Ronan, Andy, Enda and Joe of The Biblecode Sundays told David Hennessy about reuniting after Ronan left the band in 2019 following the passing of drummer Carlton Hunt.
The BibleCode Sundays hold a special place within the Irish community in London.
The community connected with them in a way they didn’t with bands from elsewhere or even mainstream bands and they provided the soundtrack to special moments in their lives.
But the band, led by Ronan MacManus, was never entirely aware of what they meant to people. It’s something that has become apparent to them more recently. Something else that gratifies them is that they are now playing for a new generation of the London Irish.
Now that Ronan has returned after some years away from the band, the BibleCode Sundays have reformed to the six-man line-up of before Ronan’s departure.
Following the death of drummer Carlton Hunt in 2017 and Ronan’s subsequent departure, it looked like we would never see another BibleCode Sundays album.
Now Ronan and the band are looking forward to a special gig at Powerhaus in Camden (which was originally set for Under the Bridge, Stamford Bridge) this Saturday night, the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day.
There is also talk of a new album before the year is out.
This year it is fifteen years since the band released their second album which included some songs that have gone to become anthems.
Ronan says: “This year actually is 15 years since we recorded Boots or No Boots which is the album that has (Maybe it’s Because I’m An) Irish Londoner and Drinking All Day.
“It was just a great time to get back together.
“The first few gigs, we were really so excited.
“We were like little kids on Christmas Day.”
Bassist Enda Mulloy says: “I think the lockdown really made people re-explore music again.
“I was constantly getting messages, ‘Just listened to Boots or No Boots. You know, this is great stuff. You should write and record another album’.
“We’re all keen to do another album for sure.”
Ronan says: “I think it was because we lost Carlton just over four years ago.
“After Carlton died, we didn’t really play our own stuff very much.
“At that time, we were kind of just getting the gigs done.
“Now there’s this sort of resurgence of, ‘Let’s play our own songs again.
“So it was a bit of an idea of, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly. Let’s get out there and really get the songs out there again and reimagine the whole thing again’.
“We had just launched our last album Walk Like kings when Carlton died, so that never really got a fair crack of the whip.
“Obviously we didn’t do anything to promote the album after that so we sort of feel like there’s unfinished business just to play those songs again.
“Carlton had written some songs on that album.
“So we sort of feel like those songs never got their time to shine so we sort of owe it to him to go out there and do it again.”
The lads know that Carlton would want them to carry on.
Drummer Joe Cotterill, who replaced Carlton, remembers getting that phone call.
Joe says: “The lads gave me the call and it was just the strangest feeling.
“Even though I’ve known the lads, and my best friend’s auntie was Carlton’s wife, so I had that connection.
“When Kian called me and said, ‘Look…’
“I said, ‘I know what you’re calling me about.”
Joe would be filling in for Carlton in the immediate aftermath of his passing in what was a tough time for all.
Ronan says: “We gigged the day after. The day after Carlton died, we had a charity gig for an air ambulance in Luton, couldn’t let them down.
“We thought well, ‘When would be a good time to go back?”
“And Carlton would want us to gig.
“He died on the Friday. We actually gigged on the Saturday. And we just kept going.
“It was really his philosophy to take the gig, do the gig. He was always a driving force in the band for that, for keeping on gigging and keeping on going.
“The running joke is always that he played with everybody over the years so the best tribute we could make for him is to get back out there and doing it.
“And I think that’s something that we all feel, and something he would be very proud of. And it’s something that would be very familiar to him.”
Enda says: “We wanted to carry on. We just didn’t want him to be gone.
“It really, really hurt a lot.
“It’s a big loss. Someone that you’re working with every weekend for 10, 15 years.
“He’s godfather to my kids. I was best man at his wedding and to lose someone like that just like that was really hard.
“And then the interest just went out of the band.
“I didn’t have any interest in it anymore to be honest.
“We were just going through the motions.”
In January 2019 it was announced that Ronan had left the band who continued to gig with guitarist Kian Chanter taking over on vocals.
