Pillow Queens share their 2022 world tour highs and lows

The Irish queer band chat about their American tour, supporting TENI, and their dream acts to support.

Pillow Queens band during an interview at the Hennessy Sound Lounge.
Image: Photo Credit: Noel Donnellon

When I moved to Ireland two years ago, I immediately became a Pillow Queens fan, but I never imagined I’d get to interview them! 

In 2020, I joined a queer meet-up group that was gushing over the indie rock band’s In Waiting album, and ‘Gay Girls’ and ‘How Do I Look’ became the soundtrack to my Irish life. I’d listen to their music while cooking dinner, going on endless lockdown walks, and imagining a future post-pandemic reality where gigs could exist. I gleefully took a selfie with their Leave the Light On mural when the album came out, and I bought a ticket for their October 2022 Vicar Street show as soon as it was announced.

To me, the Pillow Queens represent queer community in Ireland. They’re an inclusive LGBTQ+ band, and asking someone if they’re familiar with their music is basically code for asking if they’re queer. The band members – Pamela Connolly, Sarah Corcoran, Cathy McGuinness, and Rachel Lyons – are both effortlessly cool and approachable, and hearing them live is absolutely deadly.  

Of course, I didn’t share any of this when I was lucky enough to sit down with three of the four Pillow Queens for an interview in early November. We met in the Hennessy Sound Lounge at Hen’s Teeth a few hours before their sold-out listening experience, and I was so nervous that I barely even introduced myself! But their kindness, humour, and compassion made this interview a dream. 


(Nicole, GCN) You’ve said that you wrote the Leave the Light On album to be toured, what did it feel like to be able to perform live after lockdown?

Sarah: It was amazing after so long not playing any music at all. Or if it was, it was to a camera. 

Pam: We tried to encourage the crew to clap afterwards when we were doing lives.

Rachel: It feels like a distant memory now.

Sarah: It was this time last year that we announced all of the dates. We put up an Instagram post that was like “Pillow Queens World Tour!” and I think it was a bit tongue in cheek because we’d had gigs cancelled for so long. 

(Han, GCN) Am I right in thinking the first gig back was in Dunderry Park? 

Sarah: Yes! We did two nights. Rachel’s arm was broken. 

Pam: That was gas!

Rachel: Not for me! I just kept getting drunk because I had no responsibility. What happened to Rachel? Oh don’t mind.

(Nicole, GCN) You had talked about Vicar Street being a bucket list item. Do you remember where you were when you heard it had sold out? 

Sarah: We were definitely in the van when it sold out the second night. We kept going onto the Ticketmaster site and refreshing to see how many tickets we were able to buy. I was like, “I think there are 8 tickets left because I can still buy 8 tickets!” 

(Han, GCN): So what’s next on the bucket list if you’ve ticked off Vicar Street?

Pam: I think it’s just to keep playing bigger shows down the line. 

Sarah: Next time, it could end up being four or five Vicar Streets. 

Rachel: Or an Ivy Garden would be lovely!

Pam: I keep on saying I want it to be St Anne’s Park, I’ll be able to walk home! 

(Nicole, GCN) That would be ideal! Here’s a fun question, who would you be most excited to see in the front row of one of those shows?

Pam: We’re at a point now where we’re not playing Dublin as much, so Vicar Street was very special. The first night, we were able to look out and see our family and friends. Not to sound really gooey, but that’s always really nice.

Sarah: But obviously if you were looking out and you’d seen a cool hot celeb! 

(Nicole, GCN) Yes! Who would that be?

Sarah: Heidi Klum! 

Rachel: You wouldn’t be able to concentrate, you’d forget all the words.

Pam: Taylor Swift.

Rachel: You’d lose your mind!

Sarah: Her latest support is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Pam: Ask us to support Europe, Taylor!

(Nicole, GCN) That would be my ideal concert, actually. Taylor Swift and Pillow Queens?!

Sarah: Ask us Taylor, c’mon!

Pam: Please! That would be class.

(Nicole, GCN) You’ve spent the past year touring across North America and Europe. Do you have a highlight from the tour?

Sarah: Being invited on stage with Phoebe Bridgers was exceptional. It was something that we never thought would happen.

