Last Wednesday, 29th February I was lucky enough to catch up with Cast of Cheers, four very charming and down to earth Irish lads. Greeted by smiles and handshakes the band introduced themselves before settling down in the upstairs backstage at the Cockpit. We chatted about their upcoming first European tour, living together and random music choices. All very different characters it became clear later on in the gig how they manage to successfully mix different genres of music together.
How are you? Looking forward to tonight?
[Rounds of 'good, good' echo round the room]
Neil: It's a weird venue, some sort of airplane hanger.
Tell us a bit about the tour.
Neil: Yeah, we're doing European dates next month. we're playing in Barcelona on 31st March and then we're going to Europe the week after, playing in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, all of the places in Europe! That's Europe!
Have you guys been on tour before?
Neil: Played random kind of gigs. We supported Two Door Cinema Club in Bristol and London and then we had a couple of our own gigs in London last month. Obviously this is the third night into the tour with Theme Park. Last night in Scotland, Glasgow, it was a good laugh.
How does playing in the UK compare with Dublin?
Connor: It's so much bigger. It's great, there's so many venues going on everywhere you go. Same for Dublin, but we kind of know everyone there. Not everyone...
How did you all meet?
Neil: We've all been friends, me and Connor are brothers and these guys we're all friends. We grew up in the same town and been in various bands across Dublin for the past 10 years.
Where did the name come from?
[Quite a big pause while all eyes are on Neil to reveal a story. There is a bit of jeering in Neil's direction.]
Connor: We have this stupid game where every time someone asks us the name for the band someone has to think of something on the spot and it was Neil's turn.
Neil: I thought I'd be fine!
Connor: Really the name came from - this is the real story - I gave him an ultimatum [points at John] one day 'cos we had no name for ages and we needed a name. Then I said we're going to be called Skeleton Belly unless he thinks of a better name.
Kevin: We didn't like Skeleton belly at all.
Connor: Then John wrote a massive list of names that were all crap but at the end in crappy writing he had written the Cast of Cheers as a joke and I was like that is way better than anything else, that was literally it!
How did the co-tour come about?
Neil: They are with Transgressive and we are with Schoolboy Error, both under Co-op, kind of both got releases coming out. Seemed like they put two new, sort of fresh bands together instead of sending us around on our own. We're quite different.
Tell me a bit about the music video for Family - how did it come about?
Neil: It was Russel Weekes. He's done us a few other videos, but he just sent us a clip of him, well his idea for everything ok, but then he sent a video of him doing it for like 30 seconds and it looked amazing. But he's got long hair so it looked pretty cool, we don't have long hair... didn't look quite the same but we were loving it. It was just a camera, stop and shoot pictures one after the other and Connor for the vocals had to especially you know phonetically do everything like syllable and mouth shape, like ten times over and then with a guitar slightly different.
Connor: Just photographs, there's about 1200 for each... there's over 5000 pictures anyway. It was right before Christmas that we did it and then he had to edit it over Christmas.
What are some of the bands you're influenced by?
Neil: We recorded an album recently with Luke Smith and during that people were often asking what we were listening to.
Kevin: We all live together in a house in London and we were listening to loads of The Police so that was one of the main bands we were listening to. And Queen.
John: Basically anything pre-1980 you can buy the record cheap so there was a lot of Queen, The Police, Beach Boys, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon.
Neil: Then there's 90s stuff; Smashing Pumpkins. Smashing Pumpkins would have probably been the main influence because growing up they were probably like my favourite band.
Who would you say your music is most like?
Connor: We've been compared to The Foals quite a lot, like early Foals. We all loved that album when it came out. Bloc Party, as well. We're not like them but we listen to them. Death from Above. Queens of the Stone Age big time.
What listening to right now?
Connor: Listening to a lot of Metronomy, great new album. Kev doesn't like it.
[A bit of a debate ensues with the focus on Kevin.]
Connor asks Kevin: What have you been playing recently? Some weird jazz stuff? You go past his bedroom and you hear this crazy jazz, not even listenable jazz.
Kev; That's not strictly true. I play some Radiohead sometimes.
Connor: I've never heard Radiohead. I've only heard crazy music coming from your bedroom and sometimes it's not even jazz, it's like space music from the future.
[A lot of giggling follows as to how Kevin's music taste is quite different from the other three.]
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Connor: No Sting's gone mad now, we couldn't rein him in. He'd put saxophone on everything. I disagree with Sting.
Neil: There's a Dublin band called Adebisi Shank that are pretty cool. We kind of have collaborated with them in a way. The bass player has produced stuff for us before so I suppose that's not an answer to your question... Billy Corgan!
How important has social media been to your success?
Neil: We put up our first album for free online. It was blogs and Facebook that really got the ball rolling and that's where we see the response, it's been huge. Prior to that we were just printing albums onto CDs and throwing them. We did in older bands.
Can you buy the album?
Neil: The album isn't out yet, you can buy it later this year. The single you can get on iTunes and we're carrying round a box of records, limited edition.
Connor: Limited edition sounds good!
Give me a description of your music in four words.
