Monday 22 January 2018

The Rubberbandits: Totally uncut and unhinged

As The Rubberbandits take their crazy antics Stateside, Eamon Sweeney chats to them about chasing the queen, rule-breaking and their new album

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

The Rubberbandits haven't quite gone about things in the Leonard Cohen order of business by taking Manhattan before Berlin, but they're set to storm the Big Apple tonight.

Everyone's favourite Limerick gangster-rap-gone-bonkers duo plays the Dominion Theatre in New York this very evening by invitation of MTV. The context is certainly intriguing, as they're probably Ireland's most popular export of the YouTube era.

Blind Boy Boat Club (Dave Chambers) and Mr Chrome (Bob McGlynn) have a habit of finishing each other's sentences like some kind of deranged married couple. "If New York is a man's genitals in a state of arousal, then Limerick city is..." Blind Boy begins. "A man's genitals after an icy dip in the sea," concludes Mr Chrome with a flourish.

Backstage at the UCD Ball, as Katy B is doing her level best to be a 21st-century dubstep pop goddess, The Rubberbandits are dreaming of their ideal festival line-up. "UB40 and Neil Diamond doing Red Red Wine," begins Blind Boy. "Pete Best and George Best doing the songs of ABBA with the drummer from Def Leppard playing the violin. Nirvana and Wet Wet Wet doing a DJ set." Mr Chrome suddenly interjects. "Enya singing into a whelk seashell and holding it up to your ear. She sounds like the sea. A depressed sea." "I'd say she knows how to get her hands on some good acid though," remarks Blind Boy. Goodness.

If Lloyd George said negotiating with Eamon DeValera is like picking up mercury with a fork, then interviewing the Rubberbandits is like trying to bottle it. Incidentally, they have a song called Double Dropping Yokes With Eamon DeValera, but more of that later.

In April, The Rubberbandits were unanimously hailed as the major hit of the Trinity Ball. While they were the belles of the ball, English pop sensation Jessie J didn't apparently have such a great night. "Just came offstage at the Trinity Ball," she tweeted. "Probably one of the hardest gigs to date. To see so many people so drunk they couldn't even stand. Girls unconscious and literally trampling on each other."

The Rubberbandits posted a clip on YouTube before the queen's visit, offering some advice to her majesty. "I hope she saw it," says Blind Boy. "It'll be silly not to show it to her. If I was visiting a country and I knew that someone was going to chase me with dogshit at the end of a golf club (a claim they made in Up the Ra if the queen ever visited this country) then I'd want to know about it. Whenever Oscar Wilde is referred to as gay, he's Irish and whenever he's referred to as a genius, he's English. He was a bent Irish genius. End of story."

These boyz from the hood have put Limerick city on the map, some might say for all the wrong reasons. "Vincent Browne is from Limerick and he keeps that quiet," says Blind Boy. "He's from a different planet. If we were from Monaghan, it wouldn't be the same. People don't have a predisposed opinion about Monaghan, but there's a massive predisposed opinion about Limerick.

"Once those assumptions are there, people have rules on what they think Limerick is. Those rules are there to be broken around the gaff and that's the nature of our comedy. It's breaking things in the right way and breaking them appropriately rather than in a haphazard fashion."

Last Christmas, Horse Outside caused a hilarious storm in a teacup, prompting one of the most inadvertently funny phone-ins to Joe Duffy ever heard on Irish radio. "You need all that, though," says Blind Boy. "If you release a piece of art that pleases everybody, you haven't challenged anyone. All that means is that you've made something that's mediocre and not new. I welcome people misinterpreting it because you're going to have people on the other side of it that will defend that and you get a bit of debate and things might change. You have to rattle a few cages."

Was it a surprise that one of their staunchest defenders turned out to be none other than Willie O'Dea? "At the end of the day, he's a politician so it was a clever thing for him to do," says Blind Boy. "He was going round to all his constituents and all they were talking about was The Rubberbandits. The public had an assumption that the likes of Willie O'Dea would be a stuffy bastard and that he would be against The Rubberbandits, so all Willie had to do was to go out and challenge that assumption and then he's seen as a legend.

"The fact that he went on Joe Duffy was more for the benefit of Willie O'Dea, but he's a politician at the end of the day. I just went on and talking away defending the points. It wasn't that hard because I was talking to two idiots. It was like picking a fight with a child. It was like stepping on a small guy's face. (Joe Duffy) gets flak. Everyone calls him an asshole but I think it's his job to be an asshole. He gets paid. He's a professional asshole. Clampers and traffic wardens are professional assholes but they still go home and hump their wives. They don't spit into their faces."

"I spat into a few faces in my time,' chips in Chrome. "Never made me an asshole. Wasn't that in Oliver Twist?" "Well, we'll never know what Joe Duffy is into in the bowels of an evening," continues Blind Boy. "Each to their own."

After their festival and student ball adventures conclude with The Cat Laughs in Kilkenny, The Rubberbandits intend to use the rest of the summer to finish the writing of their debut album, which is penciled in for an October release.

"We don't want to release an album of stuff that you get on the internet already for free," Blind Boy states. "We intend to record all those songs in really good quality and offer something no one has heard before, so you get a load of songs you know and loads you don't. The way the music industry is you have to offer people value. There's more pressure on the artist to step up to the plate and give people a reason to buy a CD rather than download it illegally. Double Dropping Yokes with Eamon DeValera is an example of a new direction we're taking. It was great writing that one because it's a hardcore rave song. We want to do more of that kind of stuff rather than concentrating on the hip-hop. You can lash that out in a nightclub and it doesn't matter about a lyric."

The Rubberbandits walk a line between music and comedy that make them equally at home at music or comedy festivals. "We've got booked for a comedy festival, but it doesn't mean we can do them, mind you," Blind Boy cackles. "We're musicians that people happen to find funny. Rather than being comedy music we're music that happens to be comedy, because comedy music is always shit.

"If we try to write serious songs we look like a pair of fools. We tried to write a song about the Famine but we both started crying half-way through like Michael Jackson used to do, so the song about the Famine became Up the Ra."

The Rubberbandits perform at The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Kilkenny, on Friday June 3,

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