“We’ve always wanted to divide the crowd. We like the idea of being a Marmite band. You either like us or hate us”
sound engineer every night, basically”) and returned to perform at the Hard Working Class Heroes festival.
Geraghty: “We played in Crawdaddy to a hometown crowd and we weren’t rubbish. People used to be all ‘oh, you’re so cool’ and ‘you’re cute when you scream’ and ‘Jamie is so mad looking’, but that gig was the first time people really got it. It takes a long time for people to get what we do and realise it’s not gimmicky.”
THE ALBUM AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
In early 2008, Fight Like Apes headed to Seattle to record their debut album with John Goodmanson. “We picked him because he had a lot of experience with heavy bands with female singers,” says Geraghty. “He was very direct with us, he said he wanted to make our album sound good. We’re suckers for a straight talker.”
The rest of the year was spent touring, touring, touring and then going back to tour some more. They played with The Von Bondies, Kasabian, The Prodigy, We Are Scientists and The Ting Tings.
“We basically stayed in the UK and played every festival or venue that would have us,” says Fox. “One support tour would lead to another and it was just busy all the time. We’d come home once a fortnight for a day or two and then head back to England again.”
Geraghty knew it was working, albeit slowly. “We knew we were coming across really well and that it would be worth sticking with it, but I don’t think we noticed a fanbase building. You’d meet the odd person who’d seen you a few times, but it took a while.”
At home they played Oxegen, which cancelled out the lingering bad memories from their other Irish festival show.
“We’d done loads of English festivals which
had gone well,” says Geraghty, “but we’d never done an Irish festival show which had been a huge success, so we had to make amends. We said beforehand that it couldn’t be another one of those shows.
“We thought we’d get a good crowd, but we hadn’t played here for ages before that gig, so you never know. To walk onto that stage and see all those people was a big high point for me.”
Fox: “My stagediving went down well. I went nowhere.”
Geraghty: “I spent some of the gig banging my head off a keyboard. My mum [ Irish Times journalist Kathy Sheridan] was in the audience watching, and afterwards she said: ‘I trust you, but I hope you know where you’re going with this band’.”
The album, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion, was released in Ireland in September 2008. It got great reviews and so-so reviews. And then, there was the online reaction from fans and detractors.
“We laughed about it,” says Fox. “There were people we knew who’d say one thing to us and then say the exact opposite on some internet thread or blog. I don’t know if it’s an Irish thing or an internet thing, but people are obsessed about holding onto this thing they own, and when it becomes bigger there’s this backlash. Find me someone who likes the Arcade Fire’s second album and admits it in public.”
Geraghty: “I totally understand people who preferred the old DIY side of the band and weren’t too keen on the more polished, horrible word that it is, sound of the album. I’ve no problem with that, but people were just so contradictory and hypocritical. The same people giving out about us and the album were probably the same ones who were telling us we were going to be huge at the very start. You can’t please them.”
Geraghty claims not to bother with online fuming. “When the rest of them are looking up stuff about the band, I never get involved because I think it’s a waste of time and, because I’m a girl, shit gets personal. I don’t want to unnecessarily worry about stuff. We started this band for ourselves and that’s all that matters.”
At least, ventures Fox, they’re getting a reaction. “We’ve always wanted to divide the crowd. It wasn’t happening at the start so it had to happen at some stage and it did. We like the idea of being a Marmite band, and you either like us or hate us.”
THE WEIRDNESS AND THE FOLKS
There’s a lad out there with a Fight Like Apes tattoo on his arm.
“A guy got a massive tattoo on his arm of one of the skeletons from the album cover,” says Geraghty. “Rock’n’roll! He came to the gig in Waterford and showed it to us. We thought it was amazing and it looks really cool. He wants to get Fight Like Apes tattooed beside it and we were like ‘no, don’t do it, man’. I wouldn’t see a problem if it was a band like Smashing Pumpkins, but a band like us are so fresh and we could turn into neoNazis next year and where would he be then?”
More weirdness: the Apes’ parents are reading the music rags. “They read the NME and Uncut and tell me what Bonnie Prince Billy is up to,” says Fox.
That said, they acknowledge there have been times when their folks have simply had to grin and bear it. “Our music is not parentpleasing”, says Geraghty. “I remember myself and Jamie started scuffling onstage during the first gig that my dad went to and he was . . . ” she grits her teeth “ . . . ‘I’ll fucking kill him’. I think if we were Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, it would be a lot easier.
“Some of the really violent, horrible lyrics were written because we never expected our parents to hear them. If it had been the case that we thought people might hear them, we might have toned them down, which is why I’m glad now that we did things the way we did them.”
Their future will bring even more gigs (the debut has just come out in Japan and the band are relishing the prospects of a trip East) and a second album. Much to their surprise, Fight Like Apes are in this for long run.
Geraghty: “I suppose we realise we’re in this by the skin of our teeth. We find it funny that we’re allowed be in a band or that people will pay to see us, so we want to hang onto this for a while longer.”
“We’re still absolute muppets,” grins Fox, “but we’re professional muppets now.”
Fight Like Apes are (from left) Jamie Fox , MayKay Geraghty, Tom Ryan and Adrian Mullan. Photograph and cover: Brenda Fitzsimons