Fever Spreads for Discobeard
The bewhiskered covers duo are fast becoming Belfast's house band, earning residencies all over town by dismantling popular favourites
With their idiosyncratic interpretations of classic pop, rock and soul tunes, and no frills approach to music-making, Discobeard have taken the live music scene in Belfast and beyond by storm.
Featuring Ross Maguire on sweet, soulful vocals and finely-plucked guitar and Gareth McCreevy on precision drums, the band will be familiar to revellers aplenty, having secured residencies in The Dirty Onion, The Anchor Bar and elsewhere.
The bearded beauties took time out from rehearsing new tunes – plucked from every conceivable genre, including country, hip-hop, R&B and ska – to chat about the rise and rise of the cover band.
How did you two bearded boys meet?
Gareth: I was working in one of the local bars in Newcastle, County Down, the Harbour Inn, and Ross was playing a solo set. I really liked his sound and the way he constructed some of the songs musically and rhythmically. Ultimately, I thought it would sound better with drums, but it wasn't a bad effort by himself.
Ross: Gareth approached me after the gig and we chatted. We decided to have a jam, just for fun, but it did work pretty much instantaneously, to the point of laughter. We're still like that now.
When did you officially form Discobeard?
R: The birth of Discobeard took place on a blustery February evening in 2014. We had played together once or twice before then, with no solid entity. We decided to really give it a go. On that night, we gave this musical lovechild a name.
R: We had only played about three times without a moniker and people were interested in booking us. We thought 'Ross and Gareth' sounded a bit ridiculous, so we went for an even more ridiculous name. I'd say one word, then Gareth another, until two words came together: Discobeard. You're lucky, we could have been called 'The Beardy Beardy Heartthrobs'.
Which bands where you in before?
G: I still play with [the] Rupture Dogs, a much heavier and aggressive rock band. So Discobeard was a 180 for me and a nice chance to work on something different and show my versatility.
Where did you start playing?
G: We started in Newcastle, in The Anchor Bar and O'Hare's Front Bar. A few tester shows and the interest and ability grew from there, so we took our equipment up to Belfast and played a few more shows to generate interest. We haven't looked back since.
What do you love about Discobeard?
R: It's a great musical outlet for us. I feel that it's both entertaining for music lovers and satisfying for musicians. There is enough to keep everyone entertained, and it's musically intricate enough for us to feel that we're putting on a show for those seeking a bit of proper live music instead of the run of the mill three chord wonders.
For the uninitiated, how would you describe the act?
G: We touch on many genres and styles of music. It depends on the audience what our performance will be, but we usually start off relaxed, playing slower tempos and making it sound more spacious. By the end of the night, it's 100 MPH, "what the hell just happened?" kind of vibe.
People will have heard you play soul versions of Metallica tracks, for example, or reggae twists on country classics. How do you come to flip each song?
R: We just hear songs out and about and something clicks in our heads. Immediately, we'll think, "Oh that would sound good like this". (Cue: Musical beatboxing and melody.)
We try and take the best bits of songs and disregard the rest. We hear the potential in that small fragment and from that, we try and make the song better than the original. That's the aim.
You play a lot of shows these days, which you regularly post about on your Facebook page. Where can people catch you?
R: We still play in Newcastle, but now we're based in Belfast, mainly in such establishments as The Harp Bar, The Dirty Onion and The Empire, to name a few. We've played shows in London, Prague and New York also. Sadly, not on a weekly basis, but never say never.
Your shows are all about the party atmosphere. Do you consider yourselves entertainers first?
R: We are very much musicians. We really enjoy when everyone has a good time and let loose. We love that people get a lot of joy from our performances. It can be very rewarding at times.
We don't go out with the mentality to solely entertain, we take the audience into consideration and select our songs from there to suit the atmosphere. That's why every Discobeard show is different and always will be.