Sunday 22 September 2019

Happy Mundy, Buddha of Birr, is back

Something of a national treasure, Mundy revisits his classic debut album from 1996 with his old band

Mundy on stage at the Feile Festival in the Point Depot in 1996
Mundy on stage at the Feile Festival in the Point Depot in 1996
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

When Edmond Enright - better known by his nom de plume of Mundy - was 14, he was a massive fan of The Doors. Danny Sugerman's tome about Jimbo and the boys' debauched antics, Wonderland Avenue, was much passed around Edmond's school in Birr, Co Offaly. "The book was wild and racy," recalls Mundy, now an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter of 42-years-of-age and something of a national treasure.

"My dad started reading it at the same time, unbeknown to me. He said to me one day: 'I hope that you're not interested in that sort of thing...' I said, 'No dad, I just like the music!'

"Fast-forward seven years, leaving a photo session in the Hollywood Hills, our tour manager's phone rings and it's my dad. 'Where are you?' he asked. I looked out the window and we were on Wonderland Avenue. He just said, 'Mind yourself, Edmond, and call in a few days…' I think we were both gob-smacked."

Mundy's debut album in 1996, Jelly Legs, was gob-smackingly good, a classic of the age even. It announced Mundy to the world, recorded in 17 days in Loco Studios, Wales, and produced by Youth (who has worked behind the production console for U2 and Paul McCartney among many others).

"He is responsible for the sound of the album. It's energetic, atmospheric and lyrical. Youth managed to capture a Celtic Spirit in the recording, which makes it. It's a rock album primarily. It was released at the height of Britpop. I used to be asked what style my music was and I used to scratch my head and say... indy-folky-rocky... well, no, actually it's Sham-Rock!" laughs the Buddha of Birr.

"Most of the songs on Jelly Legs," he says, "I wrote as a sort of therapy to overcome my late teen burdens. I never thought about a publishing or recording contract. The deals followed I guess because the songs were honest and weren't aiming for commerce.

"I also must add that I had a hard break up after a three-and-a-half-year relationship (a long time when you are young) with an American girl which was really tough at the time but some great songs came from it like Gin and Tonic Sky and To You I Bestow."

The latter went on to be included in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet. "It catapulted my name into places that were unreachable with just a record deal."

Where did the belief come from? "I was very fortunate to get a lot of encouragement about my song-writing at the age of 19 and some of the songs I wrote out of sheer belief in myself.

"There is confidence in the writing that I sort of wish I still had.

"I am way better now at it all but I think I've picked up some bad habits in the 21 years since, like killing songs before they are even constructed. I have a sort of imaginary monarchy in my head that I try to please and there's not much pleasing in them."

To mark the 21st anniversary of Jelly Legs, the Buddha of Birr himself has re-formed his old band (guitarist Steo Farrell, drummer Cion O'Callaghan and bassist Shane Fitzsimons) for a celebratory tour simply called Jelly Legs 21.

"Last July we reunited at a rehearsal room in Sandyford, Feedback Rehearsals. We had not played together in 18 years," Mundy recollects, name-checking "some great bands" they supported like Neil Young, Van Morrison, Manic Street Preachers and Alanis Morissette ("she was our first tour just after six small concerts around Dublin!").

"We had a sound and we still have it! The songs are fearless, passionate, slightly naive but direct."

Mundy plays Monroe's, Galway, on October 27 (tickets €22, inc booking fee); The Academy, Dublin (Oct 28, €25, plus booking fee); and Birr Theatre and Arts Centre (Oct 29, sold out)

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