The Dublin music scene is growing more diverse with each release, and it’s become a cliché to say that a band’s sound is hard to describe. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a project with a noise as distinct and new as No Monster Club. A mish-mash of gritty confrontation, surfer vibes and fuzzy recordings, the lads are caving a musical path entirely their own. We spoke to frontman Bobby Aherne about his upcoming tour, children’s theme tunes and exploding vans.
No Monster Club started as a solo project, before you were joined by Mark Chester and Paddy Hanna. How did you meet the lads?
I was a big fan of a band called Grand Pocket Orchestra, I used to go along to all their shows. Then when they recorded their album they realised they couldn’t perfectly reproduce the sound live so they asked the guy that went along to all the gigs if he wanted to play extra keyboards, and that was me! So I started playing with them, and they started playing with my band as well. Then Mark started his own band, Ginnels, and we played in that too. So we’re in a few bands together.
So who has writing duties in No Monster Club?
I write all the songs and come up everything. Every second album we do is as a band and then the next one is a solo record. Not because I’m fed up with them or anything! [Laughs] It just happens that way. The name No Monster Club does imply that there’s one more than one person. So it would be difficult for me to play a solo show, people would be wondering what kind of a weird club it is!
How does the sound change when the guys play with you?
When it’s the three of us it’s the traditional three-piece power pop set-up. It’s a bit more punky. More gang shouts, and everything is faster and louder. Then when I do stuff on my own my songs are usually based around keyboards or acoustic guitar.
A lot of your songs are very short, is there a reason for that?
Well when Paddy is drumming he’s really expressing himself, he really beats the shit out of those drums. He tends to gallop to the finish line, there’s no letting up for a second. So what perhaps should be a four minute song turns out to be two minutes because of how fast we play it! Then also I don’t like repeating ideas in a song, I like playing everything once and finishing it as quickly as possible. So if you like the chorus, you can go back and listen to it again, rather than us having to play it three or four times. And then if you don’t like the chorus, you can just go onto the next song! We like leaving some work up to the listener. [Laughs]
How do you usually approach writing music?
I’ve got a lot of children’s theme tunes from the seventies constantly looping around in my head. When variations of them pop into my head at different times, I sit down at the next possible opportunity and try to spin it into a song that doesn’t sound like the Famous Five theme tune, or something from Rupert The Bear, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
Your sound is pretty lo-fi, and you release your albums on cassettes. What do you find attractive about old-school media?
Well CDs seem to be on the way out and we’ve released a couple of things on vinyl but when you’re turning over stuff as regularly as I am, it makes more sense to put it online and on tape. By the time the vinyl gets made you’re ready to release the next thing, so it’s easier just to put them on a tape and get them out there!
Your tape ‘Posthumous Hits’ has 48 songs! Are you stockpiling songs between releases?
With that release I had a lot of recordings and I hadn’t really thought about what they were going to be for. Then a Chicago label, Already Dead Records, sent me a message and asked if I wanted to release a tape with them. They said the longest the tape could be was 90 minutes. So I said, give me a couple of months and I’ll fill all 90 minutes, because leaving any blank space would be a waste! So that’s how that it ended up adding up to 48 songs.
Before No Monster Club, you were in a band called Dublin Duck Dispensary. What happened to that project?
Well, that was also just me, and I was helped out live by two friends of mine, Eoin and Karl. Eoin went to college so we weren’t able to play anymore. Then I started thinking that maybe people weren’t taking it too seriously because of the name. I think people saw it as a joke, and although it kind of was a joke, I thought that having a better name might help. It was a very enjoyable name to make, though! Who knows, maybe if I hadn’t changed the name I could be on Top of the Pops now!
Since No Monster Club was formed, you’ve collaborated with some cool people. You did a split record with Panda Kid in 2011. How did that come about?
Panda Kid is this crazy Italian guy, he’s brilliant. I think he just emailed me out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to release a split with him, in half Italian, half English. And once I figured out what he was talking about I was well up for that! So we released that together on an Italian label, and then he came and played in Ireland after that. It was like a foreign exchange programme. He’s my big Italian brother!
Is there anyone else you’d like the chance to collaborate with?
We’ve played some shows with The Polyphonic Spree, and Tim DeLaughter is super. Every project that he’s ever been involved in is just fantastic. So he’d be a match made in heaven!
Who would you consider your biggest influences?
A lot of American garage-pop from the past ten years has been a big influence. Somewhere between that and childish bubble-gum pop from the sixties and seventies, I try to find a middle ground. So it’s like, if the Teletubbies were put through a blender, with a toaster, and someone got an electric shock because they were trying to make a smoothie in it… That’s where our sound lies!
You’ve got a tour coming up with M.SORD. You played with him last year in the States, what was your favourite experience from last year’s tour?
Yeah, we really miss him! We spent the tour in a van that had a license plate that said ‘I LOVE SLOTS’. Then after spending a month in the van, we arrived back to Ireland and M.SORD sent us a photo of the van. It was after exploding in the snow, and it burnt to a crisp! So I suppose the best memory of the American tour was that we made it home alive! We had a fun time in that van, a lot of friendships were made in it. We’d never met M.SORD before and he was a real enigma, a very mysterious man. At some point we cracked the mystery and we opened up a vault of all sorts. He’s like a spirit animal or something, but also a real man.
You’ve shared on your Facebook that you’ve got some free dates on the tour, and you’d consider any gigs offered. If you could choose any Dublin venue to play, which would be your dream one?
That’s the way we did it in America, we played everywhere and had a lot of fun. We played in basements of houses, a weird jazz club, and on children’s television in Chicago. So that’s the way we’d love to do it in Ireland. So I’d say, ideally somebody’s living room where their parents are away for the weekend would be the dream venue!
You’ve got a new album out soon, have you got any information about that?
I don’t know what it’s called yet, but it’s coming out on the 25th of January on Mirror Universe, a New York label who have released Washed Out and Toro Y Moi, a lot of bands that went on to bigger things. It’s one I did on my own but it’s not an acoustic album, it’s got millions of things going on. I probably put more time into this one that anything before, and I’m pretty proud of it.
Can’t wait to hear it! Will there be a cassette?
Of course! There’ll be a cassette and a CD, the CD will be on Popical Island over here, so you’ll have a choice of the two.
No Monster Club and M.SORD kick off their Run With The Night Tour with a BYOB show at The Pop Inn on November 7th.