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:
Aggressors BC, Tone of the Times – punky ska/dirty reggae with social commentary
Buzzcocks, Ever fallen in love? – bittersweet power-poppy punk
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:
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.
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.
Hope Collective are delighted to be involved with Mayfest 2017. Mayfest is a celebration of Workers Clulture and is running nightly in Liberty Hall from May 1 to May 12.
Our event is on Tuesday May 2 with an event compered by Actor Bryan Murray. Joining Bryan will be Fran QUigle (booker of McGonagles in the 70’s), Smiley Bolger (Booked the New Inn and many others), Elvera Butler (Cork Promoter and main person behind Reekus Records). Peter Jones from Paranoid Visions, former Trinity College Ents Officer Edwina Forkin, the authrs of In Concert, Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy. There will be guest appearances from Colm Walsh, Ken Duffy and Pete Holidai
All will be talking about their experiences in and around the music and punk scene in Dublin and ireland. It should be a fascinating evening as we continue to document what has gone before us.
Not Our World, Keltic Konviction, Lawnmowers, (Malicious Damage added on the night)
The two Not Our World gigs in the Grattan were full of incident. During the first one there was crowd trouble in the venue but, more worryingly, there was trouble outside the second week. Timo played bass in Keltic Konviction. He later moved on to Shred, where he played with the Bearded lady and Shane (both from Not Our World who then moved to Joan of Arse). The gig he mentions was chaotic. Some people came along just to cause a bit of havoc. This was familiar to gigs at the time. Abusive heckling was a craze but the situation got out of control that night when a glass was thrown on stage .
Timo caught the brunt of it and finished his set with a bloodied head. Thankfully no more glasses were thrown at Hope gigs and Timo had no interest in, or intention of pursing the matter legally (which has happened at other gigs where people have been injured). The second gig was, again, memorable for the wrong reasons. One of our friends had her handbag stolen outside. She ran upstairs to the venue, visibly shaken. Deko and I went chasing instinctively. We didn’t find the culprit and Susanne was very upset. As organiser of the gig I felt responsible but she got off better than Timo had the previous week.
Those gigs were turning points. Both attracted 150 people and through the trouble came about a wish for people to make things better. We wanted to be able to go to gigs in peace and not have to worry about safety. Through Not Our World (and then ‘Hope’) a policy was made to encourage friendliness at gigs, let people see that they weren’t just there to be consumers, that they were at a gig to be part of something – something they could find comfort in and something they could be comfortable with. That became the plan, the “hope”.
Yeah, yeah, it’s all true. Green Day played in the Attic. It was a wintry Sunday afternoon. They used my bass, They covered up my Sink stickers. They took off their trousers and 40 people saw it all. Retrospectively when people talk to me about ‘hope’ they mention Green Day, Fugazi and Nomeansno. If all the people who say they saw Green Day when they played with Dog Day in the Attic were actually there then the already unsteady floor in the venue would definitely have collapsed. On the day we lost £50 and the floor was perfectly safe. It’s kind of novel to be able to say that they played but I would much prefer if I was able to give you a recipe from the band Dublin wasn’t really the party city and Green Day left for Belfast straight after the gig, but not before getting some directions and food. They had enjoyed themselves so much in Belfast the previous night that they wanted to get back as quickly as possible.
1991 ended for ‘hope’ with this gig. We had directly put on 29 gigs. We had been involved with other gigs in Cork, Belfast, Trinity, NCAD, and Kill. People from other counties in Ireland were starting to ask about putting on gigs (they either got the address from REACT or travelled up to Dublin for a gig). React was up to 5000 copies (I even find that hard to believe looking back) and there was an endless supply of bands looking to play. Being careful not to get carried away Green Day put a sense of perspective on it. 40 people.
The Nessun Dorma gig the following month had just as poor a turnout. Both bands had travelled over in a bus, not the fancy tour bus kind that many bands travel in but a bit like a school bus (they’re the journeys the retired buses go on in Ireland).Like Andrew with Decadence Within, Emmet from Cork organised for Nessun Dorma to come over to Ireland and asked us to accomodate them in Dublin. Charlie’s was now closed to afternoon gigs so we had to try and find a venue open to allowing “underage people” in to a gig.
