County Clare ‘neo-trad’ band Moxie tell Adam Shaw that they want to be known in the UK
When you’ve been brought up on everything from The Police to Michael Coleman, you’d be forgiven for not aligning your music to one particular genre.
Such an education, one so varied and enriching, was enjoyed by Ted and Jos Kelly during their formative years on the west coast of Ireland. They channelled this, with the help of a few mates, to create a distinctive sound for their band, ‘Moxie’, which fuses Irish trad with a host of other styles.
Now they’re looking to conquer Britain, with slots lined up over the St Patrick’s Day weekend and beyond.
“We’re really looking forward to coming to London because we’ve got family over there and people have been telling us for ages that we should go,” Ted says. “It’s a good market to break into and we gather that things can get a bit mad over there – in a good way, of course.”
This ‘madness’ is what Moxie thrive off.
Their energetic performances feed off an equally energetic crowd to create a special atmosphere.
“People who’ve seen us play often talk about the energy we bring and that’s just something we’ve always had as musicians.
“It’s great having Paddy [Hazelton] on the drums as he brings this strong, driving rhythm. We sometimes call it ‘nuclear music’ because of the energy involved. Another phrase the band have coined is ‘neo-trad’. This came about because, like most of their musical upbringings, they didn’t want to be confined to one genre.
Ted explains that while their roots lie in trad – in the most obvious, Irish sense – there music can hardly be described as such. “It’s a fusion of different types of music from around the world. There’s jazz, bluegrass, everything in there.
“People can be quick to assign you to a certain style of music but we wanted to create our own.
“And this could change; we want to keep things fresh because there’s always a cry for things that are new and original.”
But these boys, first and foremost, are Irish. They might travel the world introducing people to their music, their songs might not be typically ‘trad’ but they never forget where they came from. Ted notes that maintaining the roots of what they learnt on the west coast of their homeland is extremely important and how their forming in Co. Sligo will remain with them wherever they go.
“It shows where you came from and forms part of your identity. At the end of the day, our music will always be Irish. It’s what we know, it’s in our make-up. We know all about the structures and traditions of Ireland and its music.
“Whatever we play, there will always be Irish elements to it. But that’s not forced, it just happens naturally.”
Their fondness for liveliness lends itself to an Irish sound. Everything from jigs and reels to Celtic rock can be accompanied by movement.
This has been a source of their success, particularly when it comes to their work on ‘Prodijig’ – a revolutionary dance project that ran at the Cork Opera House. The show sold out and was referred to as ‘the new Riverdance’, while The Irish Examiner reported that “the explosive beat of the drumming finale had the entire house on its feet”.
Moxie hope to take it around the world and are working on developing it for future audiences. They’ve discovered that there is an appetite for their sound outside of Ireland, with markets in continental Europe, Australia and Asia embracing it.
“We’re heading off to France and we’ve got shows across the rest of Europe lined up. We even went to Vietnam with President Michael D. Higgins and they loved it over there.
“There’s a market for this music all over the world – it’s just about finding it.”
The band are happy that they’ve got their sound. A mixture of genres from around the world built on a bedrock of Irish trad has enabled them to stand apart. They are also a go-getting group, choosing to try and crack the British market rather than perform in Sri Lanka.
“Three days on the beach would have been nice but there are times when you need to look at what’s the best route to take,” Ted explains.
That route is across the Irish Sea, where they will finally get the chance to show crowds over here what they’re all about. But, just like their music, they’ll continue to adapt and continue to develop; drawing on elements from all corners of the globe with a distinctive Irish feel. Moxie are performing at the London Irish Centre on 17 March and at Camden Market on 18 March.