January 30, 2010

Dinah Washington once sang about being Mad About The Boy. While Liam McDermott himself is safe, his band, Funzo, had better watch out. Because I am most definitely Mad About the Band. Single white (not quite) female mad. And once you hear their infectious mix of ska, sixties pop and hip-hop you too will struggle to keep your bunny boiling tendencies in check. Because Funzo are quite simply brilliant.

While not the most innovative of acts, what they take from others they more than match with the sum of their own parts. From the bouncy piano bop of “I Need To Get Away”, the rolling harmonies of “Pop Secret” and the Wilsonesque “New Love”, to be producing tracks of this caliber at this stage of their career is staggering.

As a critic I’m not usually one for exhultations and as a reader I really dislike them so I’ll leave you with the results of Totally Dublin’s chat with McDermott before I dig them further into a hole they can’t get out off.

You released your first album, The Maybe Pile, under your own name and all releases since have been released as Funzo. What was behind your decision to flesh it out?

I was gigging more and more and the band kept getting bigger and bigger. I was getting up sometimes with nine or ten people behind me and people were just wondering why it was billed as Liam McDermott alone. So, for a while, it was Liam McDermott and the Something’s, with the something changing every night. Eventually I just decided to go with a band name

Why Funzo?

It reminded me of The Simpsons, where they’re putting pressure on Lisa to pick a name for a toy. She’s really a bit apathetic and she just goes “Em, Funzo”.

Was it partly to escape the dreaded ginger-songwriter tag?

That had a part to play. Because if I saw a poster that said Liam McDermott plays Whelans I probably would have had an image in my head of Damien Dempsey or Damien Rice. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that but it doesn’t represent my sound well.

Which is?

A mix of all our favorite genres of music. Mainly ska, sixties pop, and hip-hop.

Are there any core members?

Right now we have a really good core group of six. Mark Whelan on keys, Brian Coleman on guitar, Kev McNamara on bass, Stig McDermott on vocals and Ronan Dempsey on drums We’ve done a photo shoot and we have the Electric Picnic, so we are really pushing the fact that we are a band now.

Do you write as a group or are you “the one and only”?

We never write together. I’ve written for years. I present them with a song and they put in their own individual instruments. They all have a say in what’s to be done with it but they kind of trust my songwriting at this stage.

You’ve performed with Shane McGowan. How did that come about?

We hand out a lot of free CDs at our gigs and the CDs have gotten into all sorts of hands and in this case it got into someone who was a friend of Shane McGowan.

Any other notable fans?

I’ve sent music to a few people who have got back and said they were impressed; Gilbert O Sullivan would be one.

When are we going to get another album out of you?

I’d like to go in before the end of the year to the studio as a band, which we have never done before, and get maybe get our 12 best down. Get an album we’re really happy with. But it’s very much in the future.

At the last few shows I’ve been to you’ve had a band member on stage rapping. Is this something we can expect in your future recordings?

I always write lyrics before I write music. Hip-hop is what I listen to so I’ve been writing to a hip-hop beat. Then I’ll go down to a piano and put a melody to it.

I don’t know if it will translate or if it’s influence will have worn off by the time we are recording. At the moment we are really loving it. We had a gig at the weekend and big Mark AKA Minty rapped at that, acoustic with bongos and guitars. It sounded pretty cool.

You’re big on your covers. If you could pick anyone to cover a Funzo track who would it be and which one? Lady Sovereign’s take on “Don’t Know What To Call You” perhaps?

If I get to meet Lady Sov, if that’s part of the deal, then yeah (laughs). I’d probably have one of the poppy ones like I Need To Get Away and I’d get someone like The Turtles to sing it. Someone from the sixties. Someone who really knew how to sing pop music.

I think there has been great pop music in every decade from the fifties on, but I think the genre was perfected in the sixties with the likes of The Beatles, The Turtles and The Beach Boys, and while they occasionally have been matched, I think they remain the kings of the genre…. along with Funzo of course!

What can we expect from Funzo at The Picnic?

We’re really just going for it. We’ve got around 6 more new songs, which we’ll be previewing at our gig this Saturday and a lot more hip hop. We’re trying to improve every song cause it’s such a big opportunity for us.

Revolver Presents Funzo, Fifteen Minutes plus Guests-

Sat 30th May

Radio City


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