Dublin folk-punks The Scratch emerged from a slightly unusual backdrop: they set aside a successful heavy rock band, Red Enemy, and totally started again. The reasoning was simple and plays out in every aspect of what they do. They wanted to do something with less of a sense of standardised ‘ground rules’ around it, and focus on having fun.
Years later, the acoustic-led act are nothing if not fun, evoking a party vibe at their famed live shows, and rising to a level where, half a decade after starting out in their new form, they’re headlining vibrant shows at a boisterous Olympia Theatre.
The most recent album from the band, ‘Couldn’t Give A Rats’, came out shortly after covid hit. “We haven’t been able to play that album live,” guitarist Conor Dockery tells us, with obvious regret. “We recorded a live stream covering a lot of the record in 2021, because we felt it would be a while before we got to do it properly, and it turned out it was another year. It was a way of closing the book on the whole thing, really, a tip of the cap to it. It went down so well that we put it out on vinyl, too.”
“We’ve been writing for the last seven or eight months, so we’re talking about another album, and we have some other ideas floating around, too. It might be that we just put music out in whatever form it comes. But we’ve tons of new material.”
That’s a world away from the early days. “We didn’t really know what was going on when the band started,” Dockery recalls. “In those early days, we kind of saw busking as a way of getting out there. We did that for about two years, and it became one of my favourite things I ever did. It was always going to run its course.”
“The shows got bigger and the sound changed and became less suited to the street, but it’s one of the purest forms of performing, and I’d recommend it to anyone. It can be humbling and rewarding, and we saw both sides of that. We like to get people involved and leave them feeling a bit different to an average gig, and a lot of that dates back to busking. It was a big thing.”
The Scratch consider themselves an evolution of modern folk, a kind of follow on to the likes of Planxty and The Dubliners, and cousins to popular modern acts like The Mary Walloppers. “All we do with the covers is make a version by Planxty and make it more our own,” Dockery says of the band’s cover tracks, which are littered through their own music.
“We take those old songs and make them our own, and that’s the magic of those songs,” he says. “They’re so old a lot of the time nobody even knows who owns them. They’re kind of free reign. What’s very unique about traditional Irish music is that you can take music like that and make it your own. Make it feel like it belongs to you, and it’s great, I love that about it.”
As for that evolution from Red Enemy? “I think we all miss it at various times, but it was very hard for us to put our personalities across in that music,” he recalls. “We grew up on Pantera and all these bands, and musically we were expressing ourselves. But there’s not a whole lot of room to have fun and show another side of you in that genre. At least we felt a bit caged in. The Scratch just feels like a bunch of mates having fun and saying what we wanted to say.”