Connor: What did you describe it as earlier? Broken robot sexy time. No Broken Robot Making Sexy. That's probably the best way to describe it.
Neil: Or fast, energetic - things like that.
Connor: Making sexy - that's not the best way to describe...
John: What about fast robot making sexy?
Connor: That also doesn't really give an answer... could be terminator. Could be a terrifying answer.
What advice would you offer other bands that are just starting out?
Kev: Keep reinventing yourself.
John: Fresh socks.
Connor: That's not the best advice... what would be real advice. Yeah reinventing yourself is a good one, unless you're good at something and then... We've been in so many bands, as music changes and times move on you do change naturally. Just don't get stuck in a rut and doing the same thing. Don't keep trying the same thing.
Kev: It's really easy to get stuck in a groove, especially in Dublin. You end up just playing the same places.
Connor: Same for any band though, whether you're in Dublin or not. It's easy to do what's easy. Get yourself out there. Try and do things that you wouldn't normally do. Try and get in touch with other bands that are coming into town and support them. Also simplify, we simplify our music so when people actually started listening to it... not what you want to hear but what somebody else wants to hear.
Neil: Well a mixture, halfway.
Connor: If you're just doing what you want to do...
Kevin: If it makes you want to dance it will make someone else want to.
Connor: So what's our advice. Fresh socks, wet wipes and a good attitude towards life. You have to be nice to other bands.
How do launch yourself...?
Connor: There's a fair bit of luck involved, who sees you, stuff like that. We were playing a lot around in Dublin and getting a lot of attention in Ireland. We were doing pretty good gigs over there, especially online attention for us, blogs and stuff. We got invited by Two Door Cinema Club to play in Bristol and London and think that kind of sprung us out and a lot of people who were working for them saw us.
John: Initially the thing that helped us was blogs. For bands, whatever level you are, to get your music out to the blogs and internet can really spread the word, more so now than ever. We wrote a cover letter, it was sort of weird like for a job and we literally just googled Irish blogs and emailed every single blog. Some people got back and some people didn't. Then when Mick from Adebisi Shank, he picked it up and put it on Facebook. That sparked other blogs to pick us up.
Kevin: That's the weird thing as well 'cos if you're spamming people.... [agree that what they did is not quite spamming] 'cos the likes of Sergeant House in America, she said that she finds music and if people try and contact her about it and are pushy about it she just totally disregards it. You have to put yourself in the right place sometimes.
Neil: We were lucky because, in Ireland there's record company called the Richter Collective and basically we love all of the bands on that record label and they're kind of an indie label so we used to just go to all of the gigs. This was separately, before we were even in the band. Then we got to know people in that kind of crowd so then when we had this band, Mick - he's one of the guys that runs that record company, I knew him for years anyway but I hadn't talked to him in a long time - but I just gave him the album and he liked it. You know it's handy and we knew him but it was over the years.
Kevin: We knew the circuit sort of before we stepped into it.
Connor: It is, keep connected locally. A band you know gets a step further, you know you help each other out as well.
Where are you most excited to visit on the European tour?
Neil: Leeds! A couple of friends of ours have come over from Dublin... Leeds and Manchester.
Connor: Also Amsterdam, Berlin. Berlin was awesome, a really cool city. Amsterdam because I've never been there. And Paris too, because our tour manager is French so I think we'll have a great time...
Do you have anything that you do right before the gig?
Connor: We get pretty weird about 5 minutes before the gig.
Neil: We listen to Adebishi Shank while we're setting up, that seems to do the job.
Connor: 5 minutes before the nerves just sort of shoot into you, you just kind of get a bit weird. Antsy, you know just walking around.
Neil: Jogging on the spot, weird sounds, weird faces.
What's the best part of doing what you do?
Neil: The gigs, I think for me. Going on tour, doing gigs. Even chatting to lovely people like yourself.
Kevin: Being in the studio.
Connor: No the studio, that's the really work part of it. It's great to record what you're doing, kind of concentrating, real pain staking. It's rewarding and all don't get me wrong. The live, the performance is the, seeing people....
Will you be back in the studio after the tour?
Neil: No. Got the album coming out in June. I think we're going to be touring heavily for the rest of the year. We might do demos towards the end of the year, maybe.
How do you handle being on tour all the time?
Connor: You drink beer! Good sleep as well. Kind of keeping on a normal level of semi-drunk and sleeping well. I want to say eating well but that hasn't happened yet. It's kind of hard to eat well. You end up at garages and strange places with sandwiches.
John: You become very familiar with those stops along the motorway. If you're lucky you'll have one of those pie shops. Pirate pie, it's Cornish pasties with a pirate on the front so we call it pirate pie.
Do you all get on living together?
Neil: Yeah, it's just the little things.
Connor: We don't really talk about it, we don't vent it, just get really angry inside. It's times like this when you go we'll...
Get together in the house?
John: Recently yeah, 'cos we can't afford a jamming room so in the front room.
Neil: I think a practice room is good if you're about to go on tour and just practising songs you know. In the house it's good for making new stuff.
Thanks for that and good luck with the gig and the tour!