Irish two-piece Botched Fairytale have been around for a while now, their masterful blend of experimental, lo-fi, dirgey folk piquing the interest of many a keen-eared music nerd. Yet little is known about Mariel McCormack and Marie O’Hara. Secreted in a recording studio for the best part of a year, the pair are yet to take Botched Fairytale to the stage, and in a surprising turn, have made the refreshingly modest decision to give hard copies of their album away for free. With talent as exciting as theirs, it’s only a matter of time before the big wide world clocks on and descends on the duo to claim their piece of the pie, so we caught up with them to discuss Bruce Springsteen, Actimel, fightin’, swearin’ and fag butts…
Mariel:Yes this is true. We were on a train and we were talking about music and giving out about stuff and we started writing a song called ‘Botched Fairytale’.How did you meet?
Mariel: We met in secondary school, I think it was fourth year. We were smokers so we’d hang out in the toilets and we just got to know each other that way, smoking around a cistern.
Your music is fairly complex – experimental, disjointed and many-layered. Was this a conceptual decision or did the music evolve along with your proficiency?
Marie: Yeah we learned as we went along, so it’s a bit all over the place in places. I think most of the songs are fairly well structured though. In a way it was a decision to sound like this but if we knew what we were doing it would be a more sophisticated, cleaner version of the same thing. That could be a good thing but I think it’s nice to have a bit of filth in music.
Also we have very limited equipment which is a pain in the arse in a way but it did force us to come up with ways of doing things which we would never have thought of if we had lots of fancy stuff that worked properly.
Mariel: I dunno, looking back the music started out as an accident and I think that’s quite evident when you listen to some of the tracks on the album. I reckon we’re a long way from pinning down a complete sound that makes sense. For this album we were trying to move away from the singer-songwriter approach and I got this aversion to strumming the guitar because it always brought us back to a kind of harmless familiar sound.
Take ‘The 06 Census’ for example – that exists because there was a particular steel drum we really liked and we got this sound off a guitar. So we’d put them down then take them out gradually and replace them with other instruments and then slap chords down at the end. The song was completely finished before the chords went in. But over time and with the last few tracks we did for this album we started to come back to the traditional method, strumming out chords, getting a melody and then messing it up and making it weird. So in a way we have come full circle.
What made you decide to give the album away for free? Master marketing plan, or lovely generous act?
Marie: It just kinda makes sense. This way anyone who wants it can have it. I think when someone has the CD they’re gonna see it around from time to time. Even if it’s all scratched to bits on the floor, they’ll have the hard copy and might be more inclined to listen to it. I’ve got tonnes of downloads that I’m getting around to listening to, but I don’t have any cds that I’ve never heard. We’re giving it away in the hope that people will be more inclined to listen to it I suppose. So it’s kind of generous but really it’s in our own best interest, or at least we hope it is.
Mariel: I dunno if I can say it’s to do with marketing because we really weren’t expecting this much response. It kinda doesn’t register in my head, asking people for a bit of money for something we did that nearly wrecked our heads completely. We invested so much time in it. Just for the record though, I would like to make money from music, I would like it to be my job, I would like a salary, but there’s no money in it and we’re not doing this for the odd tenner here and there because that’s insulting. But we are going to have to have a quota, once we’ve reached this we will be selling them at cost price otherwise we’ll be broke.
What does your writing process look like?
Mariel: The writing process is nasty. We think of an idea – sometimes it comes straight away sometimes it takes ages. Then something is written, re-written, arguments are had on content, “there’s no way I’m singing that”, “you can’t write that” etc. Gradually a huge amount of drafts pile up because we can never agree on anything until the very end. Actually no, ideally that’s what happens, but most of the time one of us eventually gives in, convinced they are happy with the product because they are exhausted and completely used and have gone a bit mental in the process.
Marie: Many many pieces of paper, fightin’, swearin’, mouldy coffee cups and fag butts everywhere.