Ronan says: “About a year after Carlton died, I left and I was struggling a lot at that time, mental health wise, was really at a low ebb and I needed to kind of get my life back on track.
“The lockdown period kind of made us all have to stop.
“No one was gigging and we were getting messages through from people saying, ‘Are you guys gonna play again together when everything opens up?’
“We all just kind of got chatting again over the lockdown and thought, ‘Let’s do something’.
“We talked about doing a big gig with all of us and it being kind of a big emotional return.
“And then it was more practicality that got me on the stage with the lads again.
“Kian was stuck in Ireland and he had taken over as lead singer when I left.
“So after this big idea of doing this big emotional reunion, it was like, ‘We’ve got a gig in The Three Wishes, can you cover it?’
“So it was very BibleCode Sundays of us just to kind of get back together without really mentioning it.”
“By accident,” Enda adds.
Ronan continues: “So we kind of wound up in the same boat really sort of thinking, ‘Well, how do we build this back?’
“So rather than me rejoining, it sort of feels like we’re all rejoining at the same time.
“It feels a bit more like that to me.
“And to learn their names again was tough.
“But no, it’s been really great.
“I mean, for the first few gigs back, we were like children on a Christmas morning. We were so excited.
“And then we realized about three songs in we were we weren’t match fit at all. We had to play a slow one.”
Andy adds on that note: “I just remember sweating so much and feeling really out of shape.
“Because we haven’t smashed those songs out in a long time, like The Green and Red of Harrow, it makes you realize what we were doing years ago and how hard we were actually working.”
“We were fifteen years younger,” Ronan points out.
Andy continues: “But it does make you realize that we were a high energy band but we’ll get that back hopefully by Paddy’s week.
“I don’t know now but it’s worth coming to Under the Bridge and finding out.
“We’ve got chiropractors on standby.”
Ronan says: “I think the first few gigs we did, we just laughed the whole time.
“We had such fun. I totally loved being on stage with the lads again and the energy that is created when we’re together, there is no other band like it.
“I don’t feel that with anybody else as much as I do with these guys.
“And it felt like I’ve never been away.”
Enda says: “We did a gig last Saturday and we did Paddy Devil.
“We hadn’t played that song in 15 years if we ever played it.
“And every single one of us knew it note for note perfect so it was great.
“We all roared laughing at the end of it at how well we remembered it which was good.
“That was quite refreshing to know that we still have it.
“Somewhere in the filing system, those songs are still there even though we haven’t played them for years.”
Ronan says: “It’s kind of nice because we’re all doing different gigs as well.
“Because of the nature of the way the pubs have gone, we’re all doing solo shows, duos, trios, different things like that.
“So we’re not playing together every single night of every single weekend and that makes it more special when we are all together, and we haven’t played with Kian and Patrick in so long as well.
“They’re coming over for the Under the Bridge gig so it’s going to be fantastic to all be playing on the same stage again together.”
All have remained busy with their own things even when not playing together. In his time away from the band Ronan was working as a solo artist and formed Brand New Zeros.
Bassist Enda Mulloy released his debut album Rainbow Frogs in Midlife Crisis just before Christmas.
Accordion player Andy Nolan has written and produced short films Tax City and Jack Mulligan, and been writing the crime book, Green Bloods.
Perhaps being disbanded for a few years has added to the band’s mystique as the band find a new generation seeking them out.
Their upcoming gig at Under the Bridge is a chance for them to see the lads in action and also celebrate being reunited.
Ronan says: “We’re finding there’s a whole generation of kids whose parents were following us 15 years ago and now they’re coming to our gigs and they know the words to Irish Londoner and stuff.”
Andy adds: “Yeah, but a lot of these guys didn’t see us live so that was the reasoning behind our upcoming Paddy’s weekend gig at Powerhaus.
“There’s gonna be a lot of new kids who have never really seen us play live before and it’s an opportunity for them to maybe get down with their parents and see it all kick off.”
Ronan has spoken to the Irish World before about being overwhelmed and a little surprised to learn from people just how much the band had meant.
