A music blog from Ireland.
Rubberbandits. Terrors of the telephone, angels of the airwaves. Messers with microphones, Limerick’s new leaders. While Father Ted and Dylan Moran have been the defining figures of great Irish comedy, a new pair of plastic padres have split sides, seams and opinions with their incorrigible brand of homegrown humour.
On this occasion in Dublin’s Central Hotel, they sat happily around a table in their masks – Blindboy Boatclub’s eyeholes cut hastily in thin convenience store plastic while Mr Chrome sported a thicker grade of polyethylene carrier bag which fit snugly to his skull. It can be unnerving to find yourself cracking jokes with these characters who look like particularly good-natured burns victims.
“It’s a year on from the release of Horse Outside, did you expect it to do so well?”
Mr Chrome: Never, we didn’t expect it all. We were happy, we never intended Horse Outside to be as big as it we was. We just put it up on the telly, that was it. We didn’t even make enough CDs.
Blindboy Boatclub: We didn’t make any CDs at all to start with because we never thought anyone was going to buy it. Then the video started getting all these hits on YouTube and we realized that people really liked it. It was released as a digital single but as it did so well we had 2000 CDs made up and they sold out right away so we had to make more and then they sold out as well.
“There was a big hope that it would become a Christmas #1.”
Mr Chrome: We’re not interested in Christmas number ones.
“But if you’d beaten the X Factor that would have been amazing, you came very close to it too.”
BB: It would be incredible because the X Factor’s horrible. It’s just a machine, a huge money-making machine.
“You’d go to number one if you went on the X Factor! Would you do it?”
BB & MC: NO. No way.
“You could do your own. Sex Factor.”
MC: Sex Factor! Yeah we’d do that! That would be great!
“You could have heats and scoring. Come-ons, foreplay, positions.”
BB: YOU should do that!
“No way, it’s bad enough even using the word ‘sex’ or ‘fuck’ in a blog post. I get mental numbers whenever I use those keywords, like all the perverts on the internet start flocking over.
“Have you ever kissed a girl wearing those bags?”
MC: YEAH!! Girls love it! They love running their hands over our bags. It’s sexy.
“It’s a bit like using a crisp bag for a condom though isn’t it?”
MC: Jaysis! Ugh…I wonder if anyone’s ever done that.
BB: No of course they haven’t! No one would do that. But they might use a sandwich bag. Or clingfilm.
MC: Why would you bother, you may as well have sex with a bagpipe.
“What about homeless people who don’t have anything?”
BB: They’d just have to pull out.
“So it’d be like ‘ooh, cum all over my cardboard?’”
“You had some telly experience having done Republic Of Telly but then the success of Horse Outside brought you to the attention of MTV and Channel4 in the US and UK, how did that go for you?”
BB: The MTV show was just a holiday for us, a chance to go to New York and see the sights.
MC: Channel4 stuff is great, we can really focus on our material. And we get to dress up!
BB: Concentrating and focusing and writing, and getting things correct, and working with mad bastard directors who inject artistry into them.
MC: Telly stuff has been loads of craic, it’s fucking great craic and we love doing it, taking the opportunity to dress up as other guys.
BB: And working on costumes and outlines.
“Was there any negative criticism to the Black Man video that came from the first Channel 4 Comedy Blaps?”
MC & BB: No!
Mr Chrome: No none at all.
MC: There were tons of people thinking there were elements of racism and every one of those was a middle class white person, who fixated on the two words ‘black’ and ‘man’ beside each other as a racist phrase. That it’s a derogatory term to describe someone who’s black, and it’s not, it’s what you’d use to describe a man who’s black.
BB: Literally only white people were getting offended…
MC: …and black people knew the song parodies that reaction, they found it funny.
“Sure what else would you call people, I heard Afro-Irish used recently.”
MC BB: Black men!
BB: I call them black men, it’s all right for us to call ourselves white.
