LIMERICK COMEDY/hip-hop duo The Rubberbandits first came to prominence when their prank phone calls were featured on Irish and international radio.
Prank calls such as ‘Wheelie Bin’, ‘Honda Civic’ and ‘Hearing Aid’ became huge hits on Youtube with more than 40,000 views. Referencing themes such as gang culture, drug use, hyper-macho behaviour, and armchair republicanism they struck a chord with Gamer/Net Generation youth.
The group consists of Blindboy Boatclub and Mr Chrome and they deliberately conceal their real identities by covering their faces with plastic bags. In recent years The Rubberbandits have performed at Electric Picnic and the Bulmers International Comedy Festival. They have also supported Super Extra Bonus Party, Alabama 3, and Ice Cube.
As part of this year’s Bulmers Galway Comedy Festival, The Rubberbandits will be joined by Cork’s deadliest rapper Grandmaster Cash; Castletown, Co Mayo, heroes The Hardy Bucks; and MC Hector Ó hEochagáin on Saturday October 23 at the Radisson Live Lounge at 8pm. Expect lots of drinkin’, smokin’ and having the craic.
I meet Blindboy Boatclub in a darkened room in the west side of Galway city. The Rubberbandits manager shuffles around nervously in the background and attends to their every want and need. Blindboy explains the origins of his unusual moniker.
“I named myself after the old blues musicians from the 1920s,” he says. “They all had strange names like BlindLemon Jefferson and Muddy Waters. There’s a big blues tradition in Limerick as well and we had our own famous blues players such as Smokestacks Slattery.
“When people mention Limerick the words ‘drugs’ or ‘stabbing’ might come up but what they don’t know is that for every dealer selling hash there’s another dealer selling words. It goes back as far as the Hedge Schools of the 1500s when you had lads giving people illegal words. Oliver Cromwell tried to shut all that down because people were getting out of their minds on these new words.”
Songs such as ‘Bag of Glue’, ‘Up Da Ra’, and ‘Too Many Gee’ have made The Rubberbandits’ Myspace page the 12th most popular in Ireland. Yet their real names are generally not known. They usually perform through a Spar or Tesco bag.
“This is a Spar bag,” Boatclub points out. “Sometimes I like to wear it inside out so it spells ‘raps’ to illustrate the rapping element of our shows. One of the reasons why we wear the plastic bag is because we owe Marty Whelan a load of money and so we can’t show our faces.
“The other reason is that we’re actually semi-aquatic creatures and there’s a sample of water from the River Shannon inside the bag that maintains our breathing apparatus. I can’t breathe the Galway air because there’s too much sea salt in it. My throat and my mind would rust pure quickly if I took the bag off!”
There is speculation one of The Rubberbandits’ members is actually a lecturer in the University of Limerick. “I haven’t heard that rumour before but it’s a fine rumour to spread around though,” Blindboy chuckles. “I have heard that one of them is doing an MA in psychotherapy in UL. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.”
The Rubberbandits do have a secret weapon in their armoury in the shape Willie O’Dea, the former minister for defence. They even have a tribute song to the Limerick East TD entitled ‘Song for Willie O’Dea’.
“Since Willie got fired from the Dáil he’s been working full-time as our DJ,” Blindboy says “They had him up there in Dublin as the Minister for The Fence and he was p***ed off looking after that fence! He’d stand outside the Dáil every day watching it and I think he had a shed to look after as well.
“He was hoping to become Minister for The Shed before he had to resign. I don’t know why he had to resign anyway because really it can’t be that hard to look after a fence. I will say one thing though and that’s if you need anyone to back you up in a fight, then Willie O’Dea is your man.”
In recent years O’Dea has become somewhat of a caricature figure as he defends his native city doggedly. Limerick has rejuvenated its image though comedy and self-deprecating wit.
Karl Spain, former D’Unbelievable member Jon Kenny, and Jimmy Carr (born in London to parents from Limerick ) regularly make reference to the city in their routines. The Rubberbandits compare and contrast their city with Galway and others in Ireland.
“Galway is like Limerick’s younger brother who goes to art college and won’t get out of bed in the morning,” Blindboy explains. “Cork then would be our older brother that’s got his s**t together and he’s after moving in with his girlfriend. Limerick is the middle child that stays up too late playing Playstation and is thinking about moving to Australia for a year. Dublin then would be Limerick on a bigger scale.”
In Galway The Rubberbandits will be getting together with their country cousins The Hardy Bucks.
“The Hardy Bucks are good buddies of ours,” Boatclub says. “They’re doing their thing and it’s a little bit different to what we do but there still a level of communication and understanding there. The Viper sold me some bad hash about two years ago but I’ve forgiven him since. That’s the only bad experience we’ve had with them lads.”
During their show at the comedy festival they are hoping to re-write the history books and to re-educate the people of the west.
“We want to change the Leaving Cert curriculum, especially the history exam,” they say. “The department should tell the truth about ‘The Missing Years of Eamon De Valera’ when he rode around on a donkey trying to box the jaw off the Queen or about the Great Potato Famine of 1916. Our history has been whitewashed for far too long”
For tickets contact Zhivago, Shop Street (091 - 569777 ), or see www.galwaycomedyfestival.com A limited number of tickets will also be available on the door.