He says: “I think the nights that we’re remembering all the time, we did the Galtymore, the nights we did the Claddagh, all those big nights that happened over the over the course of the years are looked back on as such fond memories for people- Well the bits they can actually remember because they were pretty messy those nights.
“But I think those nights is what people need now.
“They need that buzz and that fun.
“And I think we’ve discovered that in ourselves as well, that sort of fun element of being in a band because it was just the best days of all of our lives, being on tour and doing all those things.
“And just to feel like we’re recreating that for another generation is great.
“And the people that are coming out the woodwork we haven’t seen in so long, friends of ours- Because a lot of people who were watching us back then have now married, had kids and maybe don’t go out as much.
“They’re sort of getting babysitters and coming out again reliving the past so it’s fantastic.”
Andy says: “I think that identity that we were proud of, that London Irish identity continues, but people need someone to continue that for them. And something to rally around and that was always us.
“And if that disappeared, then they were kind of lost a little bit.
“There’s plenty of Irish bands on the London scene, as you know.
“But I think a lot of people look towards us to fly the flag a bit and I think between COVID and Ronan leaving and Carlton passing away, the wheels fell off a bit but now that it’s back together, it means a lot to a lot of people: That sense of Irishness.
“A big city like London can swallow you up so it’s important for people to hold on to their identity still and have that in 2022 same as they had it back in the 90s.”
Fans can now expect a new album and perhaps one that could hark back to the sound of Boots or No Boots, although they haven’t ruled out anything.
Enda says: “The next step is to write the album. I haven’t written anything yet. (to Ronan) Have you?
Ronan says: “Nothing yet. We will though.”
Enda says, “Yeah, it’s coming.”
Ronan laughs, “It will be out by Pady’s Day.”
The band burst onto the scene with the album Ghosts of our Past in 2006. This was swiftly followed in 2007 with Boots or No Boots with the latter giving songs like Drinking All Day and Maybe It’s Because I’m an Irish Londoner which became firm favourites.
The band released their third album New Hazardous Design in 2013. Walk Like Kings would come in 2017, which was sadly the same year that Carlton died.
Enda says: “People always ask us about the latter two albums we did which were New Hazardous Design and Walk Like Kings.
“Everyone always says, ‘They’re not like the first two’.
“And they weren’t.
“We musically couldn’t write another Boots or No Boots of Ghosts of our Past.
“We had done that and we had to take it somewhere else.
“That’s just what we had to do and this time, we’re going to go back to the original format and we’re going to try..”
Ronan finishes: “Write songs about the Galtymore. They’re all McDonalds’ now so we’re gonna write songs about McDonald’s.
“I think it’s a curse. We stick a pub in a song and it gets shut down.
“So watch out if we mention your pub in our songs, it is doomed.”
Did the lads foresee this reunion? “I honestly didn’t think it would happen,” Andy admits.
Enda agrees, “We didn’t.”
Andy continues: “I’m glad it did. I think there is a lot of unfinished business to the point where there is definitely another album in us if we wanted to do that, and we probably will at some point this year.
“But yeah, I didn’t think Ronan was going to come back because we’re all gone off and doing different things and that seemed to be what it was gonna be like now for the next few years.
“There’s definitely more songs in us and it’s not gonna be about the Galtymore and places like that.
“We might to reinvent ourselves, but we’re quite good at that.
“We’ve done that over four albums, so we’ll just see where it takes us.
“We’re not gonna force it.
“If we feel like it’s gonna be like a Boots or No Boots sort of album, then so be it. But if it’s more New Hazardous Design or Walk Like Kings, then great because I think they’re all great albums in their own right.
“We’re just going to see how it goes. We’re Just taking it one step at a time really.”
Ronan says: “Yeah, we might be like the new Little Mix.”
In closing Enda says: “Powerhaus is going to be brilliant. We’ve got to pull out all the stops to make sure that that’s a good show.
“I’ve had messages through social media and when we’re gigging, ‘It’s great to see you guys back playing together’.
“I think our music meant a lot to so many people and I think people need music more than ever now.
“And that applies to our stuff as well which is really nice to hear.”
The BibleCode Sundays play Powerhaus in Camden on 19 March.