MC: If you had to, you’d call him a man first but if you’re talking about colour, he’s a black man.
(Blindboy quotes a line about infamy from Ulysses by James Joyce here but I can’t recall it. We get into a short discussion about the man and his great books. According to Blindboy Boatclub, Finnegan’s Wake is a much harder book to read than Ulysses.)
“On the artwork of Serious About Men, it’s very pink. I don’t think many men are serious about pink.”
BB: What…?! Loads of men love pink, it’s a man’s colour. Look at the fashions, all the young men go about wearing pink.
“Maybe the men who like pink are the men who like girls. So seeing something bright pink makes them think of hot girls, and they’re gonna buy your album for that reason. I notice you’ve got a montage of lady cleavages on the inlay cover. What about people who like men cleavage?”
MC: The other side of the inlay is full of men. Look, lots of men (he indicates the left gatefold, which shows an array of strange-looking males with facial deformities and farmer’s caps.) And you might think the front says ‘Rubberbandits’ but it’s actually all made up of incredible men – see? (An arbitrary glance reveals Lord Lucan, Moe Syzlak, Eagle Eye Cherry….click the image above for more.)
“You’re so well-known at this point that it seems unbelievable to realise that this album is your debut. It comes as a double-CD with the first disc, Boy Talk loaded with your classic material such as Bag of Glue and Pure Awkward, along with classic prank calls like The Bank. The second disc Man Talk however charts the new territory that has been discovered in maturity, but still, why Serious About Men?
MC: “They’re all mannish songs about things men like to do.”
“Oil On Mr Consodine is about a man, Black Man is about gang men, Fight Me At Mass; the only people I know who fight at mass are men. Spoiling Ivan is about a boy, Buddies in Boston – all my buddies are men. Choppy Nagle is a man, Spastic Hawk is a boy – a boy hawk – Danny Dyer is a man and Double Dropping Yokes with Eamon DeValera is a about a dead man. The only one that isn’t about men is I Like To Shift Girls.
“Which many men like to. Do you like DeValera?”
MC: Well we don’t really know him. We’ve only spoken to his ghost so it wouldn’t be fair to say.
“Are there any legendary Irishmen you respect?”
BB: Daniel Day Lewis.
MC: Cillian Murphy.
BB” We met him recently actually, at a gig Des Bishop put on. He’s a lovely boy.
“He is a lovely boy. He’s a ride!”
“What about Danny Dyer? You take him to task on the album. What if you give him a confidence crisis?”
MC: I’m sure Danny Dyer’s been told by people a lot more important than Rubberbandits!
“Oh I dunno, you’re pretty important. Ray Winstone might have had a go. Or maybe Ricky Gervais had a pop.”
BB: Danny Dyer always plays the same roles, he’s a man who plays Danny Dyer in films. He’s always typecast as the same character of a Cockney hardman, going on for years now. There’s a scene in this film called Severance where a guy loses his leg in a bear trap and Danny Dyer’s trying to shove the severed leg into a fridge to preserve it, he’s just so cold and impassive. It goes on for ages, far too long, but he’s jamming and shoving this guy’s leg into a fridge with no sense of emotion towards the fact he’s holding a severed limb in his hands.
MC: I wanna go out with him and drink champagne. I wouldn’t imagine Danny Dyer drinks anything but champagne.
BB: Pints of champagne!
“Pints of Bass Shandy champagne!
“Would you have him in a Rubberbandits video then?”
MC & BB: Yeah!
MC: We’d have him in a video miming the words. Acting his parts but we’d do his voice!
BB: Danny Dyer had a role in Borstal Boy, the film version of Brendan Behan’s book about an IRA volunteer being imprisoned in England. There’s a part where he’s in drag, dressed as a woman for a part in a play.
“No way? I meant to watch that film the other week but didn’t get round to it. I’ve read the book though, is he in the book?”
(Blindboy looks at me as if I’m stupid and begins to laugh).
