Today sees the Irish release of Fight Like Apes‘ debut album, Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion. For me, and not to over-state the case, this release is a major milestone in Irish music history. For the current pop generation, FLApes represent something that is truly theirs; in sound, image and deed, this band have brought something to the table that is so wildly different in nature to our usual exports of singer-songwriters, slickly-veneered, derivative indie-pop or stadium-chasing anthemic rock, that it should be hugged long and hard by their legion of fans and those hacks who, like myself, trawl around venue after venue in the constant and ongoing search for something with a creative energy and spark. I’ve loved them since the first time I saw them and have been lucky enough to chat to them, personally and professionally, on several occasions. I’m reproducing my first little interview with them here, which took place a year ago in the cosy surroundings of the Library Bar at the Central Hotel in Dublin, just before the release of their second EP, David Carradine Is A Bounty Hunter Whose Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch. I also make no apologies for reproducing Zoran Orlic‘s brilliant photograph of the band, taken in Austin, Texas during this year’s South By South West festival – not just because it’s excellent, but because (take my word for it) it’s me who’s holding the bike steady behind MayKay.
PLANET OF THE APES (originally published in InDublin magazine, October 2007)
MayKay and Pockets are two of the nicest people you could ever meet. When I arrive, late, for our little chat, they both smile like it’s no bother at all and MayKay assures me I’m only three minutes over. My excuse is lame – I’d just come from interviewing The Frames. We sit down with refreshments and I mention that it’s quite something to interview a long-established band like The Frames, followed by a freshly-minted one like Fight Like Apes.
“It’s funny you should mention them,” says MayKay. “To this day we don’t know what we want to sound like, but one of our guidelines to start with was that never in a million years did we want to sound anything like The Frames!”
The difference between this band and anything else around is a recurring theme of our subsequent discussion. The band’s live performances – MayKay’s wonderfully impassioned, screaming vocals, Pockets’ singular, bobbing dance moves, the sheer tourniquet-tightness of Tom and Adrian, their rhythm section – and their two brilliant EPs have captured the hearts of everyone from Ryan Tubridy to Steve Lamacq. I want to know why they do what they do but Pockets, he of the deadpan wit and Bill Oddie beard, is keen to elaborate on MayKay’s point about FLApes not being The Frames.
“The Frames were leaders of the pack five years ago,” he opines. “That spawned singer-songwriterdom. Suddenly, everybody who could play guitar at a barbecue was releasing an album and getting loads of fans. Irish bands were just scorned, people realised it just wasn’t interesting anymore.” But, thank God, Fight Like Apes are here to put the excitement back, aren’t they?
“That’s one of my favourite compliments,” says MayKay. “Even if people hate you, something’s makes them passionate. As long as it’s not indifference – you want the cynics to be cynical, then you’re challenged. Someone like Damien Rice could puke all over the stage and his crowd would adore him for it – they don’t expect anything from him anymore.”
“Everyone goes on about how it’s great Damien Rice is independent,” Pockets deadpans again. “I’m thinking, thank God, imagine handing that second album into a record label. ‘Eh, Damien, I think we need a bit of a chat..’”
So what do they think makes FLApes so different? “Our favourite bands are guitar bands,” MayKay says, “and we write guitar music on distorted keyboards – immediately, that’s something different.”
It’s true enough, I’d seen them twice before I realised these two played keyboards and there were no guitarists. Does that make them ‘quirky’? “I’m actually glad when people say, ‘aren’t they gimmicky?’” Pockets nods. “It’s an audience’s responsibility to challenge bands.”
Their new EP is called David Carradine Is A Bounty Hunter Whose Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch, because, says Pockets, “it’s the plotline of a movie called Future Force. It’s actually the most accurate plotline you’ll find.” As with the previous EP, the band get all their anger out through a succession of witty lyrics and titles. What is Pockets’ motivation? “Lots of it IS anger. But, unlike a lot of mellow bands, we vent it.”
“My stuff is just pure hatred,” giggles MayKay. “I’m so lucky, there are so many girls I know who are as angry as me and who’d love to get up onstage and let rip.”
The band’s speedy rise to popularity will no doubt see overseas labels clamouring for their signature before long. While Pockets says they’d be “a marketing nightmare”, the UK market is already taking an interest. “It turns out while we were being really emotional, they were all being really stylish – we were interesting to the UK for a different reason. Everyone sounds like Test Icicles over there and we don’t. It’s luck, I suppose. Steve Lamacq seems to be a big fan, it’s all a bit of a shock.”
“They’re all surprised we don’t wear skinny jeans,” says MayKay. “I must say, I’d love to be what ‘Irish bands’ will sound like in a few years from now.”
There’s every chance of that. Anyone who caught their Hard Working Class Heroes gig in a stuffed Crawdaddy will know they were the best band, bar none, of the weekend. MayKay was particularly overwhelmed by the singalong reaction to their last song. “Were you there for Lend Me Your Face at the end? When I look back, that’ll be one of the milestone moments for me.” It was a crowning glory for the band, so soon after an Electric Picnic performance beset by problems. “Our bassist broke his finger, the sound onstage was awful,” MayKay laments. “But we played Electric Picnic, we got a huge crowd, and we weren’t even together a year. And some people even said we were their highlight of the weekend. I thought, if we’d been good, you’d have had a heart attack.”
With that, it’s time to switch off the tape recorder and thank them for such a lovely chat. “I didn’t get a chance to do my impression of your man from Director at the Meteor awards,” says Pockets. But he does it anyway – make sure you request it the next time you see Fight Like Apes live. If you can get a ticket.