Fight Like Apes' third album has been a long time coming - too long, even for them. Consistently one of Ireland's finest live acts, FLApes haven't been as active on the live scene in recent years owing to management and label disputes and nerve-wracking FundIt campaigns but they've emerged on the other side as a band hugely determined to make up for lost time.
After making their mark in 2007 with a couple of massively well-received EP's, the band have returned to their roots somewhat and released their latest extended play 'Whigfield Sextape', ahead of the October release of their third long player.
John Balfe spent some time in the company of the band's leader MayKay, recorded the conversation and then wrote down what they both said. What follows is that conversation.
Another publication described the new EP as "more measured" and "mature". What do you think that means and are you content with tags like that be applied to you?
It's a good question because it's something that we've actually been talking about. Usually when you release something, the same questions come up over and over - especially for us. But the fact of the matter is that we're older than we were - and that's the stupidest sentence because obviously we're older - but I feel like we have to say it because I read something recently which said something like, 'it's almost as if they're much older than they were.' It's like, 'well, yeah!'
I read it again to check if they were they being funny or sarcastic, but they weren't. We are more measured and there are lots of reasons for that. One of the reasons, I suppose, is that I'm listening to a lot more punky, electro-y stuff and I think with that comes a lot more structure. I don't know if calling it measured is a polite way of calling it something else, but it's absolutely fine with me.
The initial EPs came out in 2007, then an album in 2008, an album in 2010 and it's now four years after that. Everyone grows over that course of time in all walks of life, in all contexts so it can only be the same in this, I imagine.
Exactly and if we were to be doing anything differently you'd be hearing very forced music. I imagine if I could be a fly on the wall for writing sessions we had for this album I would say there was probably times when we thought that we were taking ourselves too seriously. We've never done anything except do what we felt was completely natural and normal for us. We're so lazy and selfish that we've never done anything other than that.
Let's talk about the EP. Firstly, where did the name 'Whigfield Sextape' come from?
Jamie was in his friend's house and wanted to use his computer. He went to search for something that began with 'W' and 'Whigfield Sextape' came up! If that was anybody else on the planet they would have let it go but Jamie was like, 'what the fuck are you looking at?'
We've all heard of people looking up strange sextapes, or wishing for strange sextapes, or whatever, but Whigfield?! We hadn't even told Loreana (Rushe), who did the artwork, the name but it couldn't have been as close to as creepy as the situation is. It's perfect.
Jamie's friend must have been curious as to exactly what Whigfield gets up to on Saturday night, I suppose...
(Laughs) You can quote me on that! Whatever you said!
The first two EP's you put out in 2007 were instrumental in building the word of mouth of the band and putting that initial push out there. Are you using the same approach this time around in advance of the next record?
Absolutely, yeah. Since we left our label and management and have been on our own, we really need to play to our strengths a bit. We haven't released any new music in four years so you can't expect people to just click back into it and pick up where we left off.
Would you say it's thematically similar to the stuff that's going to be on the record?
Yeah. All the stuff was written under the same umbrella. I think we've always written quite sad songs but it's just depended on the music around it what people's take on it was. The funniest website ever is that one, 'What Song Lyrics Mean'. It is truly astounding to read what people think. They don't say 'I think' or 'I imagine this to be what she was talking about', it's like 'Oh no, you've got that wrong. You see, what happened was...'
You're being psychoanalysed by strangers!
Completely! And then I'm like, 'is that what it is about?.... No, no, no, don't do that, that's not what it was about!'
You played a couple of gigs in Dublin and Cork at the end of last year. Presumably you road tested some of the new stuff, how did they go down and what can you learn in a live setting about new material?
It's so huge. But at the same time, you have to remember that this is only one crowd so you can't go changing the whole thing based upon that. There have been lots of situations where we'd be in a rehearsal room playing, thinking that it sounds great and that we can't wait to play it live. We played one song in London last year and I nearly fell asleep during it! The one thing you get from playing live is that you totally understand what mood you have to give a song to let the crowd know what you're trying to do.
You alluded to it earlier but how do you feel after the split from label and management, do you feel like you have a greater sense of freedom now?
Whenever I get asked about this I feel like I'm openly talking about an ex, which you obviously don't do. But I do think it's important. They were incredibly supportive of us until it came to this album and we were just knocking heads on it. They didn't like the way we were going with it, we really didn't like the way they wanted us to go with it. Naturally when we left we were like bulls out of a trap because we could do this they way we wanted. Everything took a lot longer because we didn't have the backing of a label. We'd never have been allowed to take this long with a label - and rightly so. But I don't regret it.
I spoke to you guys around a year ago about the FundIt campaign. Now that you've come out the other end of that successfully, what was that process like from your perspectives?
Honestly, the band wouldn't be the band anymore if FundIt hadn't happened. It was really hard to not say that during the campaign because you do want to maintain your dignity and you do need to remind yourself that you actually have something worth giving and we're not looking for charity. The worst thing that happened during the campaign was the that for the first three days we got €1,000 a day and we thought that we were going to go way over the mark! But then it ground to a halt and that made perfect sense because there was a build up to it...
...and the people who are most interested get in there at the start?
Absolutely. Then it just stopped and we didn't really know what to do and the best thing that could have happened to us is a backlash over it.
Which happened, right?
It's still fresh in my mind! It was about us asking for twenty grand and people saying it was a ridiculous amount of money to be asking for from people. I kept having to say that I wasn't taking money from people, that I wasn't going into your homes and taking money from under your mattresses, I'm not going into your bank accounts.
A couple of blogs picked it up and next thing we knew my phone was buzzing from people wanting to interview me about the backlash, more than anything. We basically got a week of massive press because of it. As that week progressed, people heard about it. In retrospect if [the backlash] hadn't happened, I don't know what would have ended up happening. The last few days of FundIt is what I imagine childbirth to be like, I just wanted it to be over.
There was a day where I said to Jamie that I really didn't think it was going to happen and I said to him, 'look, we've had a really good run'. But he's never beaten 'til the last whistle!
And thank goodness for that...