The Meanits who meant it
A FEW MONTHS ago, Laois band Adela and the Meanits decided that instead of performing selected nationwide dates in the lead up to the release of their debut album, they would organise gigs in every county in Ireland throughout the month of August.
Summer Living was there at the start, and we’re here at the end. And we’re asking the same question: can a band of three men, one woman, two cars, a six-man tent and a bundle of pop songs survive the experience of 32 gigs in less than 30 days?
The short answer is yes – with some reservations. According to lead singer Adela Meally, the idea of traversing the country was inspired.
“The more you play live, the better you get – it’s as simple as that.
“The widely diverse audiences that the gigs opened up for us has been amazing, and the reception we received in the majority of venues has been nothing short of thrilling.
“I really like the idea of a varied audience: people of all ages, genders, creeds, and so on, getting well into the shows. To be honest, I feel a bit like a travelling minstrel at the moment.”
According to bass player Barry Hayes, it helped that the band members knew each other so well, and that all four had complementary characters traits. “Once we were kept well fed and watered we still managed to get a laugh out of each other.”
After four weeks of caring and sharing, the band, says Meally, is committed to making music together. “We don’t always agree with each other, but we work something out. The fact that no one was complaining on tour, that we are constantly making future plans for the band and have remained excited about every gig tells me we are the real deal and in it for all the right reasons.
“Another high point of the tour was the fact that on more than a few occasions we stayed up jamming new material till the early hours of the morning – despite the fact that we seriously needed sleep. That’s true love.”
So far, so cosy, but what about the low points?
For drummer Ross O’Meara, the lows included the monotonous routine of assembling and dismantling his drum kit at each gig; for Hayes it was the “endless driving, especially in bad weather and on winding roads”. Every day, he says, turned into “a combination of your first day at a new job and a blind date.”
For Meally, the major lows of the tour included a couple of venues (she won’t name and shame) that cancelled gigs at the last minute. “Not only had we to find a different venue to play in at a moment’s notice,” she says, sighing, “but we also had to cover all the travel and accommodation expenses ourselves.”
Those irritating factors aside, all band members agree the tour worked out for the best: firm friendships became even stronger, band ideologies were copper-fastened and career commitments solidified. Would they recommend such an undertaking to other music acts?
“Not unless they had a helicopter, perhaps!” says Hayes. “We would definitely recommend getting to all corners of the country, of course, but maybe stay a day or two longer in most areas and savour the experience a little longer than we got to.”
“I would, but it’s a strange one,” says Meally. “I think we did it at exactly the right time for us as a band. Had we done this kind of tour when we first formed I’m not sure if it would have worked out. I can’t really explain it, but I have a strong feeling we are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. And, to be honest, there’s no point doing this type of tour unless you’re really committed to the cause, and unless you absolutely love what you are doing.”
Finally, the band’s top tips for surviving four weeks negotiating Ireland’s highways and byways? Sleep tops the list: “Whenever you get the chance!” says O’Meara.
“A dry bed, a sense of belief and faith in what you are doing,” says Meally. “And friends you can be yourself around are pretty essential.”
“Get a good helicopter pilot,” says Hayes, “and lower your required comfort levels.”
Adela and the Meanits conclude their nationwide tour with shows tonight at Athy Arts Centre, Kildare, and tomorrow at Whelan’s, Dublin. The band’s debut album, Kinda Wild, is released September 28th.