There could have been no better opener for the Good Vibes Only Festival than London’s own The Pairs.
Spreading good vibes is what they do best.
Formerly A Pairs 3, the quartet has been performing in London and beyond for just over a year and a half, blending rich three-part harmonies with rhythm guitar and drums to create an uplifting audience experience.
The band consists of Hillary Watson, twins Noelle and Renée Coughlin and Steve Plimmer.
All three women trade off on guitar and vocal duties, while Plimmer holds it down on the drum kit.
Listeners can hear a genuine joy of music coming through the speakers as The Pairs play. Every day is a source of inspiration for them, and it comes across loud and clear.
Their stage show is packed with exceptional three-part harmonies, with all the beauty and intensity of a pipe organ. The rhythms added by Plimmer expand the songs far beyond the barriers of the folk label. At any point in the show the vibe can transform from Joni Mitchell to full out Destiny’s Child.
The Pairs use the stage not just to tell their own stories, but to show people that being vulnerable is okay – even healthy. Each of the young songwriters has used music to get through difficult times in their lives. It’s a form of therapy, they say.
Their lyrics are optimistic, hopeful and confident.
“We want people to see our journey and take part,” said Noelle. “Sharing is a part of healing. It’s one thing to write about it and another thing to be on stage.”
The band has played for a number of different charity and fundraising events, supporting causes close to their hearts. It’s part of a broader sense of community the women share.
It ties into the members’ shared philosophy that life is what you make of it.
“We made a very solid effort to pay attention to the things we want to do more of in life,” said Renée. “We have no time to waste on the things that are out of our control.”
Fans can see the evolution of The Pairs on their Facebook page, where they have been regularly posting videos for more than a year. Some are nothing more than one band member strumming chords while the others hum, and others are full-blown songs performed in their rehearsal space, in their kitchen, or fittingly, in a sunny meadow.
In (just) their first year as a group, they have already played a huge number of shows in and around London, and are slated to release an EP this February.
The secret to their success is surprisingly simple.
“When an opportunity presents itself we say yes,” said Noelle. “We keep saying yes and keep growing with everything that presents itself.”
The band first formed as A Pairs 3 in February of 2016, after years of musical collaboration between the Coughlins and Watson. They had been playing separately or in pairs before finally deciding to join forces as one.
The three women grew up together in musical households, and while they drifted in and out of each others’ lives over the years, they found one another again and things just clicked. Plimmer joined the group the night of their first CD release.
In the studio
Their upcoming EP was recorded with producer Richard Gracious at Forest City Records. It’s a big step up from their original, which was written and recorded in a home studio before the band was even formed.
That year and a half of experience – both on and off stage – made a world of difference in being able to concentrate and capture their sound in a recording.
“We spent more time perfecting things before we went into the studio,” Hillary said. “We were more involved with the full process and artistic decision-making.”
The five-song EP represents only a fraction of the songs The Pairs have written. They already have a repertoire of at least 25 songs – enough for a couple full-lengths.
“We’re like Apple,” Renée said. “We’re four phones ahead.”
Not one to miss a punchline, Noelle chimed in.
“We’re not Apple,” she said. “We’re The Pairs.”
Feature photo by Gerard Creces