Pam: We were on tour in France, and we got a text being like, “Looks good on the Phoebe show! Can you do it?” And we were like, “Obviously. We’ll move mountains to do it!” And the show went well which was unexpected because we were so nervous. We were chuffed.

Sarah: And her fans are so eager to love the support act. It’s the same with Taylor fans. Their fans are so committed that if you’re supporting them, those fans are immediately your fans, too. 

Rachel: I hope that’s the case with us as well.

(Nicole, GCN) Oh, definitely. I think it is.

Pam: Our fans are very loyal. You can see how Arxx were received in Vicar Street. They got such a warm welcome.

Sarah: People are still talking to me about them, it’s great.

(Nicole, GCN) They were awesome. Do you have a go-to beverage that you like to have on stage with you? 

Rachel: If they’re Irish shows, I would say always have a pint of Guinness when you get off stage. A freshly poured pint, straight into the hand. 

Pam: I go for a cider, but it’s probably not the best thing to be drinking while I’m singing because it’s so bubbly. So if you ever see me turn away from the mic…

Rachel: …She’s burping into my mics!

Pam: That was one time! 

(Nicole, GCN) Did you have any challenges with the tour? 

Sarah: Oh my gosh, yes. When we were the US, our van broke. And when you’re in Ireland, a long drive is Dublin to Dingle, but in America, a long drive is like three days. And it was going to be two days before we could get our van fixed. So the only thing we could do was continually put oil into it. 

Pam: Because it was leaking!

Sarah: It was so bad for the environment. 

Rachel: It was so terrible.

Sarah: Every time we’d stop the van, we’d pull out and there was always a giant rainbow puddle behind us which was beautiful.

Rachel: It was gorgeous!

Sarah: Stunning, but you know.

Pam: The best part was the scenery. We’d never done an American tour, and we were kinda gobsmacked by what it looked like. It’s like the movies! You’d go from a desert at the beginning of the day and then a couple of hours later you’d be surrounded by snow. It was mental!

(Han, GCN): Good or bad way to see the world?

Pam: I think it’s a great way. I’d highly encourage people to drive across America. Preferably in an electric car because we’ve done enough damage. 

Sarah: But in terms of really getting to see anywhere? You don’t get to. I really wanted to see Chicago. 

Rachel: And get a deep-dish pie! There were no pies.

Pam: I don’t remember what Chicago looked like.

Sarah: We arrived in late. We had to do a really rushed sound check, and eat whatever was available. 

Pam: We wanted to go to the International McDonalds. 

Sarah: We wanted to go to the Home Alone house as well! We had big plans for Chicago, but there was no time. 

Rachel: Denver was class.

Pam: We fell in love with Denver. And we were all hopped out on high altitude. 

Sarah: I walked into that Irish pub, and there was a guy being like, “Are you in Pillow Queens?” and I was like… I’m in Denver, Colorado! And then he poured me a pint of Guinness and he put a shamrock on the top. 

Pam: That happened to you in Boston as well! You went to get an ice-cream, and then the ice-cream guy was like, “Are you in Pillow Queens?!” And we were like, what the hell is going on here? 

Sarah: It was so cool. I put him on the guest list because I was like, thanks for recognising me in Boston!

(Nicole, GCN) We’re really looking forward to the event tonight! Proceeds are being donated to a charity of the band’s choice. TENI is doing such important work for the trans community, could you say a bit more about why you picked them? 

Sarah: We didn’t even have to think about it. It was just an immediate thing. We feel like we have a connection with the organisation, and a lot of it has to do with the vibe at the moment across the world. You need to nurture the people who need it most. Ireland is a hard place to be if you’re trans, and TENI is doing amazing work advancing the rights of trans people. 

(Nicole, GCN) They really are. And tonight’s event sold out which is incredible. 

Getting to interview the Pillow Queens was a dream, and their intimate listening experience organised by the Hennessy Sound Lounge was such a treat. Two more artists will be hosting across two evenings in November and December:

  • Kean Kavangh, November 30, 2022
  • Robyn Lynch, December 14, 2022

Grab a ticket to enjoy a conversation with these talented artists in Hen’s Teeth gallery and restaurant space.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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