If there were awards for resolutely sticking to your guns, The Riptide Movement’s mantelpiece would be straining under the weight of all the silverware.
“We’ve never, ever taken ‘no’ for an answer,” says singer and guitarist Mal Tuohy. “If there’s something we want to do or achieve, we just sit down and say, ‘How are we going to make it happen?’ And it happens. I think that positivity and ‘If we all pull together…’ spirit comes through in our music too.”
It most certainly does! Mal is outlining the DIY philosophy – “Some would call it ‘sheer bloody-mindedness!’”, he laughs – that has seen The Riptide Movement make multiple incursions into the Irish top 10; gig their way from Dublin to Delhi with a stop-off in Pilton to slay the Glastonbury masses; take to the UK airwaves with all 50 of the BBC Concert Orchestra; collaborate with Jim Sheridan on an update of The Commitments and, last summer, support The Rolling Stones at their Hyde Park homecoming.
“It was an absolutely brilliant few months for us,” Mal resumes. “First we got to go into Grouse Lodge Studios and record our new album with one of the founder members of Flogging Molly, Ted Hutt, who’s also worked with Dropkick Murphys and The Gaslight Anthem, and then we received a call from our booking agent saying, ‘Keep July 13th free; there’s something happening.’ Never in a million years did we think that ‘something’ would be opening for the Stones. It was a real, ‘Pinch me, am I dreaming?’ moment.”
There have been lots of those since Mal and his bandmates Jay Dalton (guitar), Gerry McGarry (bass & harmonica) and Gar Byrne (drums & piano) got together in 2006 through their mutual love of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Ryan Adams, Rory Gallagher and, of course, their new mates Mick ’n’ Keef. While still unashamedly starry-eyed about their heroes – “One of the privileges of being in a band is being able to go up to Van Morrison at a festival, as I did a couple of years ago, and say, ‘Thank you very much for Astral Weeks’” beams Gar – the new Riptide Movement album, Getting Through, is testimony to the unique sound the band have forged during those thousands of hours they’ve spent together on stage and in the rehearsal room. From anthemic fist-pumping start (‘Animal’) to achingly beautiful finish (‘Sycamore Tree’), it’s full of big riffs, even bigger choruses and a lust for rock ’n’ roll life that Iggy Pop himself would be proud of.
“It’s the first time we’ve made a record that on one hand captures the energy of our live shows, and on the other has really challenged us in terms of upping our game,” Jay notes. “Ted Hutt’s someone we’ve always admired, so on spec we sent him a few songs with a note asking, ‘Would you be interested in producing the album?’ and straight away he got back to us going, ‘Yeah, when and where do you want me?’ Day one in Grouse Lodge we knew we’d got our man because he was so enthusiastic and keen to try different things. He had this brilliant way of taking you to one side and saying, ‘That’s good… but I know you can do even better!’ Plus, Ted brought two of his Flogging Molly guitars with him, so we were able to play with those!”
Other Getting Through standouts include the wonderfully bawdy ‘You & I’ , the country-flavoured title-track and flagship single, ‘All Works Out’, which with its insanely catchy “I will carry you every step of the way” refrain – there’s that positivity again! – and goodtime boogie stomp is another top 10 hit waiting to happen. There’s also a glorious moment of post-watershed defiance on ‘Glór’ when Mal roars: “Fuck this town and damn this economy!” A case of swearing being both big and clever.
“We were blown away by the support our last album, Keep On Keepin’ On received,” Gerry says of their friends in high media places. “Hot Press put us on the cover, which with us all being lifelong readers of theirs was huge; Tony Fenton had us in twice for sessions on his Today FM show; we did the Late Late Show, which we took our parents to in limos as a ‘thank you’ for putting up with us all these years; Hector had us on his 2fm breakfast show and local and regional radio were brilliant too. It confirmed what we’ve always thought; if a song’s good enough it’ll get played.” It all seems an awfully long way since the days when The Riptide Movement used to keep the wolf from the door by busking on Grafton Street.
“We’d get there at six in the morning to secure our pitch outside Marks & Spencers,” Mal reminisces. “One year we did the Oxegen festival on the Friday night, and were still on Grafton Street the next day to see the sun come up! “We had it down to a science; we’d only play three songs, the first one being ‘Thieves In The Gallery’. It was the hook or the bait – people were just drawn in. They’d stop in their tracks and the crowd would build. Then we’d kick into the second song, ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’. We’d have a huge audience at this stage and everyone’s attention. It really felt like something big was going down, a full on street festival. By song three, ‘Hot Tramp’, it was complete madness with people of all ages dancing, clapping and singing. The idea was to just give them a taste, leave them wanting more. Then we’d stop playing; this way we could turn a new crowd every 15 minutes, and the CDs would fly out. Our record was 222 albums in two hours!
“There was an instance of us having to bribe the Gards to let us keep playing, but we’ll gloss over that! It worked in terms of then being able to pay our rent and put petrol into the van, and last year having fans come up to us at the Olympia Theatre gig we put on and sold-out ourselves and say, ‘The first time we saw you was outside Marks!’”
While still calling all the musical shots, the Irish release of Getting Through finds the Riptide boys teaming up with Universal Music.“It’s great having Universal on board,” Gar concludes. “They’re really into the album, and full of ideas as to how working together we can take it to the next level. It’s going to be a really exciting 2014!!!!!!!