Song of the Week 48: Floating – Jape

Jape's_The_Monkeys_in_the_Zoo_Have_More_Fun_Than_Me_album_cover

“We took our first pill when the music was shit…”

Floating has been described as “part drugs story, part love song”. It doesn’t hang about. Well it does hang about, it floats, but from the off, you’re pulled straight into the story.

National Broadcaster RTE described the lyrics as having “a definite feel of amateur philosophy at 5am but that that was “not necessarily a bad thing.” They also described the music as having “quirky instrumentation and Gregorian chanting.” Quirky? Must be the didgeridoo.

<<<<Song of the Week Aside: Another drug/philosophical song that dispensed with chord changes, Tomorrow Never Knows, was famously originally intended to have 100 Tibetan monks singing along, but that turned out to be impractical. Also contained loopy instrumentation. Tape loops.>>>>

Richie originally posted a demo of Floating to myspace, and it got so many hits that he decided to do it properly. He enlisted the help of his friend and fellow Irish do-it-yourself musician David Kitt who helped out on the production. The hits are still coming. Over 1.8 million on youtube, last time I checked.

Floating has quite a simple melody played on the top string of what appears to be an open tuned guitar in D major, and it’s just one chord the whole way through the song, but that’s the beauty of it. It flows along, living up to its title. The lyric is simple as well, but the best lyrics almost always are.

baggott inn

Richie Egan started out in the hardcore punk scene in Dublin during the 90’s. His first band was called Parasite. He’s also played with Black Belt Jones and Sir Killalot. The bassist in my first band, Ger Luby, also a classmate of Richie’s in all boys primary school in Crumlin, was at Parasite and Richie’s first gig in the old Baggot Inn in July 1993 and may have had a hand in getting them a good review.

According to Ger, Richie played the Virgin Mary in nativity play in 1987, but it could have been worse as another classmate was the arse end of a donkey. A bit of inside info for you there. Where else would you get it?

I met Richie years ago, when I was 18 (at a mutual friend and band member) Justin Healy’s 19th birthday party. Our first drummer, Jim O’Brien, had been  in a band with him called Sitar if I remember correctly. I remember chatting about song-writing and music enthusiastically, and playing a couple of songs back and forth.

According to Ger, who was also present, the song he probably played was a gorgeous little number called Nothing Sparkles. It used to be up on myspace as a demo, but maybe if you ask him nicely on twitter he might post it again. https://twitter.com/richiejape

At the time, the band I was in, Firehouse, had just done a radio interview on an Irish station East Coast FM, to play a couple of our own songs, on some christian programme for some reason. All it took to be on the show was to comically dodge questions about religion, and us being a band of agnostic/athiest types, this we happily obliged. The host in turn accidentally referred to us as The Fireheads.

Since then, before I moved to Madrid, I’d met him around Dublin a few times, and he’s a very approachable guy, loves his music and knows it too. A bit of a multi-instrumentalist, according to our first drummer Jim, he’s a dab hand at the drums as well.

redneck-manifesto

Before Richie formed Jape his previous band, the instrumental Redneck Manifesto, were formed in August 1999, influenced by Fugazi, Slint and Shellac among others. They released their first single on their own label, Greyslate Records, in 2000, and a year later were signed to RedF Records. Their 2001 debut, ThirtySixStrings, won them a cult following at home and in Europe, and Cut Your Heart Off from Your Head came out just 12 months later.  The following summer saw the band headline Ireland’s largest music festival Witness, above The Mars Volta.

Meanwhile, Richie was recording his debut album for release on Volta Records. Only 5,000 copies of Cosmosphere were issued.

In 2004, both Jape and the Redneck Manifesto were signed to the Dublin indie label Trust Me I’m a Thief. A double release was planned for September: the Redneck Manifesto’s third album I Am Brazil, recorded in the south of France with producer Dave Odlum, and Jape’s second, The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me. Here’s a cool little video made for  We Still Got It from I Am Brazil.

When I first heard of Redneck Manifesto back in 2001 they’d already picked up quite a following in Dublin. I worked for a little while with the drummer, Mervin (originally a member of Hylton Weir), who was also a very nice fella.  It was good to see that you could bypass the normal channels of hype and it’s-not -what-you-know-but-who-you-know and make it on your own merit. Elbow grease, and kick-ass live performances, and word of mouth can go a long way even in the age of staid corporate novelty-based triviality. Don’t get me started. 🙂

The other members include Niall Byrne (guitar), Matthew Bolger (guitar, originally of The Waltons), Neil O’Connor (keyboards, who joined in 2003 from the Connect 4 Orchestra) and Glen Keating (keyboards and percussion).

