It used to be that romance started at a nightclub or other gathering of like-minded people, but when your first date involves a random attack in Dublin city center, it takes a special mindset. to stare the mugged person in the face (bloody as he is) and want to have a second round. Life, however, has a way of working, and so do Kieran McGuinness (the mugger) and Emily Aylmer (the assistant). Now married and with three children (ages eight, five and two) to raise, McGuinness and Aylmer each have a background in music. The former has been a member of the highly regarded group Delorentos since 2005; the latter is a former member (among others) of the Republic of Loose. In other words, the music is in their respective DNA. Even in their full-time jobs it seeps in – when not in Delorentos mode, McGuinness works as a music development officer with Music Generation (as well as presenting the Guestlist show on Radio Nova every Sunday) , while Aylmer teaches music and English at the secondary level.
Everything written about their relationship is therefore subliminal and therefore not something the listener would knowingly pick up on.
They first met, Aylmer recalls, over 15 years ago when Delorentos and Republic of Loose were two of the many Irish bands dodging and dodging the festival circuit. Despite random attacks on her then-boyfriend, even before their marriage, she says, “we would have talked about writing songs together.” Sporadic as these writing sessions were, it seems interruptions were never far away, especially with the growing success of Delorentos and the arrival of hungry little mouths to feed. Of course, the pandemic changed everything: concerts disappeared and schools closed shop. “All of a sudden we had time.” When Covid arrived, adds McGuinness, he had “this energy to write songs, which potentially would have gone to Delorentos but didn’t, and it seemed like a good idea to work on them with Emily.” It all happened naturally, and it was by no means a career step. In fact, it was the opposite, we just played each other songs and saw what we thought.
When their offspring’s attention spans are engaged or when they’re sleeping, the duo (the name Driven Snow was chosen for many reasons, some of which have a personal inclination) have worked hard to write the kind of songs that could easily get caught up in the daytime radio game. One might expect songs written by a married couple to bristle with the dynamics of their relationship, but says Aylmer, “they’re definitely not autobiographical.” McGuinness doesn’t necessarily agree with that. “They’re not autobiographical, but it’s important to say that we’re not a married couple writing about what it’s like to be married to each other.”
Everything written about their relationship is therefore subliminal and therefore not something the listener would knowingly pick up on. Aylmer agrees. “I didn’t write any of the lyrics, but I think Kieran’s writing, especially over the last five or six years, has been about how difficult life is as you get older and the decisions you have to make. take. Our big challenges are now the usual things you have to deal with when you are in your 40s.
McGuinness and Aylmer know how lucky they are: they’re not teenagers or 20s or 30s rushing for snippets of validation. They each went through periods of searching for the holy grail of commercial success and came away (their respective bands aside) if not empty-handed, then perhaps frustrated if not disillusioned. Like many other songwriters and musicians of their generation, they happily resigned themselves to quitting chasing the so-called dream and living in the real world instead.
Their working method is based on their respective recognized skills. Aylmer says that although she teaches English and music, she feels “uncomfortable writing lyrics, whereas Kieran is a great lyricist, let alone a brilliant ability to write and create melodies. I could sing any song and have no idea what the lyrics are about. Of course, the lyrics are always very important, but it’s the melodies that feed my connection with the song. Kieran would come up with the core of an idea, then I would add harmonies and choruses. I guess I’ve been working as a backing vocalist for so long that I’m almost more comfortable getting into songs at times, adding some, and then backing out.
We’ll do the songs that sound good and the gigs that make sense, and we’ll try to make it all connect
“Emily is a great sounding board, advising here and guiding there,” notes McGuinness. “It’s not just me coming in and saying here’s a song — it’s starting to become a lot more naturally collaborative.” It’s gotten to the point, he continues, where every new song comes true. “It has been interesting to understand what we look like. People will compare it to Delorentos, but maybe that’s because of my voice. Aylmer says she has no comparison, and that’s a good point. Of the two songs currently available on streaming platforms (Trying, Sunlight) and two that we have heard in demo format (Flickers of You, Hard as Love, both unreleased), the specificity of the music drowns out the most obvious cues .
It’s not all that, anyway, says Aylmer. At 43, with three kids and a full-time job, being able to make music with her spouse is, she says, cathartic in the sense that they’ve been waiting a while for it to happen. “We lead very busy lives, and we’re very lucky to have our two sets of parents, so I feel ridiculously lucky and maybe a little silly to try to pursue this because even though we have the time, it still feels a bit like an indulgence.” And yet, she implies with the self-awareness of someone whose time is plagued by rugrats, it’s crucial to have a modicum of self-indulgence when you’re parenting, because you might find yourself at the mid-fifties crushed by regrets more than you didn’t. “So I think it’s really important for us to do that, I’m grateful for that, and there’s no pressure on us at all. In other words, if and when we release songs, either people will notice it or they won’t.
Early in Driven Snow, McGuinness admits, it became clear that imposing rules or structures wasn’t going to work. No ambitious box needs to be ticked, he says. “If one song works, we’ll write another. If something doesn’t work, we won’t do it. We’ll do the songs that sound good and the gigs that make sense, and we’ll try to make it all connect.
Driven Snow’s latest single, Trying, has been released via FIFA Records and available on streaming services
Top 3 musically entwined married couples
Boyfriend and Julie Miller: Although they usually release separate records, the Millers have teamed up on a few occasions. The first was their 2001 self-titled album, which features songs mostly written by Julie, co-writing, and a few covers. The record was voted Album of the Year at the Americana Music Association awards. The second was 2009’s Written in Chalk, but their third, 2019’s Breakdown on 20th Ave. South, topped it all, with Rolling Stone describing it as “a testament to faith and forgiveness as it is a thrilling chronicle of a beleaguered marriage”. through physical and emotional challenges.
Win Butler and Regine Chassagne: In the central unit that is Arcade Fire, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne reign supreme. They first met in Montreal at the opening of an art exhibition where Chassagne was singing jazz standards. She impressed Butler enough that he was asked to join her then-unknown band. Their first date was at the Crouching Tiger movie, Hidden Dragon, and from there, the self-control dynamic didn’t stop. Of love, Chassagne said, “the beauty is in the commitment”.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono: A case in point of critical division and public confusion, three pioneering albums by pop music’s most famous couple were released between 1968 and 1969 – Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No 2: Life with the Lions and Wedding Album. Reactions to the albums ranged from Rolling Stone’s unambiguous “total bullshit” to Record Mirror’s amusing description of the recordings as “a fine example of how two young people can have fun without a television”.