Expect a right raucous time when fun-loving Irish collective The Mary Wallopers bring their merry band of musicians to The Portland Arms next week.
Brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy and their friend Sean McKenna formed The Mary Wallopers as a three-piece ballad group travelling the length and breadth of Ireland performing. The now-expanded group’s early live shows exuded a raw energy and their first five-track EP – 2019’s A Mouthful of The Mary Wallopers – perfectly captured their sound and ethos.
Fast forward a few years and The Mary Wallopers now have a new album on the way – their self-titled debut – due for release digitally and on CD on October 28, a few days before they’re set to hit Cambridge.
“We recorded some demos the other day, but other than that we’re just getting ready for the tour,” says Andrew, speaking to the Cambridge Independent from Dundalk, where the band are based. Charles interjects: “We’re preparing [for the tour] by drinking lots of pints.”
Cod Liver Oil + The Orange Juice, released on September 29, is the second track taken from the album. The 11-track LP is the culmination of several years of the Wallopers touring all corners of Ireland, collecting traditional songs before dusting them down and reimagining them in their rehearsal space.
Cod Liver Oil + The Orange Juice, for example, is a Scottish song written by Ron Clark and Carl MacDougal and made popular by Hamish Imlach in the 1960s. A definite fan favourite, this ode to drunken revelry and its associated romantic pursuits showcases the Wallopers’ talent for picking a great tune and then making it their own.
The song is certainly very catchy. “Oh, thanks very much,” says Charles, who notes of the album: “We recorded the first album in like 2017 and then we never bothered releasing it, and then we re-recorded it, I think, in 2020 so we’ve been sitting on it for a good while, during the lockdown.”
Charles and Andrew live together. “We’re two brothers, we do everything together – and I mean everything!” laughs Charles, “and we were able to do some recording during lockdown, and we were doing livestreams so that was good.”
He adds that a lot of the songs on the album are known by the fans, as the band have been playing them live for the last few years. “They’re kind of like our greatest hits, because people always come to the gigs and sing along with the songs.”
One certainly imagines that The Mary Wallopers create quite the party atmosphere when performing on stage. “Yeah, they can go wild,” confirms Charles, who says that the band are going to start recording their second album “very soon”.
“At the last gig there were people spitting on each other. We had a gig where a man actually had his feet on the ceiling, as opposed to on the floor…”
The Mary Wallopers toured the UK in February this year and have also played Glastonbury “a few times”. “In 2019, we did 159 gigs,” recalls Charles, “we were just constantly gigging, playing all the time, and this will be our most organised tour.”
“The Mary Wallopers invokes the raucous ghosts of the Dubliners and the Pogues to startling effect,” said The Guardian of the group. Which other acts have influenced Charles and Andrew and co? “Jinx Lennon, a songwriter and singer from Dundalk here,” replies Andrew, “the Pogues and the Dubliners obviously are huge influences…
“We listen to different music too; we grew up listening to a lot of the 80s dancehall from Jamaica, and also a lot of punk and hip hop – and country, and western. Hank Williams too…” On the popularity of country music in Ireland, Charles, who reveals he’s actually wearing a Garth Brooks T-shirt as we speak (despite not being a huge fan of the singer), adds: “Ever since the beginning of time, farmers liked line dancing.”
The Mary Wallopers will be appearing at The Portland Arms on Wednesday, November 2. Tickets are £11. For more information, visit theportlandarms.co.uk. For more on The Mary Wallopers, go to marywallopers.com.