It’s worth noting that the Irish music community is relatively small and you either meet or come across people all the time. Dublin City Centre is easily walkable in an hour, so it isn’t strange to see Sinead, Bono, Neil Hannon, Glen H, Van the Man, the two Paddies (the big one and the small one), Damien Rice and others around the city centre. Most people have heard of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. In Dublin, it’s closer to two degrees of separation… and if you’re looking for bacon, then Denny’s Irish sausages are second to none.

Denny - Gold Medal - Jumbo Pork Sausages

Enough name-dropping! Didn’t mean to get sidetracked. As I was saying, Redneck Manifesto had gotten quite well known in the city mostly off their own back (unintentional rasher reference). They funded their own singles an recorded and rehearsed relentlessly in a garden shed studio in the early years. I always liked the Redneck Manifesto’s sound, and they were brilliant live, but being a songwriter, I was  hankering to hear the kind of stuff Richie was writing himself, so I was happy when his “side-project” Jape started out.

P.S. I’m not writing about Jape, because he’s Irish, or a friend of a friend. Floating is simply a great song and it’s should be heard more. If anything, Irish acts have been under-represented on this blog to date. I’m not into cronyism, jingoism,  zealotry, cliquishness or any form of back-scratching-itis, although I do occasionally get an itch. If the music’s good, it’s good.

I aint gonna explain the lyrics for this week’s SOTW for you. They’re pretty self-explanatory. If you know, you know. Unlike the previous paragraph, you won’t need a dictionary.

jape's Richie with the Choice Music Award

Richie deservedly won the Choice Music Award for Irish Album of the Year 2008 with his third album, Ritual. It features the singles, I Was A Man, Strike Me Down, and his ode to fellow Crumlin resident and “dead man who plays the bass” Phil Lynott, which contains a wonderful timed “Look at the fucking moon.” I’ll return to Phil one of these weeks. That song was inspired by memories of a heavy metal show Richie had attended as a kid by the group Mastodon.

Richie joked about a fellow nominee before finding out he’d won saying “They all deserve the award — sure my mother even told me that Mick Flannery (nominated for his album White Lies) was going to win, she said you’re good, Richie, but he’s gorgeous”.

His most recent album, Ocean of Frequency won 2012’s Choice Award, making Jape the first act to have won the award more than once.

He was nominated for Best Irish Male at the 2009 Meteor Awards, but lost out to the very same Eoin-McLove-like Mick Flannery. Sorry Mick, any excuse to reference the Ted.

whelans

So back to Floating. It was playing in Ireland’s famous rock venue, and late-night bar, Whelan’s (which is a must-visit if you’re ever in Dublin) one night when musician Brendan Benson heard it. He immediately requested a copy of the album.

theraconteurs

Brenson praised the Jape in an interview with The Guardian, but the paper spelled the band’s name “Jabe”. Benson called Richie to let him know he would be covering the song with his band The Raconteurs. He didn’t receive official permission, but by all accounts probably would have got it had he been asked. Richie then heard the cover live at the Olympia and described it as “a great moment.” I don’t have that recording, but here’s the band live at the Leeds Festival mid 2006. It’s also been covered by Belgian bastard-pop duo Soulwax.

Jape is Grape

In 2007, the song featured on the EP Jape is Grape, and a video was made for it, directed by M&E and D.A.D.D.Y. It features Richie and a shedload of fruit and vegetables hitting him while he tries to paint a fence, with a phoenix from the flames/anthropomorphic fruit-deity Richie floating up and stopping the fruit in mid-air a la Neo in The Matrix, and later returning to fence-painting duties. I’ll leave you to figure out what it all means. “There is no spoon.”

Well, that’s all from this week and last week. You wouldn’t believe what a week I’ve had, what with the dog eating my laptop and the ants coming back and everything. Anyway, it’s a great tune. Enjoy…

Lyrics:

We took our first pill when
the music was shit
I said “fuck dancing all night”
but then that’s just what we did
It felt like floating
It felt like floating

Your body was warm when
I laid by your side
I said “I’m glad I have found you
And I’m glad we’re alive”
It feels like floating
It seems like floating

We laid by the river
We looked at the stars
I said “how tiny we are girl,
how tiny we are!”
It feels like floating
It feels like floating

A lifetime is short, girl
and death is so long
I don’t belive in no heaven
I just hope that I’m wrong
I hope we’re floating
I hope we’re floating

‘Cause watching the world
I don’t understand
It just makes much more sense with
My hand in your hand
It feels like floooating

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Week 48: Floating – Jape

  1. Glen H.?? Only Glen H?? Gosh, is Glen Hansard, you must mention his hole name!! 😛 And i think he is actually the best Irish man! (apart you, Padraig, fo sho). BTW, great post!

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