GRIT interview

pic by David Pujol

Dublin Oi Punk DIY band Grit have been doing the rounds for over a year now.  Their fast snappy tunes almost coming across like an Oi X Ray Spex at times have seen the light of day on vinyl a couple of times on Distro-y-records.  They are a feature of the DIY scene throughout Ireland and have toured Europe too.  I sent their lead singer Clodagh a few questions and here are her words.

Can you give me some history of the band?

The five of us know each other from the Dublin punk scene and have played in bands together before.  Byrneos (bassist), Eric (guitarist) and John (drums) always wanted to do an Oi! style band but it took some years before they got into a room together with instruments in their hands instead of pint glasses!  They had a few casual jams and decided the tunes were worth making public.  Seán came on board with a second guitar and then myself on vocals.  We had our first practise as a 5 piece in June 2016, our first gig on the 1st July in the Grangegorman Squat complex.  Since then we have been busy: released two 7”s and gigged in Ireland, UK, France, Basque Country and Spain with more gigs in U.K. and Germany to come in 2017.

What gives you the fuel to keep wanting to sing and play songs?

The fuel and drive is that I’m still excited about the punk scene and live music.  I want to participate in the Irish scene, I also enjoy travelling and seeing how the punks do things abroad.

I wanted to be in this band because I am partial to the oi! genre – current bands like Bishops Green, Rude Pride, The Jollars, Syndrome 81,  as well as older staples such as Runnin’ Riot and Camera Silens.  In the early days of GRIT there wasn’t any Irish oi!-punk bands playing the particular French-inspired type of music that we do and none with a vocal viewpoint coming from someone other than, ahem, a cis white male, so that was the stimulus that drove me to approach the lads about doing vocals in GRIT – no-one else doing what I was interested in listening to.

(R.A.Z.O.R. with a more uk-inspired sound formed around the same time as us and are worth checking out!)

You’re the front person. Does singing songs give a sense of confidence that otherwise just wouldn’t be there? Why do you think that is?

For me, feeling comfortable or confident in myself was something that instead came with age and learning not to undermine myself with negative thoughts.  If I give the impression that I’m confident on stage it’s because I am at ease with the lads and enjoying myself.

Who writes the words? What are you trying to portray with your lyrics?

Mostly myself and/or Eric, however, Back up Loader is all the boot-iful poetry of John.

Our songs’ subject matter reflects that of the traditional punk and oi! canon but portrayed or interpreted through our individual experiences of living in Ireland.  Some of the topics we have tackled are: austerity politics, class struggle, the decline of the Irish small town, dysfunctional relationships, mental health, friendship.

We try to have a defiant tone, I hope that although some of the subject matter may be bleak you will still feel optimistic about the future when you listen.

Do you think there is a class struggle in the western world?  What do you think the term working class represents in Ireland?

Yeah, I believe there is a class struggle and there will be as long as capitalism exists.  Top-down stuff like austerity politics, zero-hour contracts, gentrification* and bottom-up movements like people mobilising against water charges, going out on strike. *Earlier this Summer on tour with the band, almost everywhere we visited had a version of the scenario… this venue/this neighbourhood/my home won’t be here much longer.

It’s a tricky term to define … the working class doesn’t look the same way as it did, for example, forty years ago because of the changing landscape of employment.  Experiences vary depending on the environment (i.e. city versus rural communities).  A lot of traditional working class people are now long term unemployed or the working poor.  There’s also the consideration of what is economically versus culturally working class, who is middle-class aspirational and who has class consciousness.  I don’t have the terms to answer adequately … it’s more a gut feeling.

GRIT are a lot different in sound to your last band (Burnchurch). Did you purposely set out to form such a band? Any reason?

It was most definitely a conscious decision.  The other members and I have played in heavy bands before and wanted to try our hand at a different style.

All the band have deep roots in the DIY scene and have been for over 20 years. Has this DIY scene achieved much?  Is it a different space now compared to the mid to late 90s?

