Born of a desire to make music in general and Celtic-flavoured punk in particular, The Rumjacks are an entity rather askew, cast adrift of the mainstream and the industry as a whole, these five musical misfits from the cobbled streets of old Sydney town, a group unto themselves and the music they’ve made their own.
“Of the current lineup, it’s only myself and Johnny (McKelvey, bass) who were there at the start,” muses frontman Frankie McLaughlin on the origins of the group. “He and I met and quickly realised we were after the very same thing.”
This was towards the end of 2008, and the ‘same thing’ of which McLaughlin speaks was so strong, that the group’s debut release, the Hung, Drawn & Ported EP, was released not three months later. After some early lineup changes, the group quickly settled to how we see them now: McLaughlin, McKelvey, drummer Anthony Matters, guitarist Gabriel Whitbourne and banjo / mandolin / Bouzouki player Adam Kenny; as ragtag a group of virtuosic players as you’ll find in this day and age, milling about sticky-carpeted pubs across the land.
Since the group’s inception, they’ve come to embrace the oddball world they’ve found themselves in, becoming part of the gnarled, handmade furniture you might say, drawing from a solid base and pushing, stretching, bullying it to their every whim, creating something of their own. You may make comparison to The Pogues, Billy Bragg, The Dropkick Murphys et al, and you’d be right to, but you’d be well advised to acknowledge the twist these five have put to their music themselves, making it something unique.
“Well it’s absolutely vital,” concurs McLaughlin on putting their own stamp on this music, something that has led to the band cultivating a marvellous versatility which sees them comfortable on any number of stages, in any number of situations. “And it means we can jump in on any lineup in front of any crowd, and we’ve proven that. I think there are elements of what we do that appeal to everyone.” Indeed there are – from their heavy Celtic roots to the driving punk rock rhythms, the cheeky lyrics and rampant, greased up bonhomie that drips from the stage whenever these five step up, this is what The Rumjacks bring.
It’s been this versatility, not to mention the flat-out talent and drive they exude, that’s seen the band share stages with artists as diverse as Gogol Bordello, Guttermouth, the Dropkick Murphys, GBH, UK Subs and The Aggrolites. It’s seen the two releases since their debut EP – the Sound As A Pound EP (’09) and debut long-player, Gangs Of New Holland (’10) – stand up as solid works, finding places amongst the collections of fans of rock, punk, folk, reggae, Irish and god knows what else.
“We could run mad with it, musically speaking” McLaughlin confides on what’s next – a new Rumjacks record, being pieced together as we speak for release later this year. “We draw on so many influences, but its important for us to force the bounds of what we already do, play good solid Punk rock with a fat smear of Celtic folk right through it, Hopefully contributing something substantial & new before the genre dies out as a novelty. There’s so much more energy this time around.”
It almost seems impossible to suggest there’ll be more energy, for this isn’t something The Rumjacks have ever lacked before, either on stage or in the music itself. But these are five who have nothing to hide, they have no limit and there’s nothing to it but to make this music and make it loud, make it proud, add the extra energy and to hell with the consequences, for The Rumjacks and their slavering hordes will not be denied. They politely, but firmly, suggest you get on board.