Pat 'n' Nipsy
Terrible name. Terrible music? Francis Jones finds out
It's true, there really is a no more god-awful name for a band than Pat 'n' Nipsy. Theres something so intrinsically quaint, so horribly misleading about the moniker. But then perhaps, in a perverse way, it makes sense.
Labyrinthine, full of glorious deceit and gorgeous reveals, Pat 'n' Nipsy's music is a captivating blend of the familiar and the obscure. Deceiving the listener, leading them up the sonic garden path, confounding them with its skewed world view, it is, in a word, quaint.
From Belfast, but currently based in Liverpool, these charming, puck-faced musical contortionists sit in a quiet corner of Auntie Annie's. Downing copious cups of coffee, all the better to keep them wired ahead of two evening performances, there was much I wanted to discuss with the caffeinated duo.
But first, I had to ask, why could such an abundantly imaginative act not come up with a more inspired handle than Pat 'n' Nipsy?
Nipsy: (Brian Fergus Nipsy Russell - guitar and vocals): 'Hence the cups of coffee and our earlier trip to Bookfinders. We're on the hunt for a new name.
'With Pat 'n' Nipsy we were just going for the absurd. It's the name we've adopted on our travels. We'd been over in Liverpool for a long time and had been going by the name Little Kicks, then we discovered there was a Scottish band called the same.
'Eventually we got sick of Liverpool, our fruitless search for a drummer there and left. We went to Athens and LA, busking there, and Pat 'n' Nipsy was fine for that.
Pat: (Patrick Damoglou Smyth - bass and vocals): 'It's a good bridge, people recognise the name, they know us. And of course Pat and Nipsy are our actual names! But, yeah we want to get a new name, to move forward with our ideas to make a serious venture of this.'
Playing up to three gigs in a single evening, no one could accuse Pat 'n' Nipsy of not dedicating themselves to their music. They've always been serious about it, but have recently upped the ante.
Nipsy: 'The last two years have been pretty much full-time. We've got our new drummer lined up, we're forming this new unit and we'll have a new name.
'Everyone picks up on the name thing, but to be fair it's worked out pretty well for us. I remember the first review we received said, "great band, shockingly awful name".
Well at least it wasn't the other way about. Regardless, having been friends and musical cohorts since early schooldays, the strength of bond between these two ensures they are well equipped to deal with whatever criticism might come their way.
Nipsy: 'When we started first year in secondary school we sat beside each other. On one side of me was this really strange guy, on the other side was another pretty strange guy with glasses on the end of his nose, reading an airgun magazine.
'That was Pat. I decided of the two, I'd speak to him. I told him that I'd shot an airgun once and he believed me.'
Soon they discovered they had more in common than airguns.
Pat: 'Jimi Hendrix was important. We had mentioned to each other that we played guitar. One day Nipsy gave me tablature for Jimi Hendrix. Unfortunately hed drawn it the wrong way up.
'Eventually we started going to each others houses, playing music all day, discovering albums. We could work out the chords from listening to records, like Nevermind and especially In Utero, when it came out was when we were really starting to write our own material.'
Listen to Pat 'n' Nipsy's material and you'll soon discover recurring themes and motifs, a signature sound and mindset that permeates all their work.
Nipsy: 'I think lyrically our main concern is the human condition, that Beckett-esque preoccupation with the absurd.'
Pat: 'In terms of our music people often mention the Merseybeat thing, but really I only think that is because we had moved there. Before that we'd been in Dublin and that had a big influence on us. Living there, listening to music and learning, meeting people.'
Nipsy: 'Dublin was our first time out of NI. We were excited to be experiencing new things and trying to take it all in. Just before we finished college we decided we better start to do something with the band. So we got the band back up and running, but unfortunately didn't finish college.'
Currently shuttling back and forward between Belfast and Liverpool, Pat 'n' Nipsy are, like their music, ever restless, driven by an irrepressible wanderlust and thirst for experience, character traits that had previously led them to Athens and LA.
Nipsy: 'Wanderlust certainly, but in a very real way our travels have been inspired by drummers.
'We've just had so many problems with them, we were getting depressed in Liverpool, unable to find a drummer. They all seem to come with some baggage, money problems, alcohol problems or whatever. We just came to this realisation that we had to leave. Pat's a quarter Greek, so we found a place to stay in Athens and moved out there.'
Pat: 'Athens was just so different; you have to throw yourself into it, playing on the streets every day. There's actually a huge anarchist presence there. Don't get me wrong. We're not anarchists, though we like liberal ideas as much as the next man.'
'Anyway we ended up playing in this huge square, in these government buildings thatd been taken over by students in the sixties and there were all these punks, anarchists, socialists, communists, authoritarians, and artists. And they're all really interested in Belfast, its like a Mecca for them, the struggle in NI provides a mirror to the struggle in their lives.'
Widely travelled, both in terms of geography and musical experience, who better to comment on the current state of the Northern Irish music scene than Pat 'n' Nipsy?
Pat: 'Yeah, coming back after our travels, it's just been the best ever. To come back to the place where you're from, to see things with fresh eyes. The reality of this place and the music scene is fantastic.
'Playing Auntie Annie's or The John Hewitt, meeting people like Terri Hooley, people who are into their music, there's an intelligent, progressive subculture here.'
Nipsy: 'I think it's great, especially when I look back and compare to playing here when I was sixteen. Back then there weren't as many venues and, what's worse, you just didn't get the crowds.
'Now it couldn't be more different, and for us coming back here and getting recognition for what weve been doing, that has been so encouraging. For us, and for the scene here, things are really starting to tingle, it's starting to happen.
On Record:Pat and Nipsy have an 11-track cd available at Phoenix Records, Haymarket Arcade, Royal Avenue, Belfast.