Two Irishmen wrote and sang about everyone's favourite caffeinated beverage, and it's become an online phenomenon. Si's Sights And Sounds finds out more about a "Tea Song" and its creators
It all began with two guys writing funny, yet overly honest, songs about everyday things.
Everyday things, that is, like "sexually frustrated old men and homosexual frogs" according to Kevin O'Brien of the McGetigans. Now, the Dublin troupe consists of six men doing "pretty much the same thing."
But did O'Brien and his mates – John Sweeney (aka "Sweeney Joe"), Barry O'Dwyer, Brian Murphy and Brendan Lawless – always want to be a comedy band? "A lot of our songs are considered comedy, but they never start that way", laughs O'Brien. "We just can't take ourselves seriously for more than five seconds!"
The McGetigans – named after a character in a play that O'Brien had been writing in his spare time – admit to have taken a leaf from the great Irish musicians who have played a good percentage of funny songs, like The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and Christy Moore, to name but a few. But they've never been strongly influenced by any mainstream comedians; to them, the "normal Irish people" who they see every day are far funnier than just about anyone on television. To put it even more succinctly, their just hoping to carry on an old Irish tradition – that of having "a bit of craic" with their music.
Not that it's been all milk and honey for the group. Two years ago, the release of their first EP pretty much fell flat.
"We sent CDs and badges out to every radio station we could think of, but we got no reply from any of them", O'Brien says. “They mustn't have liked it. I'd like to say that we have learned valuable lessons since then, but in truth, we are still as clueless as ever.
"We fared better with the release of our last single, though, 'Son Love Your Neighbour'. It sparked a bit more interest, and led to us playing live on the John Murray Show."
I then ask O'Brien the big question: what on earth possessed them to write a song about tea?
"We love tea. And 'The Tea Song' wrote itself. The phrase 'I wouldn't say no to a cup of tea' was banging around in my head for ages. Before long, I'd put a verse together, and then I sat down with John and brainstormed the rest of the tune out. On the day the song was fully ready, we recorded ourselves playing it on my mother’s couch."
And thus was born a YouTube cult phenomenon, amassing nearly 20,000 hits to this day. But what has impressed O'Brien and Sweeney most of all is how varied the interest has been to their video.
They have received messages from "all walks of life". People have used the song on their own videos. Tea lovers have told the band that the song has become "the soundtrack to their lives". The song was re-recorded for the good cause of promoting a not-for-profit Kenyan tea company, Ajiri Tea. Most surprisingly of all, the people in charge of an English Language course in Germany asked if they could use "The Tea Song" as a learning tool... and of course, the band agreed.
But what do O'Brien and Sweeney sing about when they're not extolling the benefits of tea?
"Many of our non tea related songs are about John’s sexual exploits", O'Brien says. "You know, like failed conquests, erectile dysfunction and things women should not do with their fingers. We've also written songs about dancing with no pants on, female biology and moral advice."
With that in mind, what can we expect from The McGetigans in the future?
"We have this great communal dream of living in a huge mansion filled with hot groupies and a kettle in every room, where we can drink as much as we like and never grow old. A swimming pool and tennis court would be nice too. We've no idea how this dream could be realized, but it keeps us going!"
Of course, immortality has a price; but one senses that the McGetigans have already achieved some sort of cultural and musical immortality by singing about everyone's – well, almost everyone's – favourite drink. And who knows how far they can truly go?
The Tea Song will be launched as a single at the Cobblestone Bar in Dublin on August 3. For more information about The McGetigans, visit their official site at www.mcgetigans.com or check them out on Facebook. All photos courtesy of The McGetigans.