreal that we got such loyal support from the fans. We picked up the 2013 Classic Rock Awards in England in front of Jimmy Page and it is kind of like, “Fuck, what is happening?” It is incredible stuff. We are very privileged to travel the world and play the music to our fans.
CrypticRock.com – You are right, it is a privilege. Above all, what matters most is you are doing what you love and everything else comes secondary.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, we already considered ourselves as an artist really. The money and success comes secondary. Luckily we have seen some success and want that to continue. If it doesn’t, I am still going to be writing and be an artist either way.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, that makes perfect sense. The band is set to return with your sophomore studio album, Divides, in May. You mentioned it was whittled down to around twelve songs. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Ally Dickaty – It was absolutely amazing. We spent a couple of months with one of our favorite producers, Gil Norton. That was kind of a dream come true to us. It was a whole new recording process for us, a lot more full. It was incredible with a producer which has produced Foo Fighters, Pixies, and albums that you continue to go back to as you are growing up. To have that guy saying how good these songs are that you have written, we just went with it and played our hearts out, gave a lot of the control to Gil, and it made up the album that we are coming out with.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a fantastic experience. Gil has been involved in many great records in the past.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, we absolutely love the guy. We keep in touch with him and I am really glad to have him in my life. The music aside, it is great to spend that time with Gil. We are just happy with how the record sounds.
CrypticRock.com – All positive things to hear. Listeners were first introduced to this new material in late 2015 when you released “Into Dust,” and more recently, “Motherless Land” as well as “Moths To a Flame.” All three of these tracks are a bit different, but very intense, lyrically as well as musically. Is it safe to say these songs are a good representation of Divides?
Ally Dickaty – Yes, they are different songs. Lyrically, it is a good indication of what is going to be on the album, there is a lot of social commentary going. It is a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
CrypticRock.com – It is refreshing to hear you have lyrics with intense meaning and social commentary. There just seems to be a lot is going on in the world right now. Many listeners would agree that it is important for artists to talk about these things.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, I just do not understand. You wake up to it, you open your door to it, and everyday of your life, you experience it. So I do not understand why people are not writing about what they are experiencing. I do not think music should ever be that you read a book on how to write a song. People are going to listen to music about partying and love songs, but I don’t know, there is just so much going on in the world today. You think artists should be writing about it and speaking about it.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, 100%. There really is no wrong or right way to write a song, but it is nice to hear music that has a message. Not to say shove something down a listener’s throat, but saying, “Here are my evaluations, take it or leave it.”
Ally Dickaty – Definitely, there is no preaching to write the right answer. It is just questioning things on Divides. There is a strong message of love, hope, and truth. There is no right or wrong way of writing a song, but you can sense, even if you don’t like it, if it is genuine. You can tell if there is passion, feeling, and meaning to the artist that wrote it. I think too much music out there is just like a show or just some kind of Soap Opera, it just doesn’t seem real.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you speak about real and sincerity, it seems there has been a movement back to the basics in Rock-n-Roll. Meaning, stepping away from the over-produced records and returning to a sound that is a little more raw. What do you think has inspired this movement?
Ally Dickaty – I think music moves in different ways and different things come back. I like to think people are maybe a little tired of a lot of over-produced and synthetic music. Perhaps they want something more ’60s, or music that came out of the ’70s. It is something a bit different than after years of listening to the same thing over and over again.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is understandable that technology changes. There are benefits to working with digital recording, but it seems, sometimes, something is a little lost in translation. Perhaps it is production or the equipment being used.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, I think there is a danger that they are putting too much of a sheen and taking away some of the little mistakes that make it feel genuine. I think there is a danger of trying to make it too perfect, if that makes sense. There is also different things that work on radio and they want to translate that to the listener. I think you just need to be weary of that and keep that vibe of who you are on the record. It is a completely different story playing a live performance.
CrypticRock.com – It is very different. Speaking of live performances, you recently completed some North American shows. With that said, can North America expect more dates later in 2016, after the record is released?
Ally Dickaty – Yes, we will be coming back out after the release of Divides. On this most recent run, Shinedown was amazing to us, they were really lovely guys. We got to play to their audience, which were really incredible every night. We were really happy to have done the tour on the West Coast.
CrypticRock.com – Great to hear. One can imagine there are a lot of people at a Shinedown show who are not familiar with The Virginmarys. What did you find the crowd’s reaction to be like?
Ally Dickaty – It was incredible and such a good feeling to be by the merch stand every night. We had a couple of fans who traveled a few hundred miles to come see three shows. It is amazing to have that impact.
CrypticRock.com – That is something really humbling to see for sure. Can you tell us what some of your personal musical influences are?
Ally Dickaty – When I was growing up, I had a massive influence from Neil Young. Specifically, there was a BBC session he did and he was just playing these songs acoustically to the audience. How they translated was incredible. I have been listen to The Beatles since I was born. I got into a lot of Punk bands growing up as well. I listen to anything and everything, as long as it touches me. I never really listen to watery or easy-listening music. I want to feel something and I want it to be a kind of ride, rather then just have it the background.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, that is what music is about, feeling something. You mentioned The Beatles, perhaps one of the most important bands in Rock-n-Roll history. Sadly, their producer George Martin recently passed at the age of 90. He really was an intricate part of their sound.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, he was absolutely huge. He was sort of the fifth Beatle. I think The Beatles would have been a lot different if George Martin had not been the producer all the way through. The stuff they created, they had the ideas, but George Martin being in the background from where he came from with orchestral experience. The Beatles are just a band I continue to go back to and continue to be blown away by.
CrypticRock.com – Very true. It is funny, sometimes you stop listening to something for a little, because you want a change. Although, there are artists you keep going back to through the years.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, years can go by, but you just know these songs by heart. They shaped you forever. Albums like Revolver(1966), The White Album (1968), all of them really. Even the early stuff, there is just sort of a charm that they have. You just play and it just translates, even if it is not absolutely perfect in a lot of the recordings. It is just amazing.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, completely. Our last question is pertaining to films. CrypticRock.com covers music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?
Ally Dickaty – I do love Horror movies. All these Horror movies come out, but you never really get that one that lasts the test of time. I absolutely love The Omen (1976), The Wicker Man (1973), and The Shining (1980). They are up there with my favorite films. I absolutely love Horror films though. The Orphanage (2007) was fairly recent, and I thought that was pretty cool. I love The Blair Witch Project (1999) as well.
CrypticRock.com – Those are some classic films right there. Were you aware that they recently launched a new television series called Damien on A&E based on The Omen?
Ally Dickaty – No, I will have to check it out. Psycho (1960) as well, that was incredible. It is great to have effects and all the things you can do these days, but some of the older ones are more scary than anything. They are just so creepy and they send shivers down my spine.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, there is only so much movie magic that can actually make a movie effecting. A lot of it has to do with the tension that the atmosphere creates, along with a combination of the actors and dialogue. It is something special effects cannot produce.
Ally Dickaty – Yes, most definitely. Alfred Hitchcock was incredible at that suspense. Then you have the likes of Stanley Kubrick. The time 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) came out, just visually, it blows you away. There is just an uneasy feeling throughout the whole film.