Although I don’t live there any more, I am still connected mostly to the Dublin DIY scene.  I think it has achieved lots and evolved over time.  The younger generations always seem to improve on what they have inherited,  I am continuously impressed by them.  Two achievements that stand out for me are:

The Karate Club – in existence ten years is a punk run practise space.  I know there are others like it in Dublin too.  A dedicated space enables more and more bands to form and creates a very healthy scene.

Tenterhooks –  were a formidable collective that rented a city centre space, kitted it out for concerts and put on regular events which was a refreshing alternative to pub venues.  It shut it’s doors in 2016.

In international terms,  cheap flights and the Internet has widened the web of the Irish punk scene as bands can hop on a plane and do a weekend tour anywhere in the EU quite easily.  The exchange of ideas and new links formed are a positive influence on us all.

It’s definitely a different space… some changes that jump out at me

– everyone has their own gear, so you don’t have to keep asking the one band who own a backline to play your gig! This can empower more folk to put on their own gigs: all they need is a room.

– as i recall Dublin in the 90s there were two scenes that sometimes merged… now there are several different diy punk scenes.

– more active women, openly queer folks, immigrant punks add diversity

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the price of gigs, some people appear to want to maintain door prices at mid to late 90s rates.  I’m not a bread head and no-one is ever going to be rich from playing punk gigs but a decent door price (e.g. €10 or more) would ensure no-one has to take a hit.

You’re driving a group of 10 year olds to their dance class and they ask you about music. What 5 songs do you play to give them an introduction to your world?

You drop them at dance class and have the deck to you and you only.  What 5 songs do you throw on?

Ha ha!! That’s an hilarious premise! And the answer could change daily.

I’m gonna just give you five dance-able punk songs instead.

I actually made a mix CD for my niece of a similar age and put some accessible punk tracks on it.  These were:

  1. Aggressors BC, Tone of the Times – punky ska/dirty reggae with social commentary
  2. Buzzcocks, Ever fallen in love? – bittersweet power-poppy punk
  3. Le Tigre, Let’s Run – positive lyrics about not being afraid to risk failure set to a dance track

To those three I would add:

  1. Hexen, Shame on us – melodic oi from Bilbao, I would cough over the cursing of course. I like the lyrics that warn of “false friendship, false rebellion” which are wise words for the younger generation coming up in ubiquitous social media.
  2. G.L.O.S.S. Outcast Stomp – after the other four songs i think the chisslers will be able to handle something kinda heavy and this is an absolute banger.

You’ve an interview coming up for a blog: What question do you hope you’re going to be asked and why? What question do you dread and why?

I always hope I will be asked questions that can help me promote the good things happening in the scene here because neither I nor GRIT exist in a vacuum.  I like when I’m asked for veggie recipes too because I’m wholesome.

I dread being asked “what’s it like being a woman in punk”.  Yawn.  Punk interviewers are way too intelligent and original to ask that though.

You played GGI festival (not your first time). What is so special about this festival?  Why should people go to it next year?

GGI is the Glasgow Groningen Ireland festival (established 2004), a rotating annual DIY fest that celebrates the friendships and connections between those scenes. This year had a great mix of approximately 40 bands: crust, d-beat, hardcore, kraut-space-punk, noise, ska, etc,. etc., playing over two days drawn from the above mentioned places (and beyond).

It’s unique because it has a completely different character every year depending on the location and the crew involved but always maintaining a DIY punk ethos.

In a sense, the festival’s impetus was a nostalgic one but it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy and now is a permanent fixture on many Irish punk’s calendar.  This year I was pleased to see the demographic widening – alongside the (supervised) toddlers who were pottering about during the afternoon, there were teenagers all the way up to folks in their 60s in attendance ( with bands of all ages too).

It will be in Groningen in 2018, the crew there run a well-organised festival in excellent venues and great after parties in the Crow Bar run by Esther (Fleas & Lice).  You can rent a bike and enjoy the flat bike routes of the city and whatever Dutch specialities you enjoy in the afternoon before the gigs – little beers with big heads and falafel would be mine.

niallhope