Timing can be everything in music. Before the Covid-19 crisis, Dublin outfit The Scratch had the world before them: A burgeoning live reputation, an album in the can, and the goodwill of festivals around the country; they solidified themselves as bona-fide crowd-pleasers. Then came the pandemic as that album, Couldn’t Give a Rats, was about to be released, in March of 2020.
Speaking over a choppy phone line from Inishbofin, singer and guitarist Jordan O’Leary discusses that time, and how the band kept their head up en route to getting back on the road.
“It’s great to be back at it,” O’Leary says. “Obviously, like everyone else, we missed gigging. It was strange not getting to play [the album] for anyone. It was a huge release, being able to play the songs... Or it was a huge relief, I should say; it felt good. But it’s also strange, because, in our case, we’ve written a whole new album since then that we haven’t released. So it’s kind of like we’re catching up on ourselves a bit, which is strange.
“But, yeah, it’s been great to be able to play gigs. Again, it’s something that I think we all realise our mental health is quite linked to not being able to do it, after a while. It was pretty rough. Overall, it’s a positive thing.”
Over the course of lockdown and to fill the absence of gigs, the band did a live edition of said debut LP, Couldn’t Leave Our Gaffs, which, unlike its studio cousin, is available on vinyl. Jordo talks about the alternate version of their debut, and putting it together in strange times.
“It was fun,” O’Leary says. “It was maybe a year or longer into the pandemic, and we had still not gigged. I think it was the year anniversary, since we recorded. And then to release on vinyl, we were approached by a Dutch record label, a small independent label that said they were into the band and they wanted to release something.
“So that was the kind of thinking, yeah, it was just making the best out of a bad situation. We couldn’t gig the thing, we hadn’t played for anyone. So, we’re thinking, if we can do this, at least it’s given people some sort of experience.”
Festival season is a mixed bag of audiences for The Scratch, but a recent trip to Doolin Folk Festival, in the Co Clare village’s hotel, dropped them in the middle of an annual landmark event for genre-lovers and artists alike. A tall order in itself, but one that came after a massive appearance for another kind of crowd.
“We were at Download Festival (Donington, UK) the night before,” O’Leary said.
“It was pretty rowdy, it was good craic, and then we were straight to Clare for the Folk Fest. I think someone commented, saying we’re the only band that could do both of those festivals that weekend. I don’t know if that’s true, I’m sure there are others, but it was a funny experience.
“Folk Fest was f**king amazing. Jesus Christ. That was actually one of my favorite gigs we’ve done in a while. It was a small enough room, but it was rammed full of people, and everyone got really rowdy for it. It was f**king fantastic. I can’t wait to go back to that festival, to be honest.”
Between Download and 2000 Trees festivals, the band has done its fair share of time in the UK this summer. Jordo talks about what’s changed in going to festivals post-Brexit and what hasn’t.
“The thing that’s changed for us, post-Brexit, is that we have to register our instruments now, so that we’re not done for import taxes on the way back. The festivals themselves are good craic.
“Download was amazing, because, you know, it’s a legendary heavy music festival. Everyone knows the people are there to see heavy bands, and we were playing during the day.
“It was an afternoon show, 2.30pm or something like that. But the tent was rammed, a really, really good reception at that.
“With 2000 Trees, I think people thought we were an acoustic band or something, and I think we still have that in our bio, which I was talking to the lads recently about taking that out, because I don’t think it accurately describes us any more. We were on a kind-of small acoustic stage in the forest. And I don’t think people expected us to sound like we did, but it was another great show.”
The band are heading for INDIE22 this Saturday, ahead of a brace of winter gigs around the country, and after a Covid-era excursion to Mitchelstown, are ready for the full-stage experience.
“Looking forward to it, it’s gonna be fun, great craic. As far as I remember, we’ve a really good slot. It’ll be good to be back. Corcaigh abú!”
The Scratch play INDIE22 on Saturday night, and headline at Cyprus Avenue, in Cork, on Saturday, November 5. Tickets on sale at cyprusavenue.ie.