You’ve been recording the album for a while now – what can we expect?
Marie: A decent album with hopefully enough content to outweigh its flaws.
Any chance of seeing you play live? Please? What can we bribe you with?
Mariel: You can bribe us with a band that we’ve known for years and played with for longer.
You’ve previously mentioned being partial to a bit of ole Springsteen – in particular the way his albums are so ‘local’. How much influence do you take from your surroundings?
Marie: I’m probably more influenced by newspapers and TV and stuff. I was going on about Springsteen before because he writes in a way that sounds really natural and American and we’re always trying to find a way of doing songs that are written in a voice that’s distinctly Irish without sounding like pretend trad or The Corrs or something. I think no matter what fantastic idea you come up with for a song, it’s gonna have been done before, and probably better so the only thing we can do really is to find our own way of saying things.
Marie: Yeah, we did everything ourselves. We didn’t expect it to be easy or anything but as it turns out it’s a horrifically difficult thing to do. There are so many really boring things that can go wrong and it’s kinda depressing how small a part actually writing songs and playing music has in the whole thing. There were so many times it was like “quick just record it before something stops working again” and there were so many times that things were going so slowly that it was painful.It would have been nice to have had another person around with opinions and to absorb some of the madness. But then there’s the fact that it’s so class that we can do all this stuff ourselves without paying for someone to record for us. But it’s really hard to always remember to not take stuff for granted, especially when you’re wasting so much time being pissed off at inanimate objects.
Mariel: A break… I would like to do another album because you always want to do better. You always think you have something to bring to the table. This feeling never goes away.
There are no photos of you online. What’s with all the secrecy? Are you actually super famous and want to disguise your identities? Are you really Patti Smith and Kate Bush hooking up for some experimental fun times? Mariel: Ah yeah, there are pictures of us on the net somewhere. There’s always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows you and has you up on their Facebook. We’re fodder for someone, somewhere.
Marie: I wouldn’t say it’s secrecy, we’ve been so busy recording that we haven’t had time to really consider things like photos. If we were gonna put up photos they’d probably be really thought out so they’ve something got to do with the music.
Mariel: Yeah like take the picture on the Myspace or Soundcloud, that took us a while to think of. The idea was just to put all this crap into a room and take a photo because that’s what people want to see, they want to see all your crap. That’s all it’s about really, except it’s not hip dresses and amazingly amazing retro hairstyles. When we set up the Myspace we left all that side of things and carried on with the music. People have mentioned that we should have pictures up. We might get onto that if we feel like it.
What inspires you?
Mariel: Loads of stuff. The stuff that sticks in your head and you’re jealous of. Things that that stick in my head are like the soundtrack from the film Freeway, and the film itself, it’s always in my head. I was just talking about that again the other day. The Black and White by Harold Pinter, that’s implanted in there in my brain and when I think about it, how simple it is but how good it is that really inspires me.
Marie: Stuff that took someone a lot of effort but it’s so good that it seems effortless. Anything based on a good idea and well executed. Things that make me angry are kinda inspiring.
Also, things like Actimel. I think it’s genius, like “oh shit we put too much sweetener in this yoghurt, how can we ever sell it? We water it down, put it in tiny little bottles so it looks like medicine, add science and charge more”.
What are you currently listening to?
Mariel: We’ve just finished mixing so I haven’t been listening to anything except our own stuff.
Marie: I’m listening to Pulp’s Different Class and some Brian Eno & JJ Cale album because they’re the only CDs in my car that work.
What would your death row dinner be?
Marie: Actimel to keep my defences up. I think I’d ask for approximately 200 tiny little bottles please and then take a small sip out of each of them.
Tell us a secret.
What the world needs now is…
Marie: More technology. I want wireless electricity. Sometimes when I’m plugging stuff in it just feels really quaint and old fashioned.
To lay your hands on the album, just drop the girls a line [email protected]