“You made some great videos this year, Spastic Hawk was fantastic. One of my readers said he thinks it’s taking the piss out of big, boring songs by epic indie bands who write a load of drivel and buffer it with massive rock crescendos. Is he right?”
MC: No. It’s just about how amazing hawks are.
“But hawks are kind of exotic for Ireland. Loads of people have pigeon lofts, not hawkeries. Should it not have been a spastic pigeon?”
MC: No! Hawks are amazing, they’re fantastic.
BB: Hawks are gas bastards. There are loads of them in Ireland, you see them when you’re driving, they swoop around up in the air.
“There’s a peregrine or a kestrel that lives in East Wall. I used to see it flying around there.”
BB: They live in church towers and places so that could be right. You see loads of them over in England over the motorways. Massive huge ones perching on signposts. They hover there waiting for roadkill.
MC: No I don’t think that’s right, hawks can see the tiniest thing for miles, so they can see little animals like rabbits and mice running across the tarmac more easily than spotting them running through the grass, so they wait in prey over the motorways.
BB: I’ve heard that hawks can see in a kind of infra-red, and they can see these minuscule trails of urine as these little animals scurry past. They’re incredible. But they’re predators and they should hunt, so I think they’re going to become endangered if they start living off carrion on the motorways.
MC: I think they’re cool bastards who can live on their own forever.
“So you think they’re getting soft, and you think they’re mad hard. And they perch like posers.”
MC: Yeah they’re posers. But they’re cool and sexy. Predators are sexy, like sharks.
“Ah sharks aren’t sexy. Sharks are slinky, my daughter’s mad about sharks and wants to be a marine biologist. My son wants to be a Rubberbandit. He wanted to dress up as you for Halloween.”
BB: People have done that before in Limerick. Gone out on Halloween with plastic bags on their heads pretending to be us. We get in loads of trouble, it all comes back to us. The Guards were like ‘What were you doing out causing trouble on Halloween?’
MC: Like we’d be that stupid to go out causing trouble looking like ourselves.
“That would be *really* subversive…going out causing trouble on Halloween as Rubberbandits when everyone’s dressed as Rubberbandits!”
“You started out as best friends making prank calls – are you still best friends now you’ve made an album?”
MC: Best friends in the world!
BB: Best friends ever. We got matching tattoos. I got his face tattooed on my arse and he had my face tattooed on his ankle.
MC: And he had my face removed!
BB: I had his face laser-removed off my arse after an argument.
(to Mr Chrome) “Aww. Did it hurt when he did that?”
MC: Not as much as his arse hurt!
“But you never fight any more? Not even the odd scrap?”
BB: No, never.
MC: But we’re gonna get a scrapyard. For the hawks and the dogs.
(In the latest episode of Comedy Blaps, we see Mr Chrome has a new best friend – a little boy called Ivan.)
“Progressing from prank calls to live shows, you have a reputation as hip-hop artists. That doesn’t really seem accurate given the kind of music that you make now though.”
BB: We have an interest in hip-hop. There are people making hip-hop in Ireland like Redzer and Nugget, Street Literature and Lethal Dialect who are all deadly but for us, it would get boring. You can be incredibly clever with your lyrics as a rapper but it’s too restricted to a personal frame of reference, we want melody and songs, we want to tell stories.
People knock him, but if you look at how Eminem started getting big, he did something different by using a narrative, telling stories, like the one about a girl taking mushrooms at a party. The dark underside of rap was there but he was clever and offset that by being funny and did something new.
MC: And then there was Stan.
BB: Stan, yeah.
“That was so dark. Swung to an extreme from the song about giggles at a party to locking a girl in the trunk and driving off bridge.”
MC: So much rap uses ‘I, me, I am, I’m this, I did that’. I want music about a dinosaur that visits its mother’s grave, songs about magic carpets!
“Like the musical equivalent of the pantomime? I saw Aladdin last week.”
MC: Fuck yes, Aladdin! Magic carpets and genies and fucking blue smoke!
