One of the common themes of conversation during the Covid 19 lockdown in Ireland, is that modern technology has made shelter-in-place a little more tolerable. We are lucky to be alive in a time when all sorts of streaming services bringing us instant entertainment, and almost every song ever recorded is available at the push of a button or by asking Alexa. Yet there is a downside too, and the Irish band Fight Like Apes were one of the first to make me see it.
Fight Like Apes always stood out in Ireland’s small but talent-filled music scene. They claimed to have formed over a shared “extremely optimistically cynical outlook on life”. And boy, did they show it.
Their mix of synth-pop meets rock, showcasing a love of B-movies, computer games and wrestling, was quite the contrast to the moody, introspective singer songwriters that dominated. I love Damien Rice as much as the next man, but I don’t see him releasing an album with Do You Karate?, I’m Beginning to Think You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 to Me, or Recyclable Ass!
They wrote infectious tunes with funny, poignant and often quite rude lyrics, and lead singer MayKay was one of Ireland’s great front women.
The music was great, and won them many notable fans, including The Prodigy, Steve Lamaq and Jonathan Ross. They released three well reviewed albums and seemed on the brink of a breakthrough. But it was not to be.
In 2016 they announced their breakup with this statement on their Facebook page:
″Stick a fork in us, we’re done. We’ve been quiet for a while now. We’ve had a lot of thinking and talking to do. We’d be here all year if we started listing the people we wanted to thank, so we’ll just do that in our own time. You’ll see us all again under different musical guises but, these 3 shows will be Fight Like Apes’ last. We want to call it a day while we’re all still pals and are proud of what we’ve done. And we are very, very proud. It’s a deadly time in so many ways to be in a band; you can have so much control over your work if you’re clever; you can release it how and when you like and in our opinion, right now, Ireland is the healthiest it’s ever been in terms of talent and diversity.
But, there are massive challenges for a lot of bands, mostly financial, that make this a tough job and sadly, those obstacles have become too big for us. I think we all know that we’re going to hear announcements like this more often. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that we can’t keep producing records if you keep not paying for them. Bands are having to sell beautiful albums for €2.99, labels can’t give you as much support since they’re losing income too and our alternative radio stations* are practically non existent now, meaning so many wonderful bands will not get a chance to get played on radio as they’ll be competing with huge pop acts. Please buy your music in independent record stores or directly from the band. Don’t fool yourself in to thinking that your £10 subscription to Deezer and Spotify helps us at all. It does not. Look how many bands are on there and do the maths. Please go to gigs. Please buy merch. Thanks to all you entirely crazy, wonderful people who have supported us and danced and screamed with us over the past 10 years. We could never thank you enough. I still can’t believe some of the amazing things we’ve done together and how far we came.″
Maybe Ireland was always too small a market for such a unique band. But I can’t help but think in other times there would have been enough support for them to stick it out. And they are a timely reminder that free music doesn’t mean there is no cost.