From painfully pointless rap verses in pop songs to face-painted glam singers yearning for the arrival of Martian overlords, every musical generation has its fads, and in the age of social media they come thicker and faster than ever before. After all, who isn’t bored of bands who spell their names incorrectly with double v instead of double u? See what I did there? Wasn’t it ironical...oh, sorry, that was last week.
This week? Well, who knows what will cause the hipster beard to be stroked with glee. But the week after next, it will be oh so mainstream and tossed aside. In a music scene that’s focused on USPs, image, SEO, age demographics and likes/shares - it’s refreshing to meet a band like The Eskies - a band whose USP is their songs and their personalities, and how they combine onstage to create something greater than the sum of their parts.
A folk quintet hailing from the Dublin suburbs of Tallaght and Donaghmede, The Eskies have done things the traditional way; hitting the road in a clapped-out van in search of adventure, playing countless shows around Ireland and Europe. They've been surprising audiences with their witty lyrics, banter, and a quirky, quizzical, frolicking approach to songwriting. It's one that joyfully marries 1920’s woodwind interludes with guitar feedback, and jailhouse memorandums that refuse the salvation of the lord.
“After many years of deliberation we've settled on 'sea-soaked gypsy-folk' but you really have to listen for yourself” says lead singer and guitarist Ian Birmingham, “we get all kinds of strange attempts at describing it from people.”
Like the finest Western, it has taken the Dublin quintet several years of hard labour on the road to reach the point in their development where they are ready to release their imaginatively titled debut album ‘After The Sherry Went Round’ on Friday May 15th.
“Are you calling me a liar?” gesticulates Birmingham, smiling when asked about the origins of said title. “A lot of the songs have a certain unhinged quality about them” he says in a more serious tone of voice. “We liked the idea that maybe they would be the drunken rantings and ravings of an inebriated after-dinner type singer of the Edwardian era, leaned over the piano foaming at the mouth while the rest of the room stares uncomfortably at the floor.”
So in this age of dwindling record sales, what aspirations does this unusual young band have for their album? “Well we've had a great time writing, performing and recording the songs and putting it all together.”
Really enjoyed @TheEskies tonight on the box. Serious performance & energy, plus sounded great!
“A good start would be for that to come across on the album and for people to enjoy it. Beyond that then, a lot of touring, traveling and adventure would be brilliant - not to mention a shed load of cold hard Jayzus cash.” While the latter cannot be guaranteed, it would certainly not be a surprise if the pot of “Jayzus cash” comes to fruition.
The Eskies' gruelling touring schedule has seen them inch up the pecking order, becoming festival mainstays and opening for larger acts such as The Hot Sprockets in Vicar St. They have just sold out their album launch in Whelan’s and are set to be the main attraction at Ireland’s most successful independent music festival, Knockanstockan, this summer.
The Eskies are also fresh from their first prime time television appearance on RTE’s Saturday Night Show. “Usually we don't put makeup on … Ainsley Harriott isn't usually there,” jokes Birmingham.
“That caused a lot of excitement but apart from fan-manning TV chefs, we tried to treat it as much like a normal gig as possible.”
The fan-manning culminated backstage when the Eskies orchestral players ambushed Ainsley Harriott post-interview with a surprise rendition of the theme tune to the TV Chef’s most successful programme Ready Steady Cook, a surprise which left Harriott, dancing down the corridors of Montrose.
Following the Eskies' performance on The Saturday Night Show Irish boxing legend Bernard Dunne tweeted giving the group the thumbs up. “It was definitely a nice touch to get the nod from such a well-respected figure. He said we cheered him up so that's always good, we hope he's still feeling cheerful. The response online in general was amazing.”
‘After The Sherry Went Round’ captures the frantic glee of The Eskies' live performances, but more importantly, highlights their considerable songwriting skills. From the sinister sway of ‘Eloise’ through to the jaunty ‘Jesus Don’t Save Me’ and the driving ‘Jailhouse Sun’, The Eskies have delivered a fascinating blend of fun-fuelled folk.
'After The Sherry Went Round' is in all good record shops Friday, May 15th and is available to pre-order on iTunes now.