The Attic weren’t too keen as, even though the floor had been reinforced, they didn’t want to go through the “hassle” of doing it again. Peter Quigley had been looking after the booking of the Grattan and the Fox since Not Our World started playing and he agreed to try an afternoon gig if it was a Sunday. Saturday is a traditionally busy shopping day and bars were uncomfortable compromising local businesses by allowing loud rock music and encouraging large congregations outside their establishments while their neighbours tried to get shoppers in. This suited Nessun Dorma so we tried for the Grattan.
Sundays in Ireland generally have a lethargic feel to them. For many it’s a lazy day. When very few people showed up for the gig we were very disappointed. This gig in the Grattan must have been the hardest gig all 3 bands have ever played and no doubt the 2 touring bands were very eager to get back into their bus for a rest. The bus was amazing. It was a renovated old bus that the band could use for living in if need be. The atmosphere inside the Grattan was almost churchlike, very sombre. The crowd was poor and most people there were not happy to stay.
Picture the scene. A boy with an attitude. Wanting to change a world be believes is coming to get him. Him and his punk mates. Only. Everyone over 21 is out to get him. Noone understands. Only when his music is playing is he happy. It’s 1985 and Dublin is grey. School means nothing. There’s very few jobs anyway. As a kid this boy loved sport. Played all day. Then punk rock became his training sessions. Bass guitar and plectrums replaced footballs and boots. Writing letters became his passion. Writing to people in bands. Waiting for those postal deliveries. Twice a day.
Of course the distraction of school existed. One day there was a small piece in Hot Press magazine about a band called The Pleasure Cell. It seemed interesting. The band were singing abut life in Finglas and listened to English counterparts like new Model Army. The lead singer was a recovering heroin addict and was happy to discuss it. They were giving some lunchtime talks in Bolton Street College. School attendance would be a problem, Of course that turned into no problem as a walk into town on the day of the Bolton Street gig was the only wise thing. Worry about school afterwards.
And so I trooped into Bolton Street and was blown away by the honesty of the three playing members and 1 non playing member of the band. As someone who didn’t drink swimming above water in a sea of alcohol that was my community I wanted in. Then the band played a set. I was rooted to my set. I wanted to go up and hug the 4 lads. Thanks, I’ve found what I’m looking for.
After that I went to see them play ahenever and wherever. They were so inclusive and encouraging in all I did. The band I was in at the time, Kill Devil Hill, played a mutated psychobilly sonud. It was fun but I was never really part of it. When the Pleasure cell were going to appear on Irelands biggest tv programme (most tv sets in the country had this show on every week) Noel was going to sing proudly wearing his homemade Kill Devil Hill t-shirt. I hadn’t the heart to tell him the night before when he finished it that we had split up that day. I did tell him and he wore his shirt buttoned over iot on the night.
They fused the Clash and new Model Army and had some rousing songs. Whether singing about police violence, changing your world or screaming for a brighter future they ploughed an independent route. Their self-released New Age single came out in 1988 on their own Statement label. With the single they issued a brick when sending it to the press. Do with this as you will.
Grey Dublin held little allure for people wishing to play music in the 80’s and the band headed to London, saaadly for me. When I travelled to see them in Hammersmith Clarendon they seemed to think that image might help them obtain some sort of record deal. As they squatted around Hammersmith they practiced and played wherever possible but never quite made that breakthrough. When they left Dublin they played to a packed Teachers Club, that was their highlight. Sold it out on their own merits.
After that they became one of the many thousands who emigrated, lost in the dreams of a better workd outside green and grey Ireland. They left a huge mark on me and when we were putting things together as Hope Promotions / Collective I endeavoured to emulate the Pleasure Cell philosophy at their gig. Greet people as they come in, treat them as you would wish to be treated. That way we can all be in this together