So, where is the best place in Dundalk to wile away an evening? Pre or post-pub closures, of course. We can’t all be dialling out for our substantial meals. If it’s a pint that takes your fancy, where to go? Charles and Andrew Hendy of The Mary Wallopers seemed like the right men to ask.
The duo’s star has been rising since the release of their debut EP last year. With 2020 brought to an all too sudden stop for live music makers-and-goers, they were still happy enough to sit down and talk about how traditional Irish music is gaining a whole new audience. Don’t call it a comeback.
First things first – the Mary Wallopers at least know where to get that perfect pint in town. “Toale’s and anywhere in Seatown, Tata’s is savage,” comes the reply, from Charles. “The barman is also the only barman I ever met who stopped a row by just saying ‘Thanks, yeah, thanks lads, thanks, sorry now you have to leave.’ I have never seen people leave after being told thank you before.”
When the pubs aren’t closed, the band can also be found in The Spirit Store. “That’s a nice place. It used to be mental years ago. It was a wee tiny house, and to get upstairs there was this wee, tiny, one person stairs, it was a death trap. All the rooms had different music in them. It was an actual house with a bar on the front.”
Although the year was brought to an unforeseen and abrupt ending, Andrew says they are glad of the break. “We were delighted,” he tells LouthNow.ie.
“We played 153 gigs last year. The year before was probably more. We hadn’t stopped,” Charles explains. “It was actually really good to take that break. We were saying for ages that we should take a break but I don’t think we would have done it if the world hadn’t actually stopped.”
People who may be familiar with the band, may very well have heard of the individuals. Back in May, the Hendys made their way to Blackrock beach for what started off as being a mock protest against former presidential candidate and right wing activist Gemma O’Doherty and ended up as much more. In fact, the viral protest contributed to slowing the momentum of her anti lockdown protests across the country.
Andrew says that it was the right move to make. “Arguing with fascists never works,” he tells us.
The Mary Wallopers are one of the first bands in the country to announce a return to live music, starting with a paid of shows in The Kino in Cork this coming from Friday and Saturday. Given how venues have been shuttered and musicians locked away over the last few months, the appetite for tickets was insatiable.
The Hendy brothers are also known as the hip-hop duo TPM. This was the brothers’ original project and since then they have been concocting different events, each more creative than the last.
“The gigs sold out in half an hour. We’ll probably have a gig in Dundalk by the end of the year,” Charles says. “We were thinking of putting on a party called Spring Break 1999 where it’s like American Pie era, and just play all that style music.
“We have a ski boat in the back of the house and we were going to put scaffolding around it and DJ from it. Put the DJ booth into the speedboat and DJ from there, get frosted tips and gel up our hair and the whole lot. We will probably have to wait but it probably will happen.”
When it comes to politics, the brothers have never been shy in nailing their colours to the mast. The Hendy’s say that traditional Irish music from he 1800’s can be painfully relatable today in race terms. “When people listen to these songs they’re written from the immigrants perspective.
“You can relate it to a Nigerian person coming over here, you can take this ballad that was written in the 1800’s and put it into someone else’s eyes, it’s a hardship. A lot of the songs are from the immigrants point of view and they often are pro immigrant and pro equality.”
There has been a clear revival of trad Irish music in Ireland. With Lankum winning album of the year, there is a clear want in the Irish people to listen back on their roots as a nation. “The songs are still relevant,” Charles says.
Andrew added; “There’s more of a national identity and national pride around the country. When we were in school, playing ballads wasn’t cool. We played the accordion and it wasn’t cool. People sang in American accents in bands when they were teenagers.
“Now playing Irish music is cool. I think it’s from being in a recession and then getting out of it. The ballad movement in the sixties was also after a big recession. Eamonn De Valera was trying to force everyone to be conservative, catholic, Irish, and go to Ceili’s. Then when the recession ended and he left, people started to have their own identities and that’s where The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners came up. I think it happens every 20 years.”
“They’re not commissioned songs,” Charles add. “We never liked the idea of an artist who’s special. It should be somebody who’s ordinary. There’s songs we even sing about landlords that couldn’t be more relevant.”