Shane O’Brien, bassist for musical comedy act Dead Cat Bounce, speaks to Aoife Valentine about visits from Will Ferrell, the rock-and-roll lifestyle and just how tight their trousers can really get
It’s not often that a sketch troupe perform their first ever show with Will Ferrell in the audience, but it was just such a situation which marked Dead Cat Bounce’s arrival on the Irish comedy scene. Ferrell managed somehow to take some of the pressure off the trio by distracting the audience with his mere presence, but one has to wonder what exactly a Hollywood film star was doing at the debut show of an Irish sketch group in the Project Arts Centre. “He was staying in the Clarence and he said to the concierge, ‘I want to see some comedy tonight,’ and there was a very lazy concierge in the Clarence and he looked across the road and said ‘There’s some,’ and so he came to our show. He was a lovely dude, he came backstage and was chatting to us,” explains Shane O’Brien, bassist for the sketch troupe turned musical-comedy group.
The self-declared “international rock and roll comedy super-group” first met in Trinity College, and each was pursuing their own musical endeavours at the time, but were also all involved in writing comedy sketches. The transition to combining their comedy sketches and their musical capabilities however, proved a rather natural one. “It ended up that we’d do more and more music in the sketch shows and then it just became entirely musical and pretty soon we were just a comedy band. Also I think any time we’ve kind of tried to write serious songs, people sort of struggle to get behind them, and we struggle to be serious in them … I think we’d be a terrible real band. We’d be playing very similar songs; we’d just be doing it with no sense of irony.”
They may not consider themselves a ‘real’ band but they have always maintained the same stance over their somewhat frugal attempt at the rock-and-roll lifestyle. “It is a very shoestring approach to rock-and-roll. We never had roadies. Before Christmas, we supported The Darkness in Dublin and they have like, three or four articulated lorries full of gear, and ten dudes carrying everything for them. I mean, they just show up and everything is set up. We arrived at the back door, carrying our gear ourselves.”
Their approach to the creative process is equally simple and grounded. “Basically, we sit there and stare at each other until something funny comes out and then we’ll work that into songs. Ordinarily we’d just be in each other’s living rooms staring at each other but we’ve got an office now so it’s a luxury.”
Working comedic bits into songs has become a slightly different process, with a new sound since their keyboardist, Mick Cullinan left the band last October. “It was just a natural thing that happened after Edinburgh last year. The band continues on as normal and we are pretty much playing as a band as we always have, just with no keyboards and with a lot more complicated guitar and bass lines.”
It was in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival that the trio completed a mammoth sixty shows in twenty-five days, which included a forty-eight hour stint during the last weekend in which they performed six shows in three different locations in the UK, including the Leeds and Reading Festivals; a gruelling schedule for anyone, but O’Brien insists that not even that could put him off touring. He admits however: “We got literally physically sick that month. The last weekend I think we slept about two hours in the whole time and then at the end of it everyone was just completely dead. We went home, we had about two days off and we went to Electric Picnic. We were kind of bordering on getting pneumonia; it was a ridiculous couple of weeks.”
It would seem that with a new show, Howl at the She-Leopard, in the pipeline and plans to spend two months in Australia once March rolls around, that not even the threat of pneumonia has put a halt to their gallop. “We’re going back again [to Australia] in March for a couple of months this year. Australia is just a cool place and there are so many Irish people over there now, we will find more and more people coming to the show who recognise us from home, which is kind of weird but it’s great as well.”
This was never more obvious than when they stopped by a Tommy Tiernan show in Australia last year. “We went to see Tommy Tiernan in Sydney and he walked out, and said, ‘Are there any Australians in?’ and about six people went ‘Yaaay,’ so he said ‘I suppose I can guess where the rest of you are from,’ and the whole crowd just went nuts. It was just 1,500 Irish people for five nights, in Sydney. It was ridiculous.”
Before they jet off to Australia to continue living their rock-star lifestyles, the trio are performing the new show in Dublin and London, and O’Brien promises, “You can expect a lot of weird stuff. Demian is currently in the process of trying to work out a five-minute drum solo that’s going to involve all sorts of juggling glow sticks and nonsense. It’s gonna be a silly show.”
However, when a comedy band wear such outrageously tight trousers, Otwo can’t help but be more intrigued by the practicalities of the much-promised tighter pants than by drum solos and glow sticks. Dead Cat Bounce of course, are not an act to disappoint. “We’re actually having new costumes made at the moment and yes, they’re fully skin-tight, they’re very shiny and there’s a lot of glitter involved. We’re going to step it up this time. There’s going to be a lot of rhinestones, and it’s going to be very sexy.” If ever there were things which simply epitomise the rock-and-roll dream, they most definitely are a studding gun and a lot of glitter.
Dead Cat Bounce perform their new show, Howl of the She-Leopard at Vicar Street on February 24th. Tickets are priced at €20.