Interviews

Political and social awareness in punk – an interview with Irish crust punks BURNCHURCH!

BURNCHURCH is a relatively new crust hardcore punk band featuring ex and current members of Irish bands EASPA MEASA and RATS BLOOD (Ire) and Polish act SILENCE, playing dark, fierce, bass driven hardcore in the likes of BALLAST or UNHINGED. Spiced up with an amazing art from Sean Fitzgearld, their debut full length showcases the band’s solid songwriting abilities with thought provoking lyrics, hitting with a dark and melancholic, yet very pasionate and uplifting way. Check out the full record below and scroll down to learn more about BURNCHURCH and see their thoughts on the Russia / Ukraine crisis, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria, social and political consciousness within punk scenes, and a lot more. Enjoy!

“Burnchurch” is available now via Contraszt! Records, Trująca Fala, Dogs & Vultures Records and Up The Punx Records.

Answers by BURNCHURCH’s vocalist Clodagh and bassist Byrneos.

BURNCHURCH logo

Hello ! What’s up? How are you? For a quick introduction, please drop us a couple of lines about the band. Who are you and where do you come from?

Hello Karol,

I hope you are well today. We are BURNCHURCH – a bunch of punk rockers from different parts of Ireland and Poland. Most of the band are based in the capital (Dublin) but two of us live in the countryside about 170km from there. The band is named after a village of this region which has some cool historical buildings in it, conveniently it also expresses our feelings for organised religion.

We practise in a space collectively run by the punks of Dublin City. Our music has been described by others as melodic hardcore-crust.

How did you guys team up to form this pack? Did you meet the Polish dudes by attending church? :)

Not exactly. The connection began ten years ago (!) in 2005 when some of our previous bands (SILENCE and EASPA MEASA) toured together in Poland, several members of SILENCE moved to Ireland subsequently. The Irish members know each other from gigs and parties.

Your debut LP is a collaboration project between the band and 4 different DIY labels. How did you choose these particular partners and how are you proud of the final release?

The four label collaboration came about for two reasons: firstly we thought it would be a good idea to have a few labels with geographical spread.

Secondly, but also realistically, being a new band we reckoned it might be hard to get just one label to commit to the full pressing by themselves.
(Although when the collaboration was finalised with the four labels, we did get such an offer from a label – but that’s how it goes…)

As for how it was these four labels in particular, Dogs and Vultures (a great new Irish label with four releases after just one year!) had asked if we wanted to be on an Irish punk compilation. We suggested they might like to be part of the LP and they did! (I think a drink had been taken!). Trujaca Fala came on board I’m guessing because he knew SILENCE from their first 7″ which was on his label. Up The Punks was another Polish connection and when we asked if he’d be interested he was very enthusiastic. Finally, when we played in Koeln during the summer of 2014, Phillip from Contraszt records was there (he is an old friend). He offered to be involved in the release and to take charge of the pressing side of things as well which was a great help. It was over 30 degrees in Koeln that day, maybe it was heat-stroke hysteria but he kept his word! We are very happy to have each of these four labels on board. They all have put out a lot of quality stuff over the years, so it is nice to be in good company.

We are delighted with the final release! It was recorded in Hive studios near Dublin by Eoin Whitfield and the vinyl mastering was by Audiosiege in the USA. Both of these guys helped us get the music to sound the way it does in our heads! The artwork is by Sean Fitzgerald who is an incredible artist and also an old friend from the Irish punk scene.
All of these links and friendships across the punk scene helped us create the LP, we’re grateful to them all for their work. We’re proud of our LP and to be a part of the punk community that supports the DIY ethos.

Were there any particular influences that served as a catalyst in writing this record?

The same as any band I suppose, people were asking at concerts if we had stuff recorded and you’ve got to give the kids what they want (ha ha!). It was nice to document our songs (even if only for ourselves) and to share the music/ideas with people. I wanted to do an LP first as my previous bands had only ever done split releases.

Musically no real catalyst, there’s no-one we set out to sound like, we’re not “disburnchurch”. but at the same time we’re influenced by lots of great albums – we’re not always in agreement about what is great music but it would be a boring old world and we’d be a boring old band if we did.

BURNCHURCH promo

Ok, so what’s your political and social stance? What message do you try to convey in your songs?

I identify as an anarchist (and being a feminist is, for me, inseparable from that). The rest are lefties too.

I think there are different messages in the lyrics of different songs. My despair at how humans seem to compulsively exploit one another and the planet underpins a lot of what I write. I try to convey information in a creative manner, sometimes I see hope…. and sometimes I don’t.

What’s your view on the Russia and Ukraine situation? Are you worried about both countries and the silent West triggering another world war?

This is a very complicated question to answer. Firstly I must say these are my (Byrneos’) personal views not the views of the whole band.
I don’t think it will develop into a third world war. Russia isn’t as strong as it was during the cold-war years. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia lost a lot of strategic military and transport bases. For example, the base Sevastopo which Russia had been renting from the Ukraine. Keeping this base seemed to be one of the main reasons for the annexation of Crimea. Many of bases were taken over by NATO recently which might also be a reason why Putin is having a show of strength.

