First Published April 2019
“OUR ‘BIS’ DESERVE THIS AS MUCH AS WE DO”
Sometimes when history is happening right before you, when you’re likely to see the people making it walk past you in the street, or just having coffee somewhere in town, it can be hard for some folk to truly grasp the size of the moment. That’s just some folk, mind you. But in years to come, the sheer enormity of what Chasing Abbey are doing right now will be lost on no-one. Some of us know that already, and we’ve known it for a while. The lads just keep proving us – and themselves – right. With every move they make, they’re further engraving their name indelibly upon Irish music history. And their latest such move? Well, on the eve of their headliner show at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on April 14th, the band have had their debut EP, The Odyssey Project, premiered on Billboard in the United States.
Every act, regardless of genre, dreams of ‘breaking’ America because it’s such a massive market and success there can set you up for life. Chasing Abbey have already had some excellent reviews from U.S. based blogs. When we sat down for a chat a couple of weeks ago – before the Billboard news even broke – I asked the trio of Bee, TeddyC, and Ro how it felt knowing that their music is already being heard over there, and not only that, but is getting such a positive response?
TeddyC: “It’s interesting, because it’s taken a song like ‘Hold On’ to do that for us. Obviously ‘Hold On’ is more urban, or hip-hop, but with pop sensibilities, too. But it’s moreso urban and hip-hop. It’s taken a song like that [to get noticed]. And the EP will definitely be more like that, so that gives us some hope that we might be able to get a proper foothold in America. For us, I think we’re looking at America more than anything right now. It just feels like that might work for us.”
From meeting the lads and talking to them on several occasions now, I know that right from the start of their career – before anyone in Ireland had even heard of Chasing Abbey – Bee, Ro, and TeddyC were already thinking way ahead of where they actually were. So I have no doubt that America has always been in their thoughts…
TeddyC: “It’s kinda at the top of our thoughts, really.”
Ro: “Exactly. Ireland is such a small country, so to really, REALLY make it, you have to make it outside of Ireland, I think. And America is where we’re looking towards.”
TeddyC: “And it’s a really good sign, though, that those reviews are coming in, and they’re good reviews, too, ya know.”
Chasing Abbey have performed twice now at the 3Arena. When they’re performing at a venue like that, in the moment before they go on-stage, what goes through their minds? As a group, or as individuals, do they have any little rituals that they have to go through?
TeddyC: “Yeah, we have a few little rituals, alright. There’s a playlist that we have to play, and we have to play Skepta, ‘Pure Water’, that has to be the last song we play before we leave the dressing room.”
Ro: “I don’t even know why, it just happened as we went along. It was definitely from The Rollout Tour, and that first night. It was a song that we all loved, we had all been listening to in the car, we knew every word of it, ya know. For the first show on The Rollout, we didn’t know what to expect. We were all nervous. But we were all excited, too. So hearing that song, I think it just brought us a little bit of comfort! It was like, o.k., we’re here, we know this song, we’re vibin’ out to it…it kinda zones you back in.”
TeddyC: “You’d be kinda nervous, maybe stressin’ out a bit, but then you hear the intro to ‘Cool Water’, and it’s all good! [laughs]. Then you’re in the zone!”
Ro: “And that just carried on then throughout the whole Rollout Tour, and any gigs after the tour. We’d be like, ‘Play ‘Cool Water’, right now! We need to hear it! [laughs].”
TeddyC: “That’s probably the biggest ritual we have as a group. As individuals, me and Bee would always have a glass of Tullamore Dew just to settle the nerves a little bit. We’d never be drunk, not even close. It’s just more of a ritual thing. Even if it’s just the tiniest sip, it’s like o.k., I’ve done what I always do before a gig, ya know.”
So Ro is not a fan of Tullamore Dew?
Ro: “Oh I am! [laughs]. But I’m mostly driving. I kinda got into the habit of driving to gigs, so I wouldn’t be having a drink before it.”
It’s a fairly mad list of achievements that these three Tullamore lads have racked up in a very short space of time. Playing the 3Arena, being on the same bill as Zara Larrson, as Rita Ora, opening for Enrique Iglesias, the Choice Music Award…but has their been a favourite moment of them all for the group?
Ro: “Selling out the tour, easy.”
TeddyC: “Yeah, selling out the tour. No matter how many people are in a stadium or an arena, if there’s a thousand people there JUST for you…”
Ro: “...who have paid for tickets to see YOU…”
TeddyC: “…that’s a different thing altogether! We kinda figured that out on the Rollout Tour.”
Ro: “For years, we were seeing all of our favourite artists promote their tours. But then seeing our tour poster with ‘Sold Out, Sold Out, Sold Out’ all over it, that really resonated with us. That was like, crazy. We were like, Jesus Christ, we’re really doin’ it. That hit home for us.”
Bee: “When you’re at the festivals and you’re backstage and peek out at the crowd, and you see thousands there, you’re like, wow! That’s mad. But they’re there for multiple artists. But when you’re playin’, say The Academy, and the support acts have finished, and you have a peek out there and it’s packed, you’re like, ‘F*&k, they’re ALL here for us! [laughs]. That’s such a different feeling.”
If you follow Chasing Abbey, you’ll have heard of Penthouse Productions and the band’s Penthouse ‘Fam.’ But who exactly are the Penthouse ‘Fam’?
TeddyC: “There’s us. We have Darcy Faith, who’s an artist. We have Chinnie Izzie, who’s an artist. We have DJ Poodle, our DJ. We have Darcy’s DJ, and Chinnie’s DJ. And then there’s all of the bis. Bis is a term we use for our very close friends, and they’re all a part of Penthouse…”
Bee: “They go around in the Penthouse hoodies at all the gigs…”
TeddyC: “We always bring about three or four bis to every gig.”
