PAULA CULLEN and Caoimhe Derwin rose to prominence as the glamorous, brunette pair of ‘saucy pieces’ who fronted The Chalets. The Chalets are no more - having closed their shutters earlier this year - but the girls have not gone away. They’re back, as Talulah Does The Hula.
Talulah Does The Hula - featuring former members of The Chalets and Neosupervital - will bring their catchy indie-pop to Substance at Bar 903, Eyre Square, this Sunday at 11pm.
While The Chalets were a five piece band with all members contributing, Paula and Caoimhe’s image and stage presence stole the show and was a large part of what made the band a hit with critics and the public.
The Chalets seemed destined for big things. Their 2005 debut album Check In went Top 20, in 2006 they were nominated for The Choice Music Prize, and their song ‘Sexy Mistake’ was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. Then, the band virtually disappeared off the face of the earth.
“We played our last gig in July ‘07,” Paula tells me over a Monday afternoon phone call. “Some people in the band weren’t that into it anymore and it became very obvious when we were trying to write the second album. It was hard to get people together and rehearse. Me and Caoimhe didn’t want the band to split but we were banging our heads against a brick wall, so we decided we would leave and go out on our own.”
Paula says the split was “amicable enough” and that “there was no great drama”. “It’s all worked out,” she says. “There’s no hard feelings.”
Paula could be forgiven for being angry with the guys in the band for letting a good thing go south, but instead of wasting time and energy, she and Caoimhe resolved to live by the ‘show must go on’ philosophy.
The girls had a clutch of songs which they had written for The Chalets. Eager to do something with them and eager to be in a band again, they decided to form their own. It so happened that Neosupervital’s Lauren and Jessie were available for such a project and wanted in. Everyone shares duties on guitar, bass, and keyboards. The band originally had a female drummer but she left to be replaced by ‘token male’ Mike.
“We nearly have an all-female band,” laughs Paula, “as Mike’s pretty much nearly a girl as it is, as he’s getting used to us gossiping and bitching at the rehearsals. He’s getting into it himself. We’ll have him donning a dress at some stage!”
Yet the idea of an all-female, or at least female dominated, band had long been in the back of Paula and Caoimhe’s mind. When I interviewed Paula in 2005 as part of The Chalets she remarked: “We plan to do a Milli Vanilli on it. Get three good-looking guys - male models! - to stand behind us and play and the other guys stay in the background and write the music.”
“Did I say that?” asks Paula, who cracks up with laughter at being reminded of the quote. “Well we managed to get one good looking guy in anyway! We had wanted an all-female band. It was nothing against being a band with boys.”
When deciding a name, the band took inspiration from a book of hideous appellations that some parents have unwittingly sought to maim their children. The quartet eventually settled on Talulah Does The Hula.
The name comes from a case heard in New Zealand earlier this year where a couple named their child Talulah Does The Hula From Hawaii. The child was embarrassed about her name and had refused to reveal it to friends. For their recklessness, the parents saw their child taken into court guardianship so her name could be changed.
Talulah Does The Hula is much better for a band, giving the impression of sun, sea, and all things ‘naughty but nice’.
“It gives a nice visual image - palm trees, pineapples,” says Paula, “but I don’t think we’ll be taking to the stage in grass skirts and coconut shells any time soon...but you never know...”
Image though was a strong part of The Chalets and Neosupervital’s stage show and while the girls remain nothing less than glamorous, they want to stay away from anything too image focused this time.
“There won’t be much of that,” says Paula. “That’s something we’re quite conscious of. A lot of people said The Chalets were just an image band because they saw us dressed up like Christmas trees but we put a lot of work into that music. Neosupervital got the same kind of thing. At the end of the day we are still four girls, but we will just be dressed up as we would for going out on a Saturday night!”
The most important thing though is the music. The band’s Myspace page features two songs - ‘Order’ and ‘Brick For A Brain’ - and they cite their influences as The Beach Boys, The Shangri Las, and The Ramones. They also hope to release an EP after Christmas.
“I wouldn’t think it’s a million miles away from our previous bands,” says Paula, “but we played our first show on Saturday and people afterward said they thought we were very different! I suppose we are exactly in the middle of The Chalets and Neosupervital, but it’s a lot more relaxed - not break neck speed party music.”
Support is from A Plastic Rose and the Substance DJs. Admission is free. See www.myspace.com/Talulahdoesthehula