What’s in a name?
While the four Irish sisters who call themselves Screaming Orphans might not have a fascinating story about how they came to adopt the moniker, they do recognize its power.
“People remember it,” Gráinne Diver, the group’s guitarist, told The Beat. “We had a friend come up with two suggestions, and one of them was Screaming Orphans. We liked it right away, because it’s not gender-specific, and it’s a little hard.”
The sisters — Gráinne is joined by Angela, Marie Thérèse and Joan — got their start as backing band for their mother, who enjoyed a pretty good regional career as a ballad singer. There were very practical reasons for expanding their repertoire to include rock and roll.
“Our town is a seaside tourist town, big on surfing,” Gráinne explained. “We decided to play music that would let us see and get us noticed by boys from Australia and the (United) States — tan boys, not like our very-white Irish boys — who would come for the surfing.”
Adding original tunes to the mix — Screaming Orphans has been compared to The Cranberries or The Bangles — and a heavy schedule of live dates brought the girls to the attention first of Luka Bloom and later of Sinead O’Connor, who invited them to be her opening act on a tour of North America.
Eventually, Screaming Orphans would do so much of its touring in North America the sisters relocated to the U.S. They found the time away from home made them recall with renewed fondness the traditional Irish songs they used to perform with their mother.
“We love rock music, but the longer we were over here, separated from where we come from, made us feel like doing some of those old Irish songs,” Gráinne said. “Why knock out a part of who you are?”
Besides, she added, being Irish makes all their music Irish.
“Our originals we think of as ‘new’ Irish music, which we play alongside some ‘old’ Irish music,” she said. “We play a couple of covers, so even the Guns N’ Roses (Sweet Child O’ Mine) becomes Irish when we’re playing it.
“We’re lucky over here,” she added. “We can get away with stuff because we have Irish accents.”
Despite being far from home, the Diver sisters still have family to lean on.
“We depend on each other,” Gráinne said. “We’re very different (from each other), and sometimes you can fight harder when it’s family, but we’re all in it together and we love it.”