Aoife Barry meets up with a relaxed Adebisi Shank, who on the eve of their second album release, talk about Japanese welcomes, their europhic new album and contender for Irish album of the year. Photos by Sean Conroy.
Their music is like an electrical jolt to the brain, their energy a palpable force in whatever venue they play – and their about-to-be released second album is a mind-melt of delicious proportions. They are a band named Adebisi Shank, and This the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank is the record that they were born to make.
The trio – Mick, Lar and Vinny – proved their worth when they kicked out the jams as support to Faith No More at the Olympia earlier this year. Hearing the rapturous applause that greeted them was proof that, yes, Ireland does produce bands that are worthy of international notice; and that we are living on the island of saints and scholars, but we’re a nation of rockers too.
The new album is euphoric, taking you on more of a feelgood journey of highs than its predecessor. It’s the sound of a band who let go, who pushed things further, who know themselves and know their music and who know damn well what they’re capable of.
When State meets drummer Mick (he of the Richter Collective label) and Vinny (the masked bassist who’s also responsible for 8-bit band The Vinny Club – State mix anyone?) in the quiet surrounds of the Central Hotel’s Library Bar, they’re wearing the calm smiles of two men who are happy. Happy with the album, happy with where they’re headed.
“The last album, we went hell for leather, it was so intense,” Mick tells State. “This time it was building up; it was such a different dynamic.” The first time, they kept a tight schedule – nine days in a studio in the USA with producer J Robbins – this year they stayed close to home.
“There was a lot of pressure,” admits Mick of the first album. “We were recording with someone who was a musical hero of mine, so it was a bit…I felt a bit sick at the same time. But it was the absolute best thing we could have done for the first album, because you don’t feel nervous about a lot of things after something so mad as that!”
That confidence buoyed them when recording the follow-up. “I know that we did absolutely everything that we could,” says Vinny confidently. “On the last one we had a few regrets about it, like, ‘We could have spent more time on this…’. This time I know for a fact we did our best.”
For the second album, the band turned to their friend Stephen J Caffrey – “he’s a legend” – organiser of Le Chéile festival and a man who has worked with bands including Delorentos and Jape. “He did all the engineering and we basically just wrecked his head for three weeks,” laughs a sympathetic Mick. “The way we work is that the three of us know each other so well that we feel comfortable being completely rude to each other, so Steve came into that world. He never showed it but I’d say he was going insane. When I called up at the end I could just see it in his eyes.”
Perhaps that glint was because of the fact the band describe themselves as “control freaks in different ways”. “We’ve all recorded bands individually before, so we all have our own ideas of the way everything should sound,” outlines Vinny. “There was no room for one person to just go ‘this is how it’s going to be’.”
Adebisi Shank’s live sets are the stuff of legend. Vinny, wearing a red fabric mask that a Japanese serial killer would be proud of, bounds around the stage, dancing a derring-do with the equally elastic and lithe guitarist Lar. Behind them sits Mick, pounding away at the drum kit like a demon possessed. But ask them if they want to reproduce their live sound on record, and the answer is no. Why should they stop there?
Says Vinny, “I think we’ve always had a thing where when we play live it’s going to be us and that works. I think when we record if it’s just the three of us, we’ve got no real allegiance to ‘it should be the same as it is live’ because it’s just a completely different thing. I think as well if you’re chasing the live sound of an album it’s just an impossible dream.”
“Because you’re taking away the whole visual element,” Mick interjects.
“The whole point of us recording songs as opposed to playing them live all the time is to make them what they are in our imagination,” says Vinny sagely. “When we play them live it will be a different thing.”
“We kind of nailed the live thing first with the songs,” explains Mick. “I think it was like we all love really over-the-top records with production where it’s like ‘if you want a full orchestra, just do it’. And I think there are no limits on this, we didn’t put any cap on what was ridiculous. If we thought something might work we would just try and get it in.”
“I think when you record or when you do record bands it becomes pretty apparent as well that the live – the real – sound is just as much an illusion as something that is really produced,” expounds Vinny, “because you have to really know what you’re doing to get a live sound so it’s equally as much of a lie as something ridiculous. So if that’s the case then why not go ridiculous? We had a thing this time: if the question is ‘is that a bit much?’, you know you’re on the right track.”