“I won­der if Ivan the Ter­ri­ble was al­ways Ivan the Ter­ri­ble,” Rory muses. “Maybe he started as Ivan the Al­right, then Ivan A Bit Full-on,” of­fers Chris”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

band’s dorm, there’s a map of the world cov­er­ing an en­tire wall. This leads to ideas about where to play next.

Niall is keen on the Azores. Chris fin­gers the map, point­ing slightly re­gret­fully to a place in Siberia, near Mon­go­lia, where they were meant to play. In the morn­ing, some strag­glers are still there, asleep on the couch un­der coats, as the band heads out for an­oth- er 500km drive. Andy drinks three cans of Red Bull and promptly falls asleep. Next stop Sa­mara. Driv­ing through blind­ing white­ness, end­less stretches of snow and ice interrupted only by for­est, they reach the city. This is the place that in­spired a track on their Choice Mu­sic Prize-nom­i­nated al­bum Gangs, Sa­mara To Belfast. It’s a com­plex, 10-minute epic that Niall has yet to per­fect so they won’t be play­ing it tonight. In their pleas­ant apart­ment accommodation, Chris finds a pup­pet of a cow Johnny in­stantly chris­tens “Mos-cow”. Last time they played here, Johnny and Rory were brought to the top of a tower block where they got tat­toos of Rus­sian bears, an ink­ing which was pre­ceded by the tat­too artist’s rather un­set­tling quip, “Don’t worry, I won’t give you the AIDS.”

The kids who brought them to get tat­tooed, a two-piece band called DEAFDEAF, are sup­port­ing them again tonight. When they first met DEAFDEAF, Rory felt as though he was­meet­ing his own band years pre­vi­ously in Portrush – DIY kids in a place with no dis­cernible mu­si­cal cul­ture to iden­tify with, scrap­ing to­gether in­stru­ments, PA sys­tems and friends to cre­ate their own scene. Back­stage, boxes of cos­tumes – pre­sum­ably meant for podium dancers who pop­u­late this kind of cool, mir­rored venue that looks some­thing be­tween a gay bar and a strip club – are raided.

Out­side the chants start, “AND. SO. I. WATCH. YOU. FROM. AFAR. AND. SO. I. WATCH. YOU. FROM. AFAR.” Chris dons the tiny yel­low shorts Rory bought him for Christ­mas. Fans are lin­ing the stairs and bal­cony of a club. The chants con­tinue at the end of At dawn, it’s off to Penza. En route, Alex, a mas­ter of lo­gis­tics and seren­ity, with­stands an­other bout of po­lice in­tim­i­da­tion. The cops, cor­rupt, are con­stantly stop­ping the van try­ing to ex­tract money through in­vent­ing fines: “you don’t have the right visas . . . you don’t have the right doc­u­men­ta­tion . . .” and, rather hi­lar­i­ously, “you are trans­port­ing drug ad­dicts” – hi­lar­i­ous be­cause the band’s drug in­take in­volves beer, cig­a­rettes and trop­i­cal-flavoured chew­ing gum. Zah­vat is the kind of club where it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able to punch and shat­ter a bot­tle of beer out of some­one’s grasp.

Peo­ple hang out smok­ing at the squat toi­lets when the all-kick­ing, all-el­bow­ing crowd gets a bit too much.

“Where is Tony?” some­one in the crowd shouts dur­ing the gig.

“We love Tony very much,” Rory says from the stage, ded­i­cat­ing A Lit­tle Bit Of Sol­i­dar­ity Goes A Long Way to their for­mer band­mate. The pos­si­bil­ity of an af­ter-party is thwarted when no one else can fit into the van. Voronezh’s rock club is called Taran­tul. The stage is a gi­ant me­tal spi­der whose body is formed by the drum riser. Mind Por­tal, a Rus­sian prog me­tal group ASIWYFA are fans of, are sup­port­ing. Rory and Niall have cov­ered the back­stage yel­low dress­ing room door in fake band names and lo­gos with black per­ma­nent marker, a tour game they play per­sis­tently that has also ex­panded to Twit­ter. “Tricked Into A Cave”, “Oceans Of Shit”, “Cor­nered In The Gym­na­sium”, “Wrecked Fu­tures”.

Right now, the band is scrap­ing by. Any money that’s gen­er­ated goes back into it. Rory would like to be able to come home from tour and take his Mum and Dad out for a meal. Johnny would like to be able to af­ford rent. But most of all, they want to be able to con­tinue to make mu­sic.

“We re­ally never want to re­peat our­selves, we want to di­ver­sify, keep do­ing it,” Rory says. “We want to make peo­ple happy,” Niall adds.

Be­fore the gig in Voronezh, they’re try­ing to think of a mem­ory they most want to keep from this tour. “Chris in that drag suit!” Rory ex­claims, re­fer­ring to Chris’s shirt­less pre-sa­mara-gig cos­tume of gi­ant pink glit­ter wings, a sil­ver mask and foot-high gold plat­forms. “Off the record, off the record!”

Chris in­ter­venes. And once more, like all good mates, they col­lapse into laugh­ter around a ta­ble of beer and cig­a­rettes. That night, again, they play their hearts out. Sud­denly, nam­ing a song Don’t Waste Time Do­ing Things You Hate makes more sense than ever be­fore.

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