inspired by the barn burning ways of american folk, john blek and the rats are the perfect preventive to winter blues, with their carousing anthems of downright discord and hodown hollerin’. their songs feel like bright morning light, on a bruised heart, finding comfort in a stranger’s bed. this fresh irish folk outfit are our band of the week and to truly appreciate their revelry, we recommend you catch them live. you will raise your glass to the ceiling. you will want to take them home. and having spoken with aisling and john, of john blek and the rats , we attempted to do just that…
poxymash: what has been your experience of rodents such that you would name
your band after them?
john: the name really comes from my obsession with a french artist called blek le rat, rather than my love of furry vermin. he claimed that he used the rat in his name as it is such an evocative creature and is capable of inciting hysteria in people. that made a lot of sense to me and correlates really well with what we aim to do with our music. we don't look to instill fear in our audiences, but we do want them to wake up and realise what it's like to have a really good time!
p: if john blek and the rats could have invented any object/creation, what would it have been and why?
aisling: I would've loved to have invented something that made me a lot of money fast, like a synthesizer in the 80s.
j: well i suppose language is a pretty essential invention. it's something that really releases us and allows us to express ourselves. it can also help us find clarity and sense in some of the mundane aspects of what we do. i think I realised all this recently when I heard the poetry of anis mojgani. the language he uses and the way in which he delivers it astounds me; highly emotive and rife with reality. he has made me love language more than anyone in the last few years. well worth checking out his poems "shake the dust" and "here am I".
p: if art is essentially a form of escapism, what do you wish to escape from?
a: i like to escape from my head and situations, but whiskey tends to work more effectively than music! some songs just remind me of the people they’re about. performing them can sometimes bring you back to the place you were when you wrote it.
j: i think i'm done escaping for a while. art, music in particular has become what i do, day in, day out. life is pretty amazing at the moment and i really hope it continues for as long as possible. who would ever want to escape an existence where when you wake you get to live your life, write about it, document this on recordings and express it all to an audience? there have obviously been times when music allowed me to escape everything that was going on around me, but there have also been times when you want to escape the music. the thought process that goes into writing a song or lyric can often lead you down somewhere you shouldn't be going for the sake of your own mental health! but for now, life is good. i am happily trapped and unwilling to escape.
p: what is your favourite lyric of all time?
a: i’m terrible for remembering lyrics! the ones I love tend to get mixed up with all the rest but there’s one that has become a sort of life motto for me “i can’t believe life’s so complex, when i just wanna sit here and watch you undress.” this is love, pj harvey.
j: i don't really know do i have one favourite. "one night of loving don't make up for six nights of pain" by willy nelson is pretty good.i like lyrics that can tell a story like tom waits' ‘closing time’, in its entirety is pretty amazing. also most of the words that come from conor oberst’s mouth tend to inflict a heavy dose of clarity and reality on any listener.
p: what sets john blek and the rats apart from other bands?
a: we embrace our weaknesses and instead of being nervous about getting things wrong, we concentrate on getting the energy right. it’s so nice to see new people dancing and foot-stomping to a song they haven’t heard before!
j: we're all about energy and less about being the most articulate musicians in the world. the words are important to us and effecting people with our music is a massive part of what we do. many bands try to say that they want to have an impact on their listeners, we do it. people don't stand or sit still at our shows, there are no spectators. we will sweat, we will shout and we have and will bleed for an audience. we are a very hard working troupe of people. we're aware of what's involved. there is no complacency and no naivety.
p: what's next on the cards for john blek and the rats?
j: new recordings, maybe a single or another ep to be released at christmas, relocation to london for a few months, a uk tour in October and an irish tour at christmas. lots of really good times.
p: this is your soap box, what would you like to say to your fans!?
a: see you at gigs and thanks for all the footstomping!
j: take what we give you and make it your own.
[photo credit: john blek and the rats]