IT IS a manic time for Dublin indie-pop mavericks Fight Like Apes. “We have worked our asses off. We have not been home for even a week in months,” declares singer MayKay of the whirlwind circuit that has seen them play Oxegen, Glastonbury, Reading, and Castle-palooza, before supporting the Ting Tings British tour this month.
Some 18 months after Galway first saw them in the Róisín Dubh, things really are happening for MayKay (vocals/synths ), Pockets (aka Jamie, synths/vocals ), Tom (bass ), and Adrian (drums ) with acclaim in Hotpress, ecstatic audiences in Ireland, and Zane Lowe and NME positively drooling over them in Britain.
“We have a good position in the UK,” MayKay tells me during our Monday morning conversation, “and we have got some lucky breaks, but we’ve not had time to react to how it’s all going.”
Burgeoning success though has had to be worked for and earned, and May knows, in the immortal words of AC/DC, that ‘It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll’.
“We hope this takes off as we’re still flat broke!” she says. “Jamie’s mum still dresses him. He uses a neck tie for a belt but it doesn’t work that well - waking up at 7.30am in the morning and seeing someone’s behind... - and my shoes have no soles anymore!”
Fight Like Apes have struck a chord with the Irish - and increasingly British - public precisely because of their manic, off-centre, high energy indie/pop-punk, wild stage shows, and image which reflects, not distracts from, their music - Pocket’s Sébastien Chabal meets Captain Caveman demeanour; Afroed, beanpole bassist Tom; utterly straight man Adrian; and above all, MayKay, the Goth princess with the Banshee howl.
It’s got them to the brink of wide attention, but if they wish to go further there is the danger their music will have to become more streamlined and safer in order to get to bigger audiences.
“The fact of getting big shouldn’t have anything to do with it,” says May. “We have never written with anything in mind. It’s always been about what entertains each other. If we went more mainstream it would be a sad day.
“My biggest fear is people being indifferent. It’s a nice place to be, having people either love you or hate you. It’s fun seeing people leave shows as we’re being obnoxious. Many bands don’t go mainstream, it’s just the mainstream opens up to them, without the band themselves doing anything different. Some people then will accuse them of not being cool but you can’t control things like that.”
A love of low bow
Last month, Fight Like Apes released their much anticipated debut album, Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion. It does exactly what was expected of it - eccentric but catchy off-kilter pop, some killer hooks, some mayhem, bizarre song titles, and lyrics celebrating low brow culture and b-movies. Fight Like Apes are a group that refuse to play it straight and they (and Irish indie ) are all the better for it!
“I love the album and if I could do it 10 times over it would still sound the same,” says May. “That’s why I’m not nervous about it coming out. Nothing anyone can say to me can make me dislike it. It’s always been what we wanted it to be, what we feel represents us best. We have had input into every aspect, right down to the track listing and order and the font that’s used on the album cover.”
The tracks will be familiar to anyone who has been at their shows over the last 18 months with ‘Jake Summers’, ‘Digif****r’ ‘Battlestations’, ‘Lumpy Dough’, and the six-second rant ‘Megameanie’ (“It’s a good encore. It p****s people off,” laughs May ) included.
However eyebrows were raised that ‘Jake Summers’ had been re-recorded for the album. “People seem to be bemused by the idea but let them,” says May. “Only a very small percentage of Ireland are the ones who heard that original version of ‘Jake Summers’. What about all the people who didn’t?”
‘Jake Summers’ is the band’s transcendent moment, the song that clinches the argument that Fight Like Apes could be destined for great things. As such, FLA felt it was important attention be lavished upon it.
“I’m not going to these amazing studios and not re-recording things we think can sound better or that we have improved upon through playing live,” says May. “ We wanted things to be bigger and beefier and as for ‘Jake Summers’ and ‘Lend Me Your Face’, we re-recorded those that were worthy of that.”
‘Jake Summers’ is named after the character played by the American actor Jay Anthony Franke in the NBC show California Dreams and so impressed was he with the song, that he got in touch with the band to tell them so! MayKay is still in shock about it.
“When the song first went up on line - he must be one of the these people who likes to Google himself - we got a message from him saying ‘I don’t know if you’re taking the p*** or not but I like the song’,” says May. “I couldn’t even speak when I heard it and then Cynthia Rothrock, the queen of the kung-fu universe, got in touch as she heard we’d mentioned her in one of our songs and said ‘I hope to be over in Ireland soon.’
“When I first met Jamie, I was 15 he was 17, we found we were both obsessed with Jake Summers, Cynthia Rothrock, and the third person in our holy trinity, Corey Feldman. If Corey Feldman gets in touch we’re over, we’ll have nothing to write about, as there is nothing better than when one of the members of your holy trinity gets in touch. I think all bands should have a holy trinity.”
The album’s opening track ‘Something Global’ is a cynical look at bandwagon jumping and the public’s fetish with ‘celebrity’. FLA certainly live for b-movies and thrashy TV shows. They are unashamed connoisseurs of low brow culture and revel in its gaudy tackiness (who else could pen a song called ‘I’m Beginning To Think You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 To Me’? ), but they value those pop culture artefacts that are actually standing the test of time and the album’s title, Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion, is inspired by one of the 1980s great TV icons - Mr T.
“The title actually comes from a Mr T episode where he coaches the US Olympic team,” says May. “We thought logically about it and as franchise make money - JK Rowling or The Lord Of The Rings for example - we said ‘Let’s do a trilogy!’ and see if the franchise takes hold!”
The album continues the FLA tradition of long and bizarre titles begun by their debut EP How Am I Supposed To Kill You If You Have All The Guns? and second EP David Carradine Is A One Armed Bounty Hunter Whose Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch.
“We realised that with the first EP very few could say the whole thing. On radio and in the press they always abbreviated it so we thought they might abbreviate this David Carradine... one to David - what a ridiculous name for an EP! So mundane! It’s also fun hearing people tripping over themselves trying to say it. We love seeing people make fools of themselves!”
Fight Like Apes play the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday October 14 at 9pm. Tickets from the October 13 show remain valid. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.