The Eskies have been described variously as “a street corner sort of brass band”, “Django Reinhart huffing petrol” and “a flawlessly choreographed bar brawl in musical form”, while their sound can only be summed up as folk noir/gypsy jazz/sea shanty.
Although dark in some of its subject matter, it is certainly not to be taken too seriously although their live shows make for a uniquely raucous and swaggering spectacles.
Now the Eskies have arrived down under for the first time with a tour that takes them to Port Fairy Folk Festival, Melbourne and Sydney.
“We’re very excited,” guitarist and vocalist Sean O’Reilly told The Irish Echo before their arrival in Australia earlier this week. “It’s finally happening. I believe they have something called sun there, so that’ll be nice to see.
“I don’t think any of us have been before, but of course we know plenty of people who’ve chosen to go and live in Australia. We’ve been getting loads of messages from friends we haven’t seen in years. Our trombone player, Chris, lives there now so it’ll be great to play with him again.”
The Port Fairy Folk Festival has a considerable Irish flavour this year with Pauline Scanlon, John Spillane, Andy Irvine and John McSherry joining up with Shane Howard’s Exile show.
O’Reilly said the band were “really very excited” to be on the bill.
“We’ve had friends from Ireland play there before and they have only the best things to say about Port Fairy. Who doesn’t love a good festival?”
How would O’Reilly describe the band’s unique sound to anyone unfamiliar?
“Well we’ve had an awful time thus far trying to describe our music to people. It’s full of energy and fun in a kinda dark way. It’s swing and folk and rock and gypsy that has been bastardised.
“I hope they [Australian audiences] love it. We’ve no reason to believe they won’t. As long as people go with us on the journey, they’ll enjoy it.”
O’Reilly conceded that he was not aware of the Australian colloquial meaning of esky but said it might be a bonus in for their Aussie tour.
“If people are genuinely going to ask us if we named ourselves after a cooler box, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Unfortunately that’s not the case. An eskie in Ireland is a small stick that has been hollowed out and filled with honey. It’s used for baiting wolves into a fight.”
Their latest album, Don’t Spare the Horses, comes on the back of their critically and publicly acclaimed debut, After the Sherry Went Round.
The latest record’s name derived, in part, from the recording process.
“It was just one of those things where we had thrown around a few names and that was the one that we all thought was right. It makes total sense for us though. If something is worth doing it’s worth overdoing and we would never spare the horses along the way.
“We’ve only recorded two albums. One came very quickly and the other had time to be completed. Both methods have their merits. Let’s let the way we record the third album be the answer,” he said.
The Eskies have been called the “Dubliners for the internet generation” by The Irish World newspaper. It’s a description the band loves. “For Irish people, the Dubliners are the epitome of a great Irish band, and the epitome of the great Irish spirit. It’s about more than the songs or the stories, which are so important. It’s about the connection and the spirit they could channel.”
The Dubliners were known to get up to all sorts of mischief on tour. How do the Eskies go on the road?
“I hate touring with these people,” O’Reilly jokes. “This is a public outcry for help. I’ve been trying to escape for years but they keep locking me up in the back of the van. I don’t know what the other fellas will do, but I’m going to lose them in Australia and then carry out my real dream of being a registered gas installer.”
Visit www.theeskies.com for dates or check What’s On, page 23