At a time when the Irish Government has officially declared itself a Banana Republic and U2 continue to charge their spinal tap, tax free, rock n roll machine into the next millennium, it’s comforting to talk to a penniless band who – regardless of economic status – are steering their musical ship across the Atlantic. Dublin three piece Sickboy have been prophesising their dark, punk leaden anthems around stages in Ireland and Europe for the last five years. This week sees the band crack the whip at their first U.S audience with a string of gigs in New York followed by a trip south to SxSW.
If the Groundhog Day question of finance makes you grimace, you might take comfort from the fact that a band who have supported acts like Gang of Four and The Coral and had their candy sweet pop anthem The A Tune (the most requested song of last year on Phantom 105.2) played on an RTE sports show have yet to make a penny out of the business. Dan Doherty, a strange combination of a lead singer who sits behind the drum kit, tells it like it is for an established Irish band who haven’t struck gold with a record deal.
‘It’s not like we are going to give up if we don’t get signed. We’ve invested seven years in the band at this stage and we’ve never made a fucking penny out of this. If it was about money, I would have packed up and got a proper job years ago.’
The other two Sickboys, Brian and Colm Giles, are not present but Dan speaks on their behalf, saying that he prefers the solo interviews for political reasons. ‘They kill each other – they can’t stand in the same room most times without bating the heads off each other – but I suppose that’s brothers historically in bands.’
To witness Sickboy live, you would be forgiven for thinking they make their own clothes out of ripped t-shirts and safety pins, lazing around all day listening to The Clash and The Pistols but there is defiantly an electronic side breaking through in their sound, albeit perhaps not a democratic consensus within the entire band.
Dan says after their debut album (due for release early summer) Sickboy will be experimenting with a more translucent approach, to their current meat and veg, old school rock n roll style, method of song writing. He has even started his own side project Crimes Against, which he admits, has got the other members of the band back to the studio earlier each day- scribbling out verses and banging out guitar riffs. ‘The Crimes Against project is a different way of making music, experimenting with sounds – I suppose its like a rebellion from the Sickboy stuff, almost – I guess it’s more personal and I don’t have to compromise with the music.’
You get a sense that making music for these guys can almost be like fighting demons, but they have to keep on turning out the tunes, to keep them at bay. With the record industry disintegrating by the second, you might just feel a little bit of sympathy for established Irish bands like Sickboy who starve at times for their art, while freeloaders pinch their tunes for free on the net. After their US tour this month, the band is pooling their hard earned sheckles together to buy a van and tour the length of the U.K. There is a constant doubt in the bands commitment to the music business says Dan, but the hunger is far too great to go back to the dreaded day job.
‘Nothing would diminish me writing music, but there are certain things like the fact that I have a family now and I’m not making money at this and I have other people to think about, you do think to yourself sometimes, fuck it I might jack the band in. From a father’s point of view sometimes, I think, I could be selfish trying to chase my own dreams. It’s constantly up and down, but I’ll never stop making music, that’s for sure.’