Where does the term ‘bis’ come from?
TeddyC: “Ya know when you’re sayin’, ‘What’s the craic, boys?’ Well, just growin’ up, we turned that into, ‘What’s the craic, bis?’ We turned boys to bis, that’s all. So it’s just second nature to us now to say, ‘Well bis’, as much as someone else might say, ‘Well lad’, ya know [laughs]. It’s the same thing. And we use that in music as well, it’s in all of our songs. So yeah, the Penthouse fam is all of those people. For every gig we bring three or four, throw them in a Penthouse hoodie, and they’ll do a few things. Carry a bit of gear, or drink a bit of drink! [laughs].”
How important is it for the band to still be that close to people they’ve grown up with and have known all of their lives?
TeddyC: “We have a saying: Your environment is everything. And we stick by that. If our environment isn’t how we want it, then we bring it with us and make it how we want it.
Bee: “We learned that very quick.”
Ro: “The three of us spend so much time together, sometimes if it’s just the three of us in a room, it can kinda feel like you’re alone. But the three of us with even one bis, or two bis…or ten [laughs]…that just feels like it’s a little bit of extra comfort. Like playing that ‘Pure Water’ song, it just brings a different vibe.”
TeddyC: “And I always feel like when we bring people to gigs, they bring a bit of context as well. You could be sittin’ in the 3Arena, and we’d be like, o.k., sure this is grand. But if you have some of the bis there with ya, they’re like, ‘Boys! Ye’re in the 3Arena! THIS IS MAD! This is crazy! What the f*&k, like!’ [laughs]. And then you kinda think, ya know what, you’re actually right! [laughs].”
Ro: “It’s hard to live in the moment sometimes, and to appreciate where you are, and what you do. You walk off stage and it could have been the BEST gig of your life, but some weird tiny thing might have happened that has you thinkin’ you’re not so sure about it. But then you get into the dressing room and there’s three or four of the bis, and they’re all jumpin’ around goin’ crazy about how great it was! So then after a couple of minutes you come around, and you’re like, yeah, that was SAVAGE! [laughs].”
Will the bis and the Penthouse fam stay a part of things for Chasing Abbey as things continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger?
TeddyC: “Yeah, definitely. That’s something that we’ve committed to, and we’re going to stick to that, for better or for worse.”
Ro: “See, the thing is, when we started, the very first people who supported the whole Chasing Abbey thing, were the bis. They were at all the shows. And at some of the shows, they could have been the only people there! They’ve been in the studio with us when we were making songs that probably weren’t amazing, ya know [laughs]. But they were telling us, yeah boys, this is serious stuff, keep goin’! They probably had more belief in us than we had in ourselves sometimes. And that kept us goin’. So now that we’re here, they deserve to be here as much as we do.”
So what’s in store for the rest of 2019 for Chasing Abbey?
TeddyC: “The rest of the year? Well, there’s the EP on April 5th, then the Culchie Kid Tour starts the following week…”
Bee: “On April 11th, we’re in Kerry in the I.N.E.C. in Kilarney. On the 13th, we’re at Cyprus Avenue in Cork. And the 14th is the Olympia in Dublin. And that’s all ages. The Olympia and Kerry are all ages.”
TeddyC: “So that’s the EP and the tour, then we have a whole summer of festivals. But before the festivals, we’ll have another single out, a summer song. We’re working away on that at the moment. Then September, October, we’ll probably be doing an actual Odyssey Project tour, because it will have blossomed a bit by then. We’ll probably hit the road for that, with some Irish and U.K. dates. After that, it’ll be preparing for the album. That would bring us up to November. And then we’re looking at an album this time next year, hopefully. All going to plan!”
What’s the best lesson that all of their success, and fame, and the journey so far, has taught the band
Ro: “I’m probably going to say that it’s to be brutally honest when assessing a situation, before jumping to a conclusion about it, or before agreeing to something. It probably doesn’t sound very positive, but I think to look at things with a bit of doubt, rather than just trusting exactly what you hear or whatever. And then trust in general, especially with the two boys. The three of us are tight. And one thing I’ve learned is to chat to the two boys, and for the three of us to make clear decisions about stuff for ourselves. And to keep that honesty between the three of us. It’s important to keep it tight, and just keep it real.”
TeddyC: “For me, I’ve learned in the past year or so, that somethings in life are more important than your work. Because when we started off, I would always, always put work and music ahead of everything. No matter what. My family, my girlfriend, friends. But I’ve learned that there’s more important things than work. I’ve learned to appreciate my family, to appreciate my girlfriend, to appreciate the boys, the bis. I’ve realised that, look, no matter how good things get or how bad things get, they’re all the most important things.”
Bee: “I’d say it’s that you’ll probably have to do a few things [along the way] that you mightn’t be too happy about, but if you stay true to your own interests as much as you can, you’re probably never going to regret anything. Take peoples’ opinions on board, too. But with your own, not ahead of your own. Then make your decisions.”
TeddyC: “I want to add one more, because it’s something we’ve probably learned as a group. It’s not to be headstrong. Listen to other people who know more than you. We’ve learned that, and we probably learned it the hard way at the start [laughs]. But we learned! You don’t know everything. You can’t go into this business, or any industry, and think you know everything. If there’s somebody who has more wisdom than you, listen to them. Don’t be a headstrong fool, don’t think you know it all. Cos’ you don’t.”