It would be an injustice to call Sydney band the Rumjacks conventional, celebrating their Celtic musical roots through their own unique mix of folk punk rock. I had a conversation with singer and front man Frankie McLaughlin on Thursday.
Punk rock is not usually synonymous with Celtic harmonies and culture. For members of the Rumjacks, however, this blending is perfectly natural. McLaughlin explains: “Two or three of the other guys have Irish parents. One was either born there or just missed out. Yeah, there’s a lot of Irish stock going on. I’m from an Irish family background, born in Scotland. So yeah, we were growing up with this stuff. I like to say that the records our parents played when we were kids and then couldn’t stand when we were teenagers… so we went out listening to all our wild rock bands and punk acts, thinking that we were being so rebellious. Then we came around to realising how good this stuff actually is and jamming the whole lot together, I suppose.”
After a whirlwind start in 2008 and recording their first album Gangs of New Holland in only a few days, the Rumjacks are taking a more calculated approach this time around. They worked with producer Steve James, who helped find the balance between passion and preparation. “We’re trying to be rough around the edges, and James is pulling a performance from us,” McLaughlin says amiably.
They also worked with new directors to create polished and visually engaging music videos for the new singles “Blows & Unkind Words” and “Plenty”. McLaughlin explains: “It was as much fun as it looks and probably more. It was really, really good to actually throw it out there and say to a few directors ‘give us your ideas, give us your treatment’. We’ve owned this baby all the way along, and then to have someone else have input visually, it was a release in itself… it was directed towards helping tell the story”.
There is poetic sentiment hidden in the Rumjacks’ pub-friendly tunes. “Blow & Unkind Words” is a rallying cry to the everyman, to overcome social “petty spats” and the too often “puerile nature of human behaviour”. We are capable of so much more, or so McLaughlin believes.
The fierce energy and dedication behind these songs makes me excited for the Rumjacks’ new album Sober & Godless, due for release in February 2015. What is McLaughlin’s greatest hope for the album? He admits with a laugh, “I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think there are songs on here that our parents might even like”.
Unfortunately Adelaide will have to wait a few months see the Rumjacks live. They will be playing at the Crown and Anchor Hotel on April 10th 2015.
Interview by Nicola Woolford.