If it’s not fun it’s not worth it.
Intellectualism in music without engagement, without fun, is pointless. Likewise, fun without some depth, without a creative bent, isn’t engaging. Cúla Búla have mastered that very fine balancing act: being creative without pretentiousness and fun without being dumb. The best of both words coalesced into one worthwhile concoction.
Literally tailor-made for a festival, vocalist and tin whistle player Jeremy Jenkinson brought the band together to play the disastrous Elysian Circus.1 festival.
"We thought it was absolutely brilliant, we were so pleased with ourselves!" says Jeremy. "Everyone was dancing, everything was great…"
"Looked back at filmed footage of the whole thing and for the first forty minutes, we were just sound checking fucking cluelessly, like aimlessly. And then the rest of the gig just seems to be like this mash of tunes mangled all together with everyone playing different parts at different times and dancing like lunatics!"
Nonetheless, they were invited back to play the "unfortunately run" sequel festival:
"We were meant to play on Friday evening at around six. We ended up playing Saturday night at like, 4:00AM. They said 'oh you’re on next!' I’d just gone to bed in the car to get myself right and all and sure, we were backstage for like two hours with nothing but speed and vodka to keep us straight for the gig!"
Three months later, Jeremy met ‘some fella’ at a party who recognised him from the gig: "You’re that band that got onstage completely mangled and played that gig!" he told him. "Oh yeah man sorry about that." “No man it was brilliant! I can’t believe yis got on the stage, that was so rock n’ roll! I’d love to see more shit like that!"
“I’d love to see more shit like that,” sums up a Cúla Búla gig. Mangled or not, their shows are a joyous spectacle. A mixture of rugged traditional Irish music and punk rock energy, the Cúla Búla sound is as thrilling a melding of these styles as Dropkick Murphys’ but not in the least bit derivative.
It’s all to do with getting the sounds they hear in their heads out into the world. Nothing to do with keeping Irish trad relevant or alive, but satisfying their own creative urges and ambitions.
"I’d regard Jeremy as one of the main trad players in the band," guitarist Ricky Brown says. "I’d never played trad before in my life. So when I joined, it was very interpretive. It was sort of an interpretation of all our collective styles that landed itself in sort of a happy medium."
He continues: "then we started to play with it, add different sorts of grooves and just experimenting. It wasn't really planned."
Bassist Luke Longarms says that the five members of Cúla Búla have no single band in common "except this one." Their individual styles and musical tastes come together to form their very ragged, rhythmic take on several different genres: ska, reggae, folk, trad, heavy metal. And it’s these outside influences that set Cúla Búla apart from bands that plough a similar furrow, but are stuck in the mud of copycat-isms.
But being originals comes with its own set of challenges and hurdles to overcome. Ireland is a country notoriously unreceptive of creativity. And being a band that writes and performs their own music puts them at a disadvantage in a land that mostly wants wedding/cover bands and top-40 DJs.
"Irish promoters and venues don’t treat bands properly," says Luke. "You have to fight to get a pint out of half the places…"
Fiddler/guitarist Henry Egan adds "playing your own original music puts you at a serious disadvantage. You have to play what everyone else wants you to play."
Jeremy sums it up when he says "You have to play like classic pop or rock-pop covers. If you want to make money as an independent musician, you have to fund it by playing at corporate gigs or playing at like, tourist gigs…"
Luke Longarms interjects: "You have to suck the capitalist teat!"
Jeremy continues: "It’s a long road to actually making enough money to live on your original music."
But Cúla Búla have a mission. As Jeremy outlines it: "If you want to sell underpants you’ll end up with a lot of people who just have loads of pants."
"So you have to make more dirty bottoms if you want to sell more pants. And that’s what we’re trying to do musically."
And with that, they take to the stage upstairs in The Loft, Galway. Between the quality of their output and the good humour they utilise, Cúla Búla deserve a much higher level of recognition than they currently enjoy. But nights such as this storming gig will, at the very least, cement their reputation in the stones of infamy, and great craic.