Big news for Irish music fans -- the Craic Fest, the annual celebration of Irish film and music, has scored another epic draw for 2012. This year they’re bringing over the red-hot Rubberbandits for an exclusive one-night, sure to sell-out in a New York minute show on March 10.
Famous for celebrating, among other things, Limerick, horses, drug abuse, totally inappropriate relationships and special needs hawks, the Rubberbandits are the most seriously satirical voices out of Ireland since literary luminary Flann O’Brien. Unlike O’Brien though they’re very serious about thumping backbeats, and that makes them a real musical force, not just a blink and you’ll miss them novelty act.
Their video, 'Horse Outside', went viral soon after release and has been viewed by eight and a half million viewers on YouTube at last count.
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A follow up video about scoring hash in a working class area of Limerick also attracted millions
When they started out, fans wondered if the Rubberbandits’ aggressively local Limerick humor would resonate with the rest of the country -- but of course it did. Then they wondered if it would resonate with the rest of the world -- and again it did, spectacularly so (the rip-roaringly funny video for their huge hit “Horse Outside” has clocked up more than 8.5 million views on YouTube).
Composed of Blindboy Boat Club (real name Dave Chambers) and Mister Chrome (Bob McGlynn), the Rubberbandits are two lethally smart Irish twenty-somethings who are still completely anonymous on stage (does anyone actually know what they look like?) and who still do every interview wearing plastic shopping bags over their faces with the logo of the Irish grocer Spar.
On Monday morning they spoke with the Irish Voice via phone from Dublin Airport as they prepare to board a flight to Australia for their latest national tour.
For two lads who ply their trade as self-described Limerick gurriers, they’re doing very well for themselves, and now they have a critically acclaimed new double album called Serious About Men to promote.
The first question is, as a pair of young Irish guys directly affected by the downturn (because everyone in that age group is) what are they making of all the austerity cuts undertaken by the Irish government?
“There’s nothing you really can make of the state of the country now,” Blindboy Boat Club tells the Irish Voice, in his unmistakable Limerick accent.
“It’s kind of gone past the point of joking, do you know what I mean? Two years ago it was grand to joke about it, but now it might be the first thing the Rubberbandits take seriously because it’s fairly s***.”
One of the biggest music festivals held each year in Ireland is called Oxegen. About 70,000 young Irish people usually attend. This year the festival has been cancelled for the first time. Promoters just assumed the young concert-goers have already fled the country.
“If you look at the statistics for the people that emigrated last year it’s pretty much the same amount that would have gone to Oxegen. That’s really sad you know? The whole place, everywhere you look now, it’s just old people,” says Blindboy.
But that’s the thing about the Rubberbandits. They have always known how to mix the serious with the silly, and they do it better than any of their Irish predecessors ever have.
Blindboy can move from talk about mass emigration to how the band make their plastic masks without missing a beat, and that’s exactly what he does now.
“We have our masks specially made,” he confesses. “We take plaster casts of our heads and then we put a plastic bag on the plaster cast. Then we get a heat gun and we point it at the bag until it shrinks around the mold. When we stick them on they always fit perfectly now.”
Call them artistic hoods. But not all plastic bags are made equal, he announces.
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“To be honest now, and I have no brand bias, but Spar bags have the finest quality plastics. When you wear plastic bags on your head for a living you tend to notice which bags are nicer and Spar bags are fantastic.
“Centra (another supermarket chain) bags come a close second. Then we got these great bags from Portugal that have a great red color to them. They’re the best bags I’ve ever put on my head.”
There’s nothing funny about wearing a plastic bag on your head in the equatorial heat of the Australian summer, though, and Blindboy knows it. Number one it’s very hot, and number two, he’s going to be upside down for most performances.
“The sweat won’t even drain out of the bag,” he says. “I could drown.”
Joining him onstage as ever will be Mr. Chrome, the other part of the talented duo.
They’ve been friends for over a decade, and the band began as a joke that became more and more viable as it gained fame.
“Mr. Chrome used to tap dance on the street since he was a young child,” Blindboy explains. “His da used to be a pickpocket and Mr. Chrome would tap dance to distract the police. He’s never not dancing, and at the same time he could be robbing something out of your pocket too.”
The pair knows New York audiences love them, but they are still deeply surprised by all the attention.
“I can understand the Irish community and the Irish American community in New York liking us, but the fact that the regular Yanks are coming is good too,” Blindboy reckons.
To keep things interesting they’re promising some surprises on the night.
“We have had dancing altar boys before, we’ve had girls dressed up as horses, and now we just do the shows ourselves with help from deejay Willie O’DJ. What we wanted to bring over to the New York gig this year was a live swan, but we’re having a bit of trouble getting it over. So we might have to do without it.”
Blindboy, or Mr. Chambers if you prefer, is currently completing a masters in psychology, which is the other less well-known side of this brilliant double act.
Asked about the social commentary the band indulges in, particularly when it comes to sex, he gives a hilarious answer.
“Our philosophy about sex?” he says in a hard as nails Limerick accent. “We like to think of sex in relation to death, do you know what I mean? It’s the same act essentially; do you know what I mean?
“It’s like when you’re having sex with a bird, you have to imagine that you’re at your own funeral, you know? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and it can get very depressing then too. But if you take a very philosophical approach to the act of coitus you can find yourself having a tremendous time.”
It’s because they make cracks like this that the Rubberbandits found themselves inducted into the Trinity College Film Society.
“At the end of the night they came up to us with this big old book that’s 400 or 500 years old,” says Blindboy. “It had signatures of people like James Joyce in it. We signed it next to Jonathan Swift’s signature and we drew a picture of Bob Marley smoking hash. That’s true.”
Supporting the Rubberbandits at the Craic Fest this year are the Minutes, a Dublin band that played the CMJ Music Fest last year.
The new Craic film series is booked for Tribeca Cinemas and will be bringing the likes of Colm Meaney in Parked and boxing champ Barry McGuigan’s In Sunshine or In Shadow to its screens.
For the first time this year, the Craic Fest will also feature the Kids Fleadh on Saturday, March 10 presenting a special program of family-friendly short films and stepdancing suitable for kids of all ages, followed by an Irish breakfast.
The Craic Festival takes place between March 8 and 10 at Tribeca Cinemas and Mercury Lounge. For more news and venues check the full line-up on www.thecraicfest.com.
Here's their most famous song "Horse Outside":
Here's their newest song "Black Man":
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