A music blog from Ireland.
“I had one of those when I was at school!” If I’d known Neil O’Connor was gonna be so taken with my Irish Public Service notepad I’d have brought one extra. We debate bringing the green book back as the predecessor of the yellow canvas bag and Matthew Bolger’s ready chuckles completely disarm my interview nerves. There’s so much to discuss: six years on from I Am Brazil, The Redneck Manifesto are back in town with a new album. It’s a beautiful thing: it’s called Friendship. Four years in the making and spanning a continental divide, it’s their strongest offering yet.
“It’s great to play together, we’re really excited again after such a long pause because we’ve been so seperated,” Matthew is animated, “you see, I live in Sweden now and Neil lives in San Francisco. The others are in Dublin.”
Reunited last August, the Rednecks returned to the Black Box Studios in France with Dave Odlum.
“The studio’s so beautiful, continues Matty. “It’s a cottage outside Paris, filled with old analogue gear, beautiful stuff with a history, used by Curtis Mayfield and Tina Turner, everything was shipped over from Chicago by a guy called Ian Burgess who just died recently, he was inspired by the beautiful surroundings.
“We recorded over ten days, moved into the cottage and made food together, we drank together and the only thing left to do was record. We’d jammed for two weeks beforehand and were completely focused compared to the last time when we recorded I Am Brazil. Back then, we used to play table tennis so it would improve our concentration, I was writing my masters thesis and doing college work while recording over there. This time it was just bang, bang, knock it out, you can really hear it in the record. Have a listen to it. It sounds kind of exciting. it’s probably the best thing we have ever recorded.”
“Neil has definitely brought in more electronics since I Am Brazil, it used to be mostly drums, guitars and bass, but now it’s more layered to equal out the sound of guitars. We used to listen to a lot of dance music and we’re trying to bring that into the world, more so than it is already.”
“It’s more elaborate, we’re more confident in experimenting.” Though furthest geographically, Neil’s solo work as Somadrone delivers an expansive, pliant use of synths in Friendship’s fully-realised sound of The Redneck Manifesto. “We’ve all got synthesisers and drum machines so it’s really easy to record set-ups.” he carries on. ”We’ll have a guitar idea and communicate to each other on its demo. I know the sounds the other guys go for, even the tones and program settings but we’re not a technical band. We can talk openly and get a point across but we don’t sit down and talk about what kind of songs we’re going to play. It’s not not geeky and that’s what makes us different from other instrumental bands. ”
The Redneck Manifesto are often described as post-hardcore and post-rock. What does it sound like to them?
“I don’t think it has a label, it really doesn’t sound the same as any other band,” states Neil. “It’s actually something different.”
“I think it’s lost its label. It’s not hardcore anymore. It’s completely different. ‘Instrumental’ is the only comparison you can make towards it. We’ve definitely got our own sound, our solo projects and the music we listen to is completely different so it really is like five individuals coming together to make good music,” says Matty. “It’s danceable. It’s not post rock, which is for sitting in your room looking out the window rather than going to a gig. Our live gigs will totally wear you out.”
How do they feel about being described as influential towards newer bands?
“There are some bands who sound like they’ve got the same influences as we had. We take our music very seriously, we play it, record and replay it, sell it. For people to be influenced by that in the form of their own band is amazing. I hope they are, it would be nice to pass something on. When we started (playing music) we were ten years old and went on to twelve and twenty-one…but you know, in twenty, thirty, fourty, fifty years, maybe someone’s going to pick it up when we’re gone. There’s there’s loads of music left.”
“Once the entity is there, it will exist forever” agrees Neil and I feel the conversation has shifted into a realm in which only the band can see the true form of the creature they have created.
After twelve years together, the fanbase is loyal and strong. Signing to Dublin label the Richter Collective means a fresh connection to the local independent scene the Rednecks knew so well. How much has changed?
“We’re really interested in what Richter are doing and we’re so excited about joining the label,” says Matthew, who played guitar in Dublin’s 90s hardcore band The Waltons. “There were a lot more record labels back in the day with more passion about helping new bands. It was hard work. There were pirate radio stations and a lot more gigs. Now obviously the Internet has made it a lot more easy than walking around in the freezing cold slapping up posters everywhere, for less work you can reach more people. The whole point is to get people hearing our music.”
Richter Collective have a strong connection in Japan. Does an eastern tour beckon?
“We’re 80% sure that we’ll be going to Japan this year or early next year” says Neil.
“Because we’ve already done Europe and America, Japan will be the last missing piece of our puzzle.” Matthew replies. “We’re going to be tour heaven being in Japan. It would be a mad experience for any band at all, amazing. I love touring so much, I could do it every day.”
“The tours we did were really fun, you really feel how good it is to be in a band and not everyone has that experience,” Neil agrees. “Walking into new places and going back to houses is really nice.”
The independent route brings its own rewards but it’s hardly New York Hilton lifestyle though?
“No, it’s not,” Matthew is instantly reponsive. “What music gets you on a corporate level is just a rush from one place to another, it’s horrible, you don’t experience where you go. We went to all these crazy places in America, then we went to European places like Italy and we’d usually go to a little cafe rather than being pushed in a hotel to watch television.”
You did the showcase grind and went to SXSW, does it help bands?
“Obviously it helps some people but not a lot, very little. I think it’s a bad thing to keep Irish bands seperated from the others, they should try and break it up so it’s not all Irish bands playing together. I don’t think it’s important to send twenty Irish bands over to play an Irish bar on St Patrick’s Day, that money could help people get instruments or go towards a music venue here. It makes more sense to have three pints of Guinness here than to have three pints of Guinness in Texas.”
“It’s a lot of money and yeah, we did that and we we played five nights a week but our label was based in Austin so we had a lot of support. We did go to some other gigs that were professional and went some other independent gigs that had nothing to do with the festival but were amazing. There’s actually ten times more things going on, we played a BMX festival and there in the middle of the gig was a huge bike ramp. Mad.”
The Redneck Manifesto name itself must have been a hit with the Texans. Where did it come from, there’s a sociology book with the same title?
“Ah, I got a taxi once and the driver was really excited about what he thought were real rednecks playing in Dublin!” reminisces Matthew. “The name means absolutely nothing. If we could have no name, we would, if we could just exist with no name, we definitely would. Anyway, the name doesn’t affect the music but it does kind of give a history of what we used to be into, hardcore candy for your ears. We don’t have a manifesto.”
“I think as you get older you really appreciate music more.” Neil is thoughtful. “The Redneck Manifesto is all about the music now. Our viewpoints are completely different but we don’t discuss non-music stuff and there’s no agenda, no goals other than to put out more music. I don’t think the band will ever break up as it doesn’t even seem like a band. We just come together to do gigs. I think that’s one of the reasons why we called the record Friendship.”
Originally published March 2010 in AU Magazine – sincere apologies for any confusion caused by the misprint of Ian Burgess’ name – I misheard the transcript :: Nay.