From Sandymount in Dublin, Mark Whelan is the piano player and rapper with the Irish band Funzo, who are attempting to increase their U.S. fan base. They recently performed in Arlene’s Grocery in the Lower East Side.
Tell us about your band.
“Funzo was born out of the Trinity College Battle of The Bands in 2007 – a friend entered a demo CD without telling us and we went on to win the contest. It was an easy decision to keep the band going and we decided that we simply wanted as many people to hear our music as possible. We played anywhere that would have us - from house parties and tattoo conventions, to Europe’s top festivals, Oxegen and Electric Picnic and even on stage with Pogues’ frontman, Shane McGowan. We want to make pop music for our time.”
Who are your influences?
“When Funzo began, our biggest influences were the pop maestros of the 1960s – Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies. Over the last few years we’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop and ska; bands like The Specials, Outkast and Gorillaz. We admire acts that attempt to cross genres – we aim to not sound like anyone else though.”
How did Funzo end up in New York?
“Over the last few years, we’ve received contact from some managers, labels and fans over here in the U.S. Also, our debut single was a radio-hit over here, and achieved high-rotation in stations across 25 states. We always planned on making the move here, but wanted to be patient and make sure we were ready for any opportunities that may come our way. After an intense summer of recording and rehearsing, we’re finally here and hoping to impress the locals.”
How does the music scene here compare to back home?
“I’ve often said that Dublin is one of the best cities in which to start a band as there are so many musicians and so much support for new acts. However, there is only so far a band can go in Ireland and all the Irish acts we’re seeking to emulate have taken the bold step abroad at some stage – that’s where we’re at now. So far, we’ve noticed a greater diversity in acts here in the US, but a similar level of enthusiasm for exciting new music to that which we’ve seen at home.”
What is your favorite thing about performing in the U.S?
“The audience. We developed our sound and personality as band by performing to crowds of people who had never heard us before. Getting on stage here to mix of Funzo fans who haven’t yet seen us live and strangers is thrilling. We feel like we’ve something to prove to a new audience and it brings out the best in us. Then, the pay-off of seeing people responding well to this group of Irish lads is really rewarding. Also, the openness of New York audiences to our combination of pop, hip-hop and ska makes us feel at home here.”
What is your ultimate goal as a musician?
“Our initial goal as a band was to be heard by as many people as possible. That remains our principle goal and hopefully will do as long as we’re in this game. We take great pride in our work and want to share it with people of all ages and tastes - we’re here in the US to do that now, but always want to be working towards breaking into new markets and re-inventing ourselves as an act with each release.”
Tell us about your future shows in the U.S.
“As things stand, we’re organizing our first full U.S. tour - keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details of dates in NYC and across the country. “
Video for Pop Secret from Funzo:
Funzo on Balcony TV, Dublin: