Divebombing at the gates of hell: Interview with Adebisi Shank

Plug in your blender. Feed in as many musical notes as you can find. Extract the energy of fifteen ADHD children and throw that in too. Add the absurdness of Japanese pop culture, the thundering dynamics of post-hardcore and the robots-with-personality appeal of someone like Daft Punk. Blend till it’s liquid and then serve on a rainbow. You’ve just made Adebisi Shank.

With their second album, conveniently entitled This Is the Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank, they have upped the game, not only for themselves, but for Irish music in general. It’s no longer a game of catch-up with New York and London. It’s not about paying dues to the Hot Press-major label continuum any more. They set up their own label, Richter Collective, and it now churns out half a dozen quality, weird Irish albums a year. With that in place, they recorded a surrealist rainbow rock extravaganza and launched it to a sardine-packed, feral, stage-invading crowd in Whelans. The question everyone’s asking: where the hell did that come from? Red-hooded bassist Vinny ponders:

“It’s a fun mind game though to pretend to be a different band, you know, like ‘What would it sound like if we were David Bowie’s backing band?’ And then you play around for a bit, and usually fall on the ground laughing from how horrible it sounds. But then when you’re completely distracted by laughing and good vibes, something will happen and you’ll be like… oh that’s interesting. Let’s go there. It’s just a cheap trick to get your fucking stupid BRAIN out of the way and let the music happen.”

Having travelled to Baltimore to record their debut album, they decided to stay home for the follow-up. “Last time we recorded thousands of miles from home and we could only bring what we could cram in our carry-on bags. This time we were basically doing it in our houses so we could use all our little crappy keyboards and whatever madness was lying around. It was a pretty inspiring way to do things”

Mick, the band’s drummer and the founder of Richter Collective, explains further. “With this one we had more time to take with it. On the first album it’d be [guitarist] Lar’s tune or my tune or Vinny’s tune. This one was pure collaboration. No-one came into the practice space with anything. We wrote all the songs together.”

The band spent a surreal week in August above Arcade Fire in Hype Machine’s top ten after blogger Nialler9 contributed their International Dreamboat to a multi-national blog project. It wasn’t their first taste of international success, however. Though they’ve toured the usual spots, it’s Japan that has, in a somewhat unlikely turn of events, taken to them the most. Why is this?

“Above all else, the Japanese audience respects musicianship, professionalism and songwriting ability, so obviously they haven’t noticed yet that we have none of those things. What we do have though is an amazing label called Parabolica,” Vinny says. Mick says “Even the pop music over there is kind of a bit odd. It’s not like mainstream stuff over here. The same with TV. All pop culture is a bit… it’s really different. Quite strange and alien really. Maybe we’re incredibly poppy over there.”

One of the things that sets Adebisi apart from all of the other red-hooded instrumental three-piece rainbow post-hardcore bands out there is their apparent preoccupation with kitsch culture. Vinny’s chiptune side project The Vinny Club explores this more thoroughly, but with track titles like Micromachines and DODR [Dawn of the Dead Remake] it’s unavoidable in the day job too. Mick is amused by it. “Yeah, Vinny does like all sorts of weird shit. He especially likes weird 90s shit that’s not popular any more. That’s his bag. All the weird weird stuff you see on Twitter would be him.” Vinny’s more defensive. “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I think the whole concept of a guilty pleasure is beyond bullshit. You love what you love, you know, and if you love it you shouldn’t have to figure out why you love it. So yes. I also love Mick and Lar, but more in an ironic way – they’re like, so bad they’re like, good.”

It’s more than just fun, though. From Adebisi Shank sprang the Richter Collective, one Irish record label committed to doing it ‘the right way’. With bands like BATS and even veterans Redneck Manifesto releasing albums with Richter, it’s an unavoidable force in Dublin music. “The way we do things, a lot of that came from lessons we learned with the band. I guess we started the foundations of Richter from Adebisi,” Mick says.

Vinny, as usual, has a slightly different take. “Mick would know better than I would, but the label definitely started because there was nobody stupid enough to trick into putting out our records. Somehow Mick managed to trick himself. He’s gonna be so pissed off when he finds out!”