Written by Alexa Collazo
Photography by Christopher Johnston
Atlanta — The large, black home of a van sped down the street; and I could feel the budding anticipation. As everyone sat quietly, there was a palpable excitement for the show to come, the halfway point in a long line of uninterrupted cities and stages. Faye O’Rourke and Stevie Appleby sat behind me, finishing their last bites of Krispy Kreme donuts. The road had created a tradition of evening coffee and donuts, the price to pay for an endless day of work. In front of me, Dylan Lynch and Adam O’Regan listened to music on their phones, taking in the sights of a Southern metropolis. I sat in the middle row, reviewing my notes and clutching the remains of a hot donut, glaze flaking onto my notebook. It was full of scrambled questions from the formal interview of the late afternoon, my first introduction to the intimate personality of the band. What began as a formulaic exchange of questions and answers quickly evolved into an integral connection born from a requited appreciation for music.
We made it back to Vinyl, an intimate nook of a venue on the north side of Atlanta, and I saw four sets of eyes widen at the sight of a room filled to capacity. Apparently, it wasn’t always like this. An audience four times the size of their last stop in Atlanta awaited the performance of Little Green Cars, an indie americana jewel from Dublin, Ireland. As they met back up with bassist Donagh Seaver O’Leary, the band ran back to the green room to make their final preparatory touches. The bubbling ecstasy of anticipation filled the dimly lit venue full of strangers brought together by the voices and sounds of Little Green Cars.
The house lights slowly darken. Stevie Appleby approaches the microphone, Faye O’Rourke gently waves to the crowd, and the band starts their set with the lush echoes of “The Party.”
Little Green Cars, featuring Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary, Dylan Lynch, Faye O’Rourke and Stevie Appleby, began their musical endeavors as grade school friends with a compatible love for music, art, and storytelling. “We kind of didn’t think about ‘What if this doesn’t happen?’ We all just thought about making music together and that was always the main focus,” says Adam. All five members shared a blanketed determination to write lyrics that were honest and expressive, a motivation that remains at the forefront of their writing process. After their sound check, Stevie reiterated that he feels a personal sense of responsibility for writing lyrics that can positively impact listeners. The band writes as if they are looking at the same view from multiple windows, eager to portray their thoughts without the confines of self-censorship.
They strum the familiar chords of crowd favorite, “Harper Lee.” Among the audience, there is a collective stir of excitement as a chorus of voices recites every lyric.
They were put on the musical map with their first record, Absolute Zero. Songs like “The John Wayne” and “Harper Lee” became quick staples to the band’s repertoire. The 2013 release introduced Little Green Cars to the world, allowing their fresh sound to permeate airwaves. With the help of producer Markus Dravs, Absolute Zero allowed the band to recognize their own potential. “I remember he was the first person that ever referred to me as an artist,” Stevie noted with a smile. He shook his head, still impacted by the weight of those words.
Just before the band heads into the delicately somber “You vs. Me,” they pause to read a portion of Ephemera, a poem by W.B. Yeats. This served as the principle inspiration for their newly released sophomore effort of the same name.
In this piece, Yeats recognizes the cyclical pattern of loving and losing, growing and moving on. This temporary nature of emotion is important, but only for a short time, a central theme to this new record. While the poem specifically touches on the inevitable expiration of emotion, Little Green Cars saw this as a frank discussion of how music can be a temporary healer. Stevie noted, “Especially in the music industry, so many things just come and go, even the records I listened to religiously when I was younger. I don’t really listen to them anymore, but I still look back and see how they really helped me through periods of my life.” While art can be fleeting, it can serve a categorical purpose for the listener when they need it the most, a responsibility Little Green Cars hasn’t taken lightly.
The band transitions into the first track of Ephemera, “The Song They Play Every Night.” The audience silently listens as poignant lyrics are complemented by catchy instrumentation, a unique dichotomy of sound that seems to mesmerize the whole room.
Little Green Cars’ Ephemera exudes sincerity and maturity, showing immense growth for the band’s capability as songwriters, musicians, and performers. Having had the past three years to focus on this record, Adam identified how the personal content impacted them, as both a collective unit and as individuals. “When we’re standing up on stage and we’re playing these songs together, it definitely feels like there is a real emotional synergy because of everything we’ve been through,” Adam says with a comforted disposition. “We’re all so rooted in the songs and these songs are so rooted in us.” This emotional synergy allowed the band’s emotion to be transfixed in a moment of time, for a product to be created, and for the emotion to ultimately be released.
With only a few songs left, all five members approach their microphones to sing “My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me.” With their voices in unison, their full sound reverberates through the venue and transitions to the sensitively powerful vocal of Faye O’Rourke.
Their focus on fully embracing emotion in the music contributes to their ability to be a relatable guide and voice for their audiences. By volleying vocals back and forth, the band is able to not only create a full sound, but a powerful experience. “Singing is the most emotional instrument that’s around. I guess a lot of our songs are emotionally charged, so the more voices the better,” says Stevie. Evidently, this approach has been working. The crowd at Vinyl was not there by happenstance; it was evident in their response to the music and experience that this band has spoken to them. Their takeaways and responses might vary, but the band left that decision up to their listeners.
On their last song of the night, Little Green Cars stepped into the crowd to sing a stripped down version of Ephemera’s closing track “The Factory.” With the melodic chants of “I’m alive again” filling the room, this physical and metaphorical coalescence of band and audience created, in this moment, a community fostered by art. As the circle surrounding the band grew tighter, I felt the strength of the bond between friends and strangers grow, a bond I could relate to. I felt the day coming to a close. It was a day where I began as just a vehicle for pen and paper, but a day that ended with new friendships. As the bright burn of house lights returned, I watched collections of fans extend their new copies of Ephemera to each band member. With their sharpies and smiles, the band created an inclusive environment for their fans, just as they had done for me. They unequivocally open up their world, through their interaction and their music, to the people who need it most. Though this show was only a temporary moment in time, it was proof that Little Green Cars is built to last.