Newly expanded to an eighteen-piece and back with a beautiful concept album dedicated to a key moment in Irish history (just in time for St Patrick’s Day), Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock look set to cement their place as one of Ireland’s most original acts…
There’s very little conventional about Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock. Their conversation flits happily between their pervasive politics – substantially left-leaning – and the charisma of their music. They work on albums for years before launching them onto the market, playing relatively rarely, with a focus on areas like historical accuracy. They also make sure they enjoy the ride.
The product is rock that’s riddled with Irish influence and hefty chords, but also comfortably distinct from trad, the Irish punk scene or even local folk.
Their growth has been an incremental one, in a sense, though rarely less than fantastically ambitious. “We started out as a four-piece, around 2006,” guitarist Enda Bates tells us. “For the second album we bounced up to a five-piece, then added an extra guitar. After that last album, we started to change our approach, and added all the extra guitars.”
That growth to an eighteen-piece has seen Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock develop into a different kind of band, one that’s able to produce layered power and gorgeous, jarring nuance.“Technically it is a full orchestra,” Bates explains, “in that its lots of different people playing the same part. There’s the core group, and they take care of the more complex, melodic stuff, and then the guitars are divided into four parts, playing together.”
“There are some American groups that put together symphonies for one hundred or two hundred electric guitars, but there’s not much out there like it. It’s an incredible sound, it’s like the comparison between one violin and an orchestra of violins. You get this really thick, slightly jarring feel.”
“It was something we were always interested in,” he explains of the change, and it kind of thematically fit with Lockout, with the big groups of workers all working together.” The Lockout he refers to, of course, is the industrial dispute between 20,000 worker s and their employees that took place over the rights of workers to unionise and preposterous working conditions, led by Jim Larkin and James Connolly in late 1913 and early 1914. The Lockout had impacts across Dublin society.