Dublin punk rockers Dirty Epics have already generated enough column inches to stretch to the moon and back, largely thanks to striking front woman Sarah Jane Wai O’Flynn, whose stunning vocals, elfin looks and a killer dress sense put her well ahead of the pack. SJ Wai has been dubbed one of the most exciting performers in the country by the Irish media, and her thrilling performances have seen her gig at pretty much every music venue and festival in Ireland.
As a front vocalist and performer I was sure she’d have a lot to teach us about self-confidence, charisma, and appearing in public. So, I interviewed her!
A. S J, the Dirty Epics have been around for a while rocking the Dublin scene. How did it all start?
S J. It started around 4 and a half years ago when myself and Richie the bassist decided we really missed playing music. I had been jamming with a few different people but I didn’t feel like we had clicked. I used to play with Richie in a band when we were in our early teens! I knew he was a someone who I could get on well with creatively and on a personal level too. So we had a few different players on drums and guitar til we found the right mix.
A. As a front vocalist, it’s your job not just to sing, but to perform, entertain and influence an audience. That takes a lot of confidence! Were you always confident, or did you learn to be more confident, and if so, how?
S J. I have always been a bit of a performer I think! Onstage I feel fairly confident depending on the kind of crowd and show it is. It can be quite tricky performing as a warm up act as the crowd are cold and it can be hard to get a response. Sometimes I like to look very serious and a bit aggressive or other times I’ll be very smiley and joke around. Generally, I like to think that if people are there, they are looking to have a good time so a bit of crowd participation is a great way to get people involved. Working as a make-up artist I feel I’ve learned to be a good communicator and its helped me onstage. Eye contact is so important. It draws everyone in. I don’t like the idea of being overly rehearsed or contrived but having an idea of what you’d like to say or how you’d like to move gives you a good guideline to work from.
A. Do you have a special routine before shows that helps you get into a specific estate of mind?
S J. I like taking time to do my make-up. Generally, waiting for a show is quite boring and there’s a lot of sitting around so applying my make-up is a relaxing routine. I have to do vocal warm ups and breathing exercises too. I’m not a great conversationalist right before a show as I’m nervous, so I avoid having to talk to too many people! If I’m not nervous though, I think it’s a bad sign because you need some to give you good energy.
A. If you happen to have a crappy day; when you’re sad, or down, or angry, or moody, or sick… how do you get over that and get out there and perform?
S J. I channel the negative energy into the songs. My lyrics all have a lot of personal meaning so I really think about what they mean to me and how they should be performed to make the story in each one as strong as possible. I certainly look on music as a form of release. I think everyone should have some form of a release whether it’s sport, art or music. It clears your mind and makes your view of life more focused.
A. As a band, I am sure you’ve had ups and downs. How do you guys get over the downs?
S J. We’ve actually come through a very difficult time recently where a member wasn’t putting their all into it. To make a band work everyone needs to pull together and put in hours and hours of hard work, whether it’s writing, rehearsing, travelling to gigs, gigging and all the other stuff like recording, artwork design, making videos, finances… it takes a lot of dedication. The member started taking us all for granted and the band became less of a priority until dishonesty had become the norm. It sapped us of our creativity, our morale and in the end it felt like we had been betrayed by someone who would be as close as family.
Initially we let the situation get worse and worse until something happened and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I feel we should have dealt with the situation sooner. I’m sure we all felt at times that it was too much of a challenge for us and that it would be easier to let the band go, but Richie, Alan and I had worked so hard, we kept thinking of all the positive things that we had achieved and slowly started moving forwards again. We now have a line-up that works well in an atmosphere that is respectful, focused and honest. If something doesn’t feel right we talk more openly about it, and I personally feel that I should trust gut instinct more.
A. What’s in store for you and the band?
S J. We’ve just released a new single called “Enthralled”. I’m doing a DJ set at Oxygen and we’re playing more gigs around the country. We’re recording aswell and hope to have our album out in September.
A. Lastly, as a young woman, what would you say to other young women and men out there, who may have low self-esteem and lack self-confidence?
S J. I thinks it’s very important to push yourself to be friendly. I love to talk to people, you hear some amazing stories and ultimately if you don’t extend the hand of friendship why should someone else? It’s definitely a thing I still have trouble doing, especially at events where the aim is to network. I like to talk about a topic of shared interest before I start talking about business. It’s way more personal, and if you don’t connect at a basic level then it’s harder to make an impression. I think it’s so important to stimulate your mind. Knowing a bit about lots of stuff makes conversation flow more easily. I get so bored of gossip magazines and trashy television. I love reading National Geographic and New Scientist because I learn about something that I might never be exposed to if I didn’t seek it out myself.
As a make-up artist, I would say that looking your best helps. I don’t wear my make-up as a mask but it does give me confidence. In life there will always be guys and girls that look like models, or have high powered jobs, and it can be intimidating, but the more you focus on them the less time you have to make yourself a better person. Being an individual is something that I hold very dear.
For guys, I’d say to just be yourself. I spend a lot of time with men and enjoy their honesty and sense of humour. Give people some of yourself rather than putting up a defensive wall. You’ll have so much more fun!
Thanks S J! Watch the Dirty Epics in action in their new single “Enthralled”: