Ahead of their mini Irish tour which kicks off next week, we caught up with the Tipperary-native, Dublin-based folk group, Raffiki. These six talented musicians are family members and close friends who focus on collaborative song-writing and delicate harmonies. Their music is nostalgic and heart felt and a refreshing example of modern folk and soft rock. Taking a welcome break from rehearsals in Temple Lane Recording Studio, we sit down to chat about the ‘rock & roll’ life of touring in Ireland, being heckled by metal fans and how it’s never a good idea to be blind drunk on-stage.
“I always rub linseed oil into my triceps before a gig, it relaxes me,” Guitarist Toots says of his pre-tour preparations. The band play their first date this Wednesday night in the Roisin Dubh and are getting match fit for their first ever Irish tour. While they’re exited, Jimmy who’s one of the lead vocalists and guitarists tells us that orchestrating practice hasn’t been an easy task:
“It’s difficult because all six of us have jobs and work funny hours and have been trying to squeeze in practice at every spare opportunity but it’s usually the case that one or two of us are missing. Getting a full band practice is a novelty recently. It’s been jiggery pokery!”
“Jiggery Pokery!” Laughs Toots “I like that. Now there’s a name for the album! What do you think?”
The current group have been together as Raffiki for two years but have played music together for much longer. In the case of brother and sister, Jimmy and Grace, they’ve been singing and playing music together their whole lives with their cousin and the band’s keyboard player, Laura. Bass player, Jinky had played with them in previous bands too. At this stage they certainly know each other very well!
Raffiki recently featured on The Other Voices Derry Music Trail and won the Irish leg of Hard Rock Rising 2013 – a global battle of the bands competition run by Hard Rock Cafe. However, their win was a controversial one. Fans of the runners up caused uproar when Raffiki were announced the winners – not only on the night but the jibes continued on the Hark Rock Cafe’s facebook page the following day. Jinky insists that there are no hard feeling from their side:
“I really enjoyed that competition and it was great for us as a band. The shit that came after didn’t bother me. It was no fault of that band, but their fans’ reactions ended up making them look bad. It was a bit disheartening when we went up to play the second time after we won and one of them shouted “You’re shite!” I didn’t react, I just started smiling. It’s the only way to approach that situation.”
“The singer looked disappointed on the night,” Toots added, “but he came over and congratulated me after and shook my hand. It was just the fans that let them down.”
They acknowledge that you can’t be the most popular band in every room, not everyone’s going to like you. You’ve got to have a thick skin in the business. While they’re beginning to get philosophical, Grace pipes in with an embarrassing anecdote from the night:
“I was mortified that night. I wasn’t singing with them because I couldn’t make it to the previous round so I was just watching, and drinking! After we were announced the winners, the judge came down and dragged me on-stage to sing with the rest of them. The problem was I wasn’t expecting to perform and I’d gotten so drunk at that stage, I don’t remember a thing! Inevitably, I fell over and I think that’s the video they’re using on their website!”
Joking and minor hiccups aside, Raffiki take their music seriously and have been ambitious since day one. After the competition, they were approached about recording an album and are buzzing at the prospect: “We’re in talks some people who have some brilliant ideas about changing the way you release music – like combining the music with art books that tell the story. I think in the next 10-15 years some band will come along and revolutionise the way music is released. It’s already changed but it doesn’t fully work yet. If you could be that band, you’re away,” Jinky enthuses.
“Lately we’ve been making more of an effort to project our identity and not just turn up and perform“, adds Grace, “We’re still working on it. Like Stevie Nicks has her cape, we need something that sets us apart. We dress more in tuned now so that’s a start.”
As well as working on an album they want to play live and are hoping to get some festival slots:
“Electric Picnic would be our dream gig. It’s the best festival there is. The whole weekend is like a trip. I remember we were all there together sitting in the grass eating a burger and someone said: “Jesus, there’s a canoe in that tree.” There really was!” Grace laughs.
If that’s their dream gig what’s their dream support slot?
“Little Green Cars,” says Toots without hesitation “I think we’d go well with them”
“Of Monsters and Men!” adds Grace
“Or Radiohead!” Jinky pipes in. ”
See Raffiki work their magic when they play the Roisin Dubh, Galway (April 24th), The Blind Pig, Limerick (April 25th), The Twisted Pepper (April 26th) and Sals, Waterford (April 27th).