By David Hennessy
“I’ll make an effort,” begins Enda Mulloy who plays bass with London’s favourite Celtic rock band, The BibleCode Sundays when the lads are asked how the band name came about. “Myself and Andy used to do a Sunday gig and invariably, we would end up on the lash. And when me and Andy used to get drunk, we used to start talking about conspiracy theories, and there was a book at the time called The Bible Code and it’s about conspiracy theories and hidden messages in The Bible, and me and Andy were reading it at the time and a friend of ours piped up and said: ‘Is it another Bible Code Sunday then?’”
And this late night question gave the band, then known as Slainte, the name of their first album. Lead singer and guitarist Ronan McManus explains how it came to be their moniker: “When we came to rename the band, we thought: ‘We need a unique name because we went to America where there’s a million bands called Slainte. What’s a unique name? Let’s take the name from the album: BibleCode Sundays. And now everyone thinks we’re a Christian rock band.”
“And then they meet us,” accordion player Andy Nolan points out how quickly that misconception is put right.
Asked if any of the band think there could be something in the Bible Code theory that at least some of the band seem to have discussed, Ronan answers: “No. The Bible Code book was a flop so therefore, we named ourselves after a flop. We had a song called Welcome to Cricklewood which was a pun on Welcome to Collinwood. The film was also a flop. Maybe we’re cursing people’s careers. Maybe it’s our fault.”
The curse of the BibleCodes is something the band joke quite a lot about. “A lot of the venues that we’ve named in our sons have since closed down: Dicey’s, Spanish Arch. So is there any truth in these conspiracy theories? Yes!”
The crowd always joins in with the “let’s go Dicey’s” line in Drinking All Day. Its mention evokes nostalgia for some but Ronan points out: “Theres’ some kids who are singing it who are just 18 and could never have been in Dicey’s but still know of the legend that is Dicey’s. It’s like Dicey’s is like a phenomenon. It’s like Middle Earth. It lives beyond the realms of just a nightclub.”
“It’s more like Mordor, I think,” says Andy.
Ronan’s famous brother Elvis Costello sang I Don’t Want to Go To Chelsea but the youngest of the McManus brothers is not so resistant as next month, the band will launch their latest album titled New Hazardous Design, at Chelsea FC’s Under the Bridge. Playing under their current name since 2006, The BibleCode Sundays have built up an incredible local following with tracks like Drinking All Day always getting a fierce reaction. In 2006, the band picked up an Irish World Award as Best Band on the London Circuit. The official band of London Irish rugby club for some years and their song “Maybe It’s because I’m an Irish Londoner” is an official club song. The band have supported well known Boston based Celtic rock band, Dropkick Murphys both in America and the UK and played to large crowds at Glastonbury, Twickenham and Celtic Park.
They were supportive of the county’s footballers and events such as Rock 4 Londain and the video Londain Calling (with other London-Irish musicians) which raised funds to get Paul Coggins’ team over to Ireland as they historically reached a Connacht final. They have also been involved in fundraising initiatives involving other musicians on the scene, under the moniker The Ginger Melodeon Experience.
The band’s line-up has changed over the years but is now made up of Ronan on guitar and vocals, Kian Chanter on lead guitar, Patrick Franklin on fiddle, Enda Mulloy on bass and vocals, Andy Nolan on accordion and Carlton Hunt on drums.
The very contemporary sounding collection includes more introspective numbers to go along with the more raucous sound we associate them with. “It certainly displays more where we are,” says Ronan. “When (flute player) Joe Moran left (now a member of The Good The Bad and The Ginger), we replaced him with a lead guitarist. That in itself is a big statement from us because we’ve all been influenced by guitar music over the years. We didn’t really have the chance to display that before because we were so trad based with the flute, fiddle and the box. Now with the guitar coming in, we’ve all reached in and explored that side of ourselves. It’s a lot more balanced, I think. Kian coming in unlocks all of that. ”
Enda points out another progression: “The songwriting is more mature. A couple of the things we’re singing about are a lot more mature than drinking in pubs and going on the lash and things like that.”
Ronan quips “we don’t do that anymore” before everyone erupts into hysterics.
Fans of the band may have already heard some of the new material as it featured on Tax City, the short film that band member Andy Nolan wrote and produced. Starring Steve Collins, the former boxer, and Jon Campling of the Harry Potter films, the film premiered at BAFTA in April and Andy is now developing a feature film. His bandmates have supported him all the way, even appearing in the film.
“I wanted to incorporate as much of our own stuff,” Andy explains. “It would have been easy to use other bands but I thought we’re a fairly decent band so I just wanted to include our music in that short film Tax City and I enjoyed that creative control of putting in what I wanted rather than being dictated to by anyone else.”
