IRELAND’S GOING-OUT GUIDE
Label splits, a five-year gap and bringing their band to the brink: Fight Like Apes’ May Kay Geraghty and Jamie Fox tell Tony Clayton-Lea about their difficult third album
The days of wine and roses are gone, and the bubble gum balloon doesn’t burst as loudly as it used to.
No longer for Fight Like Apes will there be EPs groaning under the weight of titles such as How am I Supposed to Kill you if you have all the Guns?, David Carradine is a Bounty Hunter whos Robotic Arm Hates your Crotch and You Filled his Head with Fluffy Clouds and Jolly Ranchers, What Did You Think Was Going to Happen?.
And no longer will there be album titles as snappy as Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion or The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner.
There are lessons to be
learned for any moderately successful band that, flush with youth, arrogance and precocity, bestows records with such novelty names. There is a tendency, also, for bands to hide behind irony and over-arching smartness in the search for success.
An album title that comprises just the band name, however, signifies a change of mind and approach. It hints, above all, at directness and unambiguity. Fight Like Apes have come of age; clown time is over.
It has been five years since Fight Like Apes’s second album, The Body of Christ and the Legs
of Tina Turner. The delay between that and their third self-titled work can be attributed to the record-label rug being pulled out from under their feet.
It’s a typical story of a label/band relationship: courtship (intense), love (committed), sex (mind-blowing), afterglow (slight disappointment), distance (not tonight, darling) and gradual fragmentation (it’s not you it’s me, I swear).
Co-founding members Jamie Fox and Mary-Kate “MayKay” Geraghty are snacking over chips and olives, realistically mulling over what went pear-shaped.
The mood, however, is optimistic – and justifiably so, as Fight Like Apes (album and band) is in fine fettle.
Once the band members knew that assistance from their previous record label (Model Citizen Records, a subsidiary of Rubyworks) was not to be forthcoming from 2012 onwards, they set to living life outside the sustainable cocoon of on-tour per diems and prearranged schedules.
We ended up leaving our record label because the album we were working on seemed to be taking a long time to complete. But when we left, we ended up not knowing what to do with it ourselves
“We ended up leaving our record label,” says Fox, “because the album we were working on seemed to be taking a long time to complete. But when we left, we ended up not knowing what to do with it ourselves.”
“Yes,” deadpans Geraghty, “as it turned out, we’re not experts.”
Money had to be made, though, and as the band negotiated its way through the minefield of contracts and copyrights, Fox earned a crust through tuning pianos, while Geraghty brought home the crispy bacon by waitressing at the Dublin restaurant that Chris De Burgh started his singing career in: Captain Americas.
Past mistakes are mentioned as chips are dipped into ketchup – handing over demos that they changed because the label told them to, trying to make people other than themselves happy, and so on.
It is, they say, the basic story, but Geraghty is at pains to stress that these things happen when creativity and business share the same bed.
“Our desires of what was to become of the album were completely different from theirs. Not alone were we not on the same page but we were in a completely different part of the library.”
Touring in a bus and a nominal rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, became a distant memory; real life beckoned. “Beforehand, if someone asked me what I did,” recalls Geraghty, “I’d have said I’m in a band, but within weeks it went from that to, I’m a waitress.
“Confidence-wise, I didn’t feel like I was a lead singer of a band, I really didn’t.”
“Living a normal life was quite strange,” adds Fox. “We’d been away for years and because you’re not around, there was never the time to have real relationships or friends. So we did that. Most of my friends are now just finding out I’m in a band, which is really odd.”
A Fundit campaign was launched to finance the completion of the new album. The thought of not reaching the target figure (¤20,000) sent shivers up spines.
“I wouldn’t allow myself not to think it was impossible,” says Fox. “I remember one day nearly saying to Jamie what if this doesn’t work?,” admits Geraghty. “I mean, we left the label because we wanted to do it on our own, but what if we had failed to raise the funds? How embarrassing would that have been? We were already low enough at the time, as it was.
“When I met people after gigs and they said they were a funder, I just opened my arms to them because for so many reasons that kept us going . . . If it had gone wrong, I don’t think we would have gone on.”
What was it like having to plead for money? “It was the first time we had to,” says Geraghty, not too cheerily, “and I found parts of it very uncomfortable. You’re laying your expenses bare; I don’t know many people in many jobs where you have to put your budget up on a public forum.”
“We didn’t know if there was even one fan left,” says Fox. “We weren’t playing gigs that much, we weren’t on the radio and no one was writing about us.”
Less than two years later – and now signed to UK-based indie label Alcopop Records – Fight Like Apes have refocused their efforts.
Both agree that for a time the stuffing had been knocked out of them and that for a band with such a pugilistic name, they were considering throwing in the towel.
Meanwhile, the album is the work of a far more reflective band – a unit still brazen, but bruised and bloodied with experience, a band still brimming with ideas, a band still needing to stake its claim for true independence.
“We so badly wanted to control this record,” says Geraghty, “so that any of the good or bad was ours.”
Jamie Fox and MayKay Geraghty of Fight Like Apes