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 Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

Fight club

Jamie Fox and MayKay Ger­aghty of Fight Like Apes

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