“I hope you realise that I’m not getting involved if you sue a bunch of budding hip-hop artists who read this take and inspiration to put on a street version of Ali Baba at the Helix Theatre.”
MC: Let them do it, I’d applaud! It would be brilliant!
“So instead of hip-hop you headed towards serious comedy. The satirical nature of your material has been likened to Father Ted, was it an influence?”
BB: Influence isn’t really the right word but coming from the place we did at the time we were growing up it would be very hard to evade that, the impact Fr Ted had on everyone when it was coming out on telly. But we’re not emulating it, we’re not trying to do the same thing as Father Ted.
MC: But now we’re working on our Channel 4 shows with Declan Lowney who directed Father Ted!
BB: He’s brilliant.
“I remember, seeing tweets from the show’s writer Graham Linehan, he wasn’t very impressed with Horse Outside.”
BB: He wasn’t, to begin with.
MC: I think he’s warmed to us now. We can tell by his tweets, he’s tweeting us more often and saying nice things to us. He just had to get used to us.
BB: Do you know, I don’t mind if anyone doesn’t like us. He’s just a man.
MC: He’s just a man, he’s an important man, he’s done lots of comedy but…
BB: …fuck him!
“He thinks you should lose the bags though.”
MC & BB: Nah.
BB: Nah. The bags are staying. We put different masks on.
MC: We just don’t want people to know what we look like. I’d rather have a bag on and live with Graham Linehan not liking us than be bothered by people chasing us around.
“Sure Graham Linehan doesn’t even use a real picture on Twitter.”
BB: That’s right, it’s a caricature, a cartoon.
“On the subject of the bags, am I right in saying that one of you were an extra on the set of Angela’s Ashes with Brendan O’Carroll in Limerick….”
BB: …That was Mr Chrome, yeah.
MC: …and he made me a jacket out of a black binliner. It was lashing rain.
“When was that?”
BB: Fuck, 1998?
“So if you’ve been going for ten years, is it fair to say that Brendan O’Carroll has been the biggest influence on Rubberbandits?”
(they look confused)
MC: Oh! I suppose so yeah….
BB (to MC in amazement): He was the first man to place a plastic bag over your head!
“Wow. Brendan O’Carroll, the man who is pretty much the worst comedian in Ireland…”
MC (interrupts): I thought he was too until he made me fucking poncho in the lashing rain!
“I know you’ve told other journalists that you wear the bags because you’re fish. And there’s a thin layer of Shannon water inside. But I know that’s bullshit because we always see your necks and you’ve no gills!”
BB: Hah, that’s right. We’re not fish.
“I notice that along with your faces, you never show your backsides. So it’s possible you might be a platypus. Or have vestigial tails.”
BB: We don’t show off our arses no.
MC: Wait! He showed his arse in Spastic Hawk. If you watch for the right moment, you’ll see his arse.
BB: No, we’re not fish. We’re guys.
MC: We’re guys. We dress like this cos women love shopping and we want them to love us.
“I hate shopping.”
BB: Well we’re not the right men for you!
“What about Internet shopping? How will you adapt?”
BB & MC: (incredulous) Internet shopping?!
MC: We don’t have the Internet. We only have Google.
“Ah lads, with the hits you’re racking up on YouTube, you pretty much are the Internet!”
And then I realised that I had forgot to press record, with an hour of non-stop banter after having had my interview slot moved to the last of the lot so we could talk longer, and having got on like a house on fire with this pair of messieurs who were in fact not at all obnoxious or offensive, and my heart sank and I acted like a big girl and wailed. But it’s testament to the Rubberbandits’ magnificent company that I could in fact go straight home and transcribe this all from memory. Forget about work and interviews: this was the fastest and finest hour for Harmless Noise in 2011. With grins, handshakes and two rustly plastic kisses on the cheek, I left the Rubberbandits knowing I’d never be the same again, forever destined to rate hawks as sexy mad bastards.