Fight Like Apes love their new album, they tell Lauren Murphy,
AS REVOLUTIONS go, it was a fairly brief one – 27 minutes long, to be precise. I’m at the top of the newly opened Dublin Wheel – in the VIP capsule, no less – with three members of Fight Like Apes. Tinted windows, leather seats and, bizarrely, a flatscreen television and telephone, it’s the only way to see the Dublin skyline in its entirety. No, literally. It really is the only way.
But the electro-thrash-pop-rockers have bigger things to be excited about today. About a month ago, they finished recording their second album – ostentatiously titled The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner – and are very eager to present it to the music-buying public. Keyboardist and vocalist Jamie Fox says that although those who have already heard the album have described it as “darker”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Fight Like Apes have lost the key ingredient of their music: some good old-fashioned fun.
“It’s not something that we really think ourselves, but everybody keeps saying ‘It’s darker, it’s a progression, you’ve really changed,’ ” he says, as gangly bassist Tom Ryan gleefully points out that the floor of the capsule is seethrough. “ ‘We’ve matured’ is another one, but we don’t feel like that at all. You’re obviously gonna be different people a few years on from your first record. For us, this time it was about getting back to basics. We felt like we’d maybe . . . not lost, but forgotten what it was all about, and why we were doing this in the first place.”
Vocalist Mary-Kate (“May-Kay”) Geraghty agrees. “I think we were playing the songs on the first album for about three years before we recorded them, so by the time we went into the studio, any notion of a new sound, or a new keyboard effect or whatever, was like ‘Oooh, that sounds different, let’s do that,’ ” she says. “This time, the period between recording and the writing was so much shorter that we were still incredibly content with how it sounded.”
The new album is perhaps not as instantaneous as its predecessor; songs such as Thank God You Weren’t Thirsty (Lightbulb) benefit from the same languid pace as tracks such as Tie Me Up With Jackets did on their 2008 debut Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion, while Captain A-Bomb’s almost Afrobeat rhythm also treads new territory for the foursome.
“Yeah, we didn’t kick down the door this time, definitely,” says Fox. “I think one of the
“I think there’s a massive possibility that people won’t like this album, but we love it”
big things we had with this one was ‘Let’s not bandy about the term ‘Fight Like Apes-ish.’ We just wrote songs this time, and we were like, whatever we write, as long as it’s good, we’re happy with it. We didn’t worry about anybody’s expectations of it, because we just really wanted to be proud of the record and stand up beside it.”
“I think we were very aware that we weren’t kicking the door down, too, but not until we’d recorded it. I like the fact that we have two different albums in that respect, though – where one is a real ‘Ooh!’ and one is a ‘Hmmmmmmm’. It’s a think-piece,” says Geraghty jokingly.
Their newfound songwriting expertise came partly through experience, but also through working with a producer finely tuned to their demands. Their debut was recorded in the US with renowned knob-twiddler John Goodmanson, but this time they chose to work closer to home, in the London studio of Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill – a name which had also been bandied about for their debut.
“We genuinely felt like little kids making the first record. We just dropped out of college, left our jobs and went for it – and suddenly, we were in Seattle with a producer that had made records that we’d listened to as kids. There’s a naivety to that, of course there is,” shrugs Fox. “If somebody says that to you, ‘Well, what if we try this?’, you think ‘Well, of course he knows best – he recorded Sleater-Kinney, he must have better ideas than me!’. This time, it was about not compromising.
“We’re happy with how the songs sound, the way we’re playing them live. When we were talking to Andy, or any of the producers we talked to, we told them that we wanted to record it completely live, that we didn’t want any frills, effects. We wanted to play the songs a few times, a few takes, and that’s it. We went for energetic takes over perfect ones, and that’s what we got. But at the same time, I wouldn’t discount working with John the next time, either, because I think he’s an unbelievable producer. It’s just that maybe we were a little naive the first time, and maybe we did him a disservice, in a way.”
Gill was highly complimentary of their sessions together, saying that the quartet “may be the best band I have produced in years”.
“Everything about him was perfect for it. We talked to a few people and thought ‘Yeah, this guy could work . . . ’, but Andy conducted his entire phone call from the bath, after he’d gone for a run,” Geraghty laughs.
Another major change to their system over the past six months has seen original drummer Adrian Mullan depart, his role being taken by Lee Boylan, who owns the west Dublin studio that the band recorded their first two EPs in. Although they’re reluctant to divulge details of Mullan’s exit, they’re enthused by