Interview by Barry Egan
Soon, the (former) Fat Lady Sings man will sing and the whole world will sit up and listen. To wit, Nick Kelly has nailed the Zeitgeist with a existential anthem to dance along to like an uncle at a niece’s wedding.
Nothing Left To Do But To Dance is a manifesto for those among us for whom the sweet bird of youth has long since flown — a litany of poignant questions set to rousing music from Kelly’s latest incarnation, Alien Envoy.
Whatever it is you are supposed to be doing, there’s a good chance you’re already doing it
The questions, from Ireland’s most philosophical songsmith and soothsayer, are an enjoyable romp through the mind of a 52-year-old man. The man himself is sitting in the studio after a more-than-memorable performance for the Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie of the aforesaid sonic magick of Nothing Left To Do But To Dance — fielding the same questions that the song throws up so beautifully about life, the world and our place in it.
Like — deep breath now — do you eat carbs after 6pm?
Nicky taps his paunch, pushing out beneath a ruffled, white-and-white cabaret shirt.
Do you still try to impress pricks?
“Not as much,” he laughs.
Or fall out with old friends?
“I really try not to.”
Do you enjoy more frequent sex?
“Any sex at all!” he smiles.
His Alien Envoy cohort Anthony Gibney pipes up: “Well, my wife is pregnant. So... ”
Do you sit through boring plays?
“I have actually left a couple recently!” says Nicky.
And have you ever found out what it’s all about?
“Now that’s the job,” Nick says, “that’s the job of life.”
Is it getting late to be a new man?
“Even though I wrote that line, I kind of disagree with it. I actually think you can always be a new man, in fact.”
Is it getting too late to hatch a new plan?
“Again, I’m hoping not.”
Is it getting too late to chase a new star?
“It’s that thing of getting excited about the new kind of visions in the distance that you’re grasping towards.”
Is it getting too late to right a new wrong?
“What I think all those lines are about is there is a moment you get to where, there’s more behind you than is in front of you, unless there’s incredible medical advances. And you know, whatever it is you are supposed to be doing, there’s a good chance that you’re already doing it.
“You’re not going to be a different person. You already are this person. That’s what this song is about. You are this person. But you should celebrate that as well. And you also not be a wimpy version of this person. You should be a punky version of this person.”
For me, the big question from that song is, do you fear death?
“No, I don’t think so, not as I used to,” says Nicky.
And do you fear life?
“Again, I don’t. I think we are the luckiest human beings that have ever existed. You might have less money, might have more money, a bigger house or a smaller house, whatever... but in fundamental terms, you’re not going to starve to death.
“And I think if you are a driven person or a questing person, to waste that drive or quest on what other people might think, or on little fears, seems ridiculous to me — from this perspective now, anyway,” Nicky says. “So no, nobody should fear life.”
The major influences on Alien Envoy’s rather fine new album Loads are mortality and raging against the dying of the light.
“I think mortality is in there. The ‘raging’ I’d celebrate,” says Nicky. “Once you know what it is to be alive and to not be alive — this is the thing we have to totally grasp with two hands. The music is energised by mortality, but it’s also energised by being a parent and by what’s new.”
Windmill Lane Sessions: The creative wisdom of the Young Folk