The film’s premiere gave people a chance to hear tracks from the new album such as Count Your Blessings, the video for which also premiered on the night, and whetted the appetite for the new album. Ronan says: “I think it’s been a long process for us to get this album done. So many little things happened along the way like Andy’s short film. We actually went to America last year, was it last year and we actually released some songs, old recordings- not off the new album. Some songs have leaked out from live gigs, Andy’s short film. If people have been paying attention over the last couple of years, they’ve probably heard half the album without really knowing it. These songs have been knocking around for a while. It feels strange to only be releasing them now but they’re ready now.
In addition to starring in Tax City, Steve Collins also appeared in the video to Count Your Blessings. He wasn’t the only famous face with the promo vid also featuring Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane and Hollywood’s Mickey Rourke. How did their cameos come about? Andy tells the story: “Basically we’re friends with Steve Collins and then we also know Mark Hutchinson who was in Tax City and happens to be the best friend of Robbie Keane. It’s a small world and Mark Hutchison is very best friends with Robbie Keane and Mickey Rourke is also very good friends with Steve Collins from his boxing days in America. We just thought: ‘Who can we get in?’
Ronan adds: “The strange thing is Robbie Keane is now in LA playing for LA Galaxy and Mickey Rourke is living in LA so they’re now buddies. They’re buddies through little old us and stuff.”
Andy asks: “Should we be worried about their career prospects?”
The band can count Liberty X’s Tony Lundon and soccer player Shaun Derry as celebrity fans but Robbie Keane has even sang with the band on two occasions.
Speaking of movies, who would the band pick to play themselves in a film of The BibleCode Sundays? “Ray Winstone (could be Andy,” says Enda.
“I was gonna go with Kate Winslet,” Ronan argues.
“I would be happy with either of those,” Andy says before adding: “Might have to bring Shane Magowan out of retirement (for Enda). I think he’s the only man for the job. Jude Law could be me.”
Ronan thinks: “Carlton could be… who plays Uncle Festa?”
“Christopher Lloyd,” Andy answers.
“I’d say Elvis Costello to play me,” says Ronan. “He’s a bit like me.
“Paddy McCourt to play Kian,” suggests Carlton.
“Patrick could be played by Kate Winslet,” says Ronan.
Certainly sounds like it’s going to be an interesting film…
The band collected their Irish World Award was a special night for Ronan with his late father, the well known musician Ross McManus also receiving an accolade. “We had a table of us and a table of my family,” the singer remembers. “It was great. I’ve now got my dad’s award on the piano.”
Speaking of the band’s award, Andy says: “We were very proud of it. We were really pleased and delighted to get it. It’s nice to get recognition. We had put a lot of hard work into this and written all our own songs.”
But the story didn’t end there as Enda continues: “The worst thing was Linda Martin was at those awards and she wanted us to go over and do that You’re A Star so we did. And we got through the heats and at the phone votes, we got so drunk Andy knocked down half the set and nearly killed someone from another band. We were absolutely a thundering disgrace. The RTE film crew came over to London and we broke down in the van we had on Staples Corner and we had to put them in the AA van.”
A laughing Andy Nolan adds: “You see a pattern building up, we’re a bit of a hex.”
The Irish World is actually beginning to think there’s something in this before Ronan jokes: “Well good luck with your journalism career. I’ll see you in Tesco’s.”
Dropkick Murphys are well known with their Shipping up to Boston featuring heavily in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Lead singer Ken Casey told The Irish World he thought highly of The BibleCode Sundays, saying the bands were on the same page “lyrically and musically”. The local six piece are often spoken of as being the London equivalent of the American band. How do they feel about this comparison? “Do you know what? When we recorded the Boots or no Boots album especially, we purposely wanted to be the Dropkick Murphys for the London-Irish. We wrote songs that were about the places that we drank in, our friends, to represent London Irish culture. That was the point of that album so it’s exactly right to say that. That’s what we were trying for. Now we realize we need to grow beyond that but that was our aim in the first place, was to be exactly that so it’s perfectly fair to say that.”
Andy adds: “When it comes to Irish-American bands, they’re the benchmark really and something we’d like to aspire to.”
Someone else the band has played with is Ronan’s well known brother, Elvis Costello. Could we see the band on the same stage as the singer of Oliver’s Army and other hits in the future? “I hope so,” says Ronan. “I think so. I think it’s gonna make more sense for our relationship. As we get older, we get closer. That’s how it’s worked because there’s obviously an age gap so as I get older we have more in common. I think it’s going to become more relevant for us to be on the same stage as we get older, as we progress as a band. Obviously he’s huge so for him to have us onstage with him is a big thing for us and it’s great, I think it will happen more and more as we get older. ”If Elvis’ career can survive working with us!”
The BibleCode Sundays launch their new album, New Hazardous Design, at Under the Bridge, Chelsea on November 22. For more information, go to: http://biblecodesundays.com/.
For the full feature, see the October 26 Irish World