Europe and Russia have stronger trade/energy links than in the past, so it would be in neither the EU’s nor Russia’s interest to jeopardise them.
After recent talks between the two, a worry might be Russia building closer links with China and the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” and NATO coming into conflict with this organisation in the future. That would be to the cost of some smaller nations used to host their war games.

To Ukraine itself, it’s very complicated with very mixed details coming out in the media….and a lot of propaganda. Ireland is even further removed from the story which jumps in and out of the media and is quite hard to follow unless a person is familiar with the history. I guess the internet is useful for this but, again, I find it full of contradicting information. Please bear in mind I cannot speak Ukrainian, Russian or any of the other 18 recognised languages spoken in the Ukraine or Donbass.
I despise the rise and support for the right wing in Ukraine (with even those who aren’t fascists themselves happy to use them in militias as their foot soldiers etc., to help meet their own gains) and the way the west has played down their role. The Euromaidan revolt seemed to start out well but quickly was taken over by the right with their own agenda. Just look at the massacres (like at Odessa) carried out by them against the left in Ukraine and in the newly declared peoples’ republics.

So, based on my limited knowledge of the situation and to be very simplistic, I side with the people of the republics of Donestk and Lugansk against the Kiev government and support their right to self-determination. It seems the left wing (although there are nationalists too) are a big driving force behind the “rebel” forces. Of course as mentioned above I am very wary of Russia’s involvement but also EU and USA on the other side of the conflict. I’m aware that like in any war things I don’t agree with have been carried out also in the name of the new republics. With over 5,000 dead and large numbers of people displaced from their homes as refugees, let’s hope there will be some result with the ceasefire declared on Saturday 14th February….if only everyone would listen to CR(A)SS “fight war not wars”.

I’ve said I support the new republics’ rights to self determination but above all this it’s the normal people on both sides who will be the victims of the games by ukraine and putin etc. like any war it only really serves the interest of a few powerful people on either side. i’d love to see the ceasefire work. The lives of the people on the ground are worth more than any border or flag to me.

What do you think could become a basis for honest future cooperation between Russia and the leading European countries that try to (pretend to?) negotiate with Putin? What could be the glue that binds all these countries together?

I don’t think there will be honest talks between Russia and Europe , neither will want to be seen to be weak or give an inch. yet both understand that they need each other because of trade and gas links. this is the glue that binds them: the markets/capitalism.I read an interesting article last night on how one of the west’s chief interests in Ukraine is grain production and the vast tracts of good farm land there (too long to go into here).

Ok Byrneos, one more political story I’m particularly interested in – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria. What threat is the ISIS to European countries and what do you think is their real motive?

Isis and Syria (again just my own opinions) we are also very far removed from Syria here in Ireland. Language /cultural differences make this hard for me to understand completely and with so many teams on the pitch it’s hard to follow the game.
In relation to the civil war, I don’t have time for the Assad regime and to be honest not many of groups on the other side of the war appeal to me either. There are so many and I don’t know all their politics but generally I don’t believe most would be an amazing alternative. As usual, America and NATO’s role is self-serving and of course I wouldn’t be a fan of isil/daesh. The only ones I support in any way are the Kurdish People’s Protection Units/ Women’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) as their politics/world view are closest to my own.

Isis/daesh/isil as a threat to europe? Really I don’t believe so. I know there were stories of 5,000 isis militants getting into Europe disguised as refugees but I think Europe would know by now if there was such a force on the move. I think most movement is with support going the other way from Europe to the new “caliphate”. Isis themselves say they are firstly interested to “reform ” the Muslim world.

As for their motives, they believe Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to be a successor to Muhammad. This along side their Salafist/Wahhabist roots make for a very scarey ideology. I do believe they want to grow and maintain their caliphate (territory won) and impose their ultra conservative control and are in a strong position to hold the ground they have won.

I have heard most of their income comes from oil – they apparently make millions per day from selling oil and they hold control of something like 60% of Syria’s oil production. Oil is sold “illegally” but who is buying it??

So, along with the fundamental religious beliefs the “real” motives I reckon are the same as those of Europe and Russia in your last question i.e., wealth, control and power for those at the top.

I have no doubt the US is up to tricks in Syria and Iraq to maintain their interests but I’d need a lot more convincing on some of the theories going around about Isis being controlled by Mossad/USA.

Thanks so much for your view on this intriguing issue. How conscious do you think people are of thinking about such issues? Why is punk scene a great place to raise the awareness of young people?

It’s hard to tell. Most of my friends are from political or punk connections so that means I’m surrounded by people who talk/care about this type of stuff anyway so I would have a biased view.

It can be a little ghetto-ish at times but if I judge it from the general talk with “normal people” in the canteen at
work. If something big and terrible happens and it is on the mainstream media it might come up in conversation but talk of the tv soaps or “x factor” are more likely. They might discuss some local Irish politics if they think it might affect them.

