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Rackhouse Pilfer interview

The Irish sextet speak to us about their album re-release & their C2C appearance.

Rackhouse Pilfer
Credit: Nicola Gillespie Photography

Irish sextet Rackhouse Pilfer are fast emerging as a band to keep a very close eye on.

The band are adding a host of headline appearances to their ever-growing list of credentials including some of Ireland’s, UK’s & Europe’s biggest music festivals such as La Roche France, Omagh Bluegrass, Body & Soul, Sea Sessions, Great British Folk Festival. In March the band will be performing at C2C: Country to Country bringing their brand of country/folk to a very eager Country music crowd.

We caught up with Willie Kelly from Rackhouse Pilfer to talk about the band’s upcoming album re-release, find out more about their C2C appearance, and discuss the origins of the band.

Hi guys. How are you today? What have you been up to so far this week?

Hi EF, Willie Kelly from Rackhouse Pilfer here. We’re great Thank you, living the dream haha. This week we’ve been demoing some new material here in Ireland. At a gorgeous cottage and studio all rolled into one, out in the countryside and it’s quite easy to relax and get creative, so we had fun.

You’re releasing your new single Bright Lights on 11th March. 
What’s the story behind the track?

I wrote Bright Lights, it’s a song about Emigration. In recent years through the economic crisis so many young Irish people have had to leave home in search for work abroad, even if they didn’t necessarily want to leave! We have friends all over the world, and so I suppose it was playing on my mind subconsciously, and the song appeared out of nowhere really, it gave me a fright actually, haha. But it’s not a miserable tune by any means, it’s an upbeat fighting kind of tune, a song of hope for those people abroad to never give up, come back home when they’re ready and when things are better, we’ll always be here and we’re always thinking of them.

To celebrate the release you’ll be performing as part of C2C. What
 can we look forward to from your performance?

A Rackhouse Pilfer show is always 200%. We are raw, we throw caution to the wind and we like to have fun, so when the audience is having fun also that’s what makes the special ones. We set up like a Bluegrass String band, but with drums, so it’s very rootsy, but we have drums thrown in the mix, so it’s also very Rock n Roll. At C2C we’re going to go all out to make it a special one, for sure.

How did you get involved with C2C and how important is it to be part of the 

bill?

We applied through the online application form actually, if I’m honest it was kind of by accident haha. I seen Chris Stapelton was on the bill, I think he’s great, and so I went to the website to see the full line up and found the application form in the process, so I thought, hell yeah we can possibly perform with Chris nevermind go see him! And fast forward a couple of months later and we get an email from the C2C team congratulating us and inviting us over to London. Actually I thought we’d be doing Dublin if we got picked seen as we’re Irish, but they don’t have the pop up stages over here, so off to London we go, and we can’t wait. It’s such a big deal really, and we love playing in the UK, so this is a great step towards letting more fans know about Rackhouse Pilfer over there, we’re really treating it as a big break for the band in the UK, even if it was all an accident.

You’ll be re-releasing your album Love & Havoc, also on 11th March. Why did 
you decide to re-release the album?

Again because we seem to find ourselves in the UK more often now, we feel like the ‘Love and Havoc’ album wasn’t given much of a chance to find people’s ears over there. When we first released it in 2014 we really only concentrated on Ireland, at the time it was hard to look beyond that because we’re a fully independent self managed band, we’re learning as we go. But we really feel like there’s such strong material on the ‘Love and Havoc’ album, that it’s only fair to give it a new lease of life in the UK. So we don’t really look at it as a re-release to be honest, it’s still very fresh and we’re just breathing new life into it, and we’re really hoping it finds some people that will enjoy the music and come see us live.

Rackhouse Pilfer

Credit: Rackhouse Pilfer

Tell us how Rackhouse Pilfer came to be.

Myself, Leon and Leslie are childhood friends, we’ve been playing music together on and off since we were 13. And to cut a really long story short, Leon and Leslie had been doing an unplugged roots session in a bar in our home town every Monday night. I’d join in sometimes, as would a lot of other musicians, it was a jam session really. But there was a core group of guys there that were really on the same page, and actually I could see that, I kind of spotted the potential in it and asked Leon and Leslie could we make a proper band out of it. They finally agreed and we got the right 6 guy’s together and went for it. There was no way 4 years ago we’d have dared dream about how far we’ve actually come, I mean we were the session band on 2 songs for Tom Jones 2015 album “Long Lost Suitcase”, from a small pub in the West of Ireland to the musical Premier League in a recording studio with Tom Jones and Imelda May. And now playing at the O2 London, crazy stuff, but we’ve worked really hard!

Where did the name of the band come from? What’s the story behind it?

Actually when we first decided to make that pub session band into the real thing, I asked a friend of mine Dan Hyberger from Nashville did he want to come join us, because he’d been saying for so long he wanted to live in Ireland and he’s an amazing double bass player. So he agreed to join the band and he was in the initial band name discussions, before he fell in love over there and changed his mind. But he suggested Rackhouse which over in Souhthern USA is a place where they store whiskey to age, or hang tobacco to dry. And we added Pilfer, which is shortened down from ‘pilfering’, which is petty thievery. Nothing overly mad at the end of the day, but we instantly loved the name, we thought it fitted our style well and it was different and didn’t show up on a google search etc., we still love the name actually, it means a lot to us now.

Country music has been an under-presented genre here in the UK. Why do you

 think it’s starting to get some serious attention now?

To be honest I can’t answer for the UK really being an Irish man. I do know it’s never been a huge genre over there, but there’s always been a certain amount of love for it there I think none the less. People like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash etc. in the past had huge appeal and sales in the UK. I also think the quality of country music in general has really deteriorated over the past couple of decades, the stuff Nashville has been churning out on a major scale can be pretty awful at times. But there seems to be a few people starting to change that now, it seems to be slowly getting back to some good artists for example Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill is just amazing, to me that’s real country and he’s managed to bring it up to date at the same time, he’s the main man for me right now. There’s only so much pop manufactured music that one can take, it doesn’t have a shelf life and people aren’t stupid. So I think in general all over the world there’s a hunger for some great country music on a major level again because we’ve been starved of it for so long!

Which artists are you most looking forward to seeing at C2C?

I’d love to see Chris Stapleton and Dwight Yoakam, I hope I get the chance to catch at least one of them there.

What else does 2016 have in store for you?

Well as I said right at the start here, we’re working on new material. So we hope to record a new album very soon, and we will have it out before the end of 2016, That’s the main goal. But we gig all the time, we firmly believe that our live show is the best way to let people know about our music, so we do over 200 shows a year, that never stops and we love it.

Rackhouse Pilfer will be performing at C2C: Country to Country, which takes place at London’s O2 Arena from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th March 2016. The band’s new single Bright Lights will be released on 11th March 2016 with their album Love and Havoc re-released the same day. Watch the video for Bright Lights below:

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