I interviewed the mighty Pocket Billiards for AU magazine a few issues ago, so here’s reprint.
Members: Savage (guitar, vocals), Chuck (guitar, vocals), Steve (keys), Anto (bass), Jim (drums), Joe Monk (trumpet), Elaine (alto sax), Slow (tenor sax).
Formation: Belfast 2002
For Fans Of: The Slackers, Voodoo Glow Skulls, the Clash
Check Out: Debut album Pocket Billiards is out now.
Ever since their inception at the start of the decade, it was clear that Belfast based ska punks Pocket Billiards were something special. Even during those early days when their line-up had more changes that the Sugababes you could always guarantee that a Billiards show would be a fun night out and over the last seven years they’ve matured into one of the country’s best acts. This month they capitalize on all that talent by releasing their self-titled debut album and it was a labour of love for the nine-piece. Recorded by Oppenheimer’s Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios, the slab of wax took three weeks to record and for frontman Chris Savage it was a huge relief to finally get a record out there on the shelves.
“It was brilliant finally getting a recording that really gets across the energy and sound of the band,” he says. “We previously had only recorded a demo way back at the start and then produced an EP in a bedroom (that sadly didn’t sound so good) and I think we proved to ourselves that we could make a good record. Rocky was great to work with and was as willing to experiment with different effects as I was and it allowed us to capture the sound that we had always wanted.”
With morale at an all time high, Savage and Co. decided to finally take the plunge after meeting Rocky at this year’s And So I Watch You From Afar Mandela Hall show and after listening to the high octane release, we’re glad they did.
“I just thought the time was right to make this album. We took a bit of a break over the last few years as a number of band members, including myself, became parents and after the Billiard’s baby boom, we felt that we wanted to get back to playing shows and having fun. We picked up some good support slots, had written a load of songs and finally had a stable line-up, so we felt it was time to get the music recorded.
“The actual recording all seems a bit of a blur to me now,” he continues. “As we were pressed for time we worked pretty hard for most of it. I remember the rest of the guys laughing at me because at times I was really losing my temper and getting a bit of a huff on. I’m surprised they could put up with me! While listening to a playback after one of the recording sessions Anto [bass] declared that we needed ‘eagle ears.’ Now I don’t know much about birds, but I’m pretty sure that the eagle is not particularly well known for its immense auditory sensory system (I can only imagine Bill Odie would shake his head in disbelief at that statement).”
One of the best aspects of the record is the fact that they write about where we live. Tracks like ‘SPIDE’ and Belfast Town’ are not only kickass ska songs, we can relate to them too.
“I can’t stand it when artists sing in the generic ‘American’ accents or write lyrics about things they are totally detached from, just because it may be deemed cool,” he offers. “I try to write about things I have experienced or witnessed and feel strongly about, such as my daughter being born two months premature, the nonsense of musical cliques, or watching your mate become a drunken fool on a night out. At the same time I feel it’s important for me not to take myself too seriously and a bit of humour is certainly something that goes hand in hand with Pocket Billiards. I suppose that’s where songs like ‘SPIDE’ come from and the instrumental track ‘Don’t Scratch My Soca’ is a tribute to one of my all time favourite comedy shows Desmond’s. For me lyrics don’t have to be sublime pieces of poetry, if they are honest and sang with feeling then it’s more natural.
“To be totally honest I have no idea what people’s reactions to the album will be,” he concludes. “The record is loud, energetic and catchy as hell and one thing I know is that this isn’t just for ska lovers. The album is packed full of heavy riffs, powerful brass lines and sing-a-long choruses. I just hope that people give it a shot and enjoy it.” Edwin McFee