I guess because lots of people in their teens/youth haven’t thought or even if they have they might not have made up their minds around issues so it is good to give some alternative views to what (some) parents, schools, media etc present as the norm. In the diy punk scene young people are maybe firstly attracted by the music / anger etc., but then come into contact with more than that. They see other ways of dealing with people, other “new” view-points, see that bands can do things themselves or people can make their own zines, media etc and don’t need to wait for someone else to do it for them. I guess the simple fact that they can see it is possible to achieve some goals on their own in their own way is great in itself. Punk tends to be a young person’s sport…but personally from seeing lots of people come and go through the scene and meeting them years later when they’ve moved on music wise etc. they often still hold the beliefs they developed while into punk. They often talk about how the lessons of d.i.y ethics helped them in life outside of punk, it gave them some faith that they could do the shit they wanted to…it can only be positive that anyone – young or old -becomes aware of the bigger world picture and realizes that they are part of the problem and the solution can only be good.

What they do with that knowledge is down to themselves and while your being exposed to these opinions etc you also get to listen to some great fucking bands!

BURNCHURCH live

Ok mate. So what are some of the coolest spots suitable for DIY punk bands in your area? Tell us more about the state of your local punk scene.

This is a timely question because I have just published an good-old-fashioned freesheet called “The Parish Punk” which contains DIY concert listings and scene reports from all over Ireland as well as some self-sufficiency articles. (theparishpunk@riseup.net for more information). I live in a rural area in the south of the country so I don’t have a local scene per se, instead the whole country is my scene!

As Ireland is a somewhat remote island off the western coast of Europe, it is expensive and difficult to get here. Any bands who make the trip will receive a warm welcome because we appreciate the effort.

Personally, I prefer to play in community spaces and luckily there are a few in Ireland. In the capital, Dublin bands can play in the collectively run gig-space “Tenterhooks” or in a pub if it is a more popular band that will attract a bigger crowd. The next biggest city is Belfast in Northern Ireland which is the location of the legendary “Warzone Centre“. Occasionally travelling bands can play in a space run by the punks in Galway. It’s always good fun.

My closest city is Cork which has a lively scene. Shows happen in some smaller southern towns like New Ross and Waterford.

Along the west coast touring punk bands can play in Galway City and Ballina.

In addition to Belfast there are DIY gigs happening in Enniskillen and Derry in Northern Ireland. There’s no border to cross, you’ll just have to exchange your euros into pounds if you want to buy anything, for example, Buckfast.

Ok then. What are your touring plans for this year. Are you plotting some proper tours for the coming months?

Unfortunately, there are no touring plans at the time of writing due to work commitments by some members of the band. However, you can see us play at the Ultra Chaos Piknik in Poland in June.

 

BURNCHURG gig!

Ultra Chaos

Great! How do you book your shows? How have your experience and contacts made it any easier for you to connect and work with fellow artists, promoters and labels?

When the Euro tour of 2014 was being booked, we were a relatively unknown band with no recordings. All we had were some live youtube videos and a few songs on bandcamp. The fact we could mention some of the bands members used to or still play in helped us get shows! We asked old friends from touring with our bands in the past, people who had approached Burnchurch to request we play a concert in their town, we got some contacts from recently touring Irish bands and in addition approached DIY promoters via the internet. So i think previous experience has definitely made it easier to connect with promoters and labels. (To date, we haven’t made releases or tours with bands outside Ireland.)

I think when someone has met you before they have an idea of the kind of people you are, what kind of music, so they have a good idea of what to expect and then can decide if they really want to deal with you again.

Have you been a zine reader? How do you think has zine culture changed since the rise of the Internet?

Yes, zines were my gateway into punk in the 1990s and I still enjoy them a lot particularly the type of zine that has a good mix of music, politics and the personality of the writer. I think zine culture has died back a lot, however I must admit I also got a bit lazy for seeking them out. When I was coming up it seemed like everyone made a zine, it seemed to be a rite of passage. Nowadays, it’s the exception. It seems to be that instead of zine culture, today, the habit is just to “reblog” or “share” articles you have (maybe) read and on a blog or facebook. Very few people offer their own opinion or interpretation of the subject. I would like to see more zines again. Last month was the first issue of The Parish Punk and I really enjoyed the process of hassling people to write articles, laying out with a stick of glue and the visit to the photocopy shop. I hope people will contribute and even if they say “this is shit, i’m going to do my own fanzine” it’ll make me happy!

Ok then, enough interrogating for our first time :) There’s one more thing I’m curious about. What do you look to get fulfilment from outside of the band?

Ha ha, yes it’s been intense ; )

Whooh… well being in BURNCHURCH is fulfilling for me, the cathartic therapy of getting to scream my head off and make beautiful music with friends. I enjoy walking in mountains or woodlands nearby my house, the unconditional love of my rescue dogs, visiting stone age monuments, hanging out with people and beating the shit out of the punch-bag.

I reckon the other lads get their kicks outside of BURNCHURCH from the usual stuff and their other bands e.g. SEIZURE, DOWTH, RATS BLOOD and DROPPIN’ BOMBS.

Thanks a lot for your time! Anything else you’d like to discuss here?

Thanks for the interview – if any IDIOTEQ readers are interested in getting a copy of our debut album and their local distro doesn’t have it – get in touch burnchurchpunks@gmail.com.

Thanks! Cheers from Warsaw!

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