Originally from Australia, the Celtic punk outfit The Rumjacks has delivered one after the other solid release during their over a decade long existence. Now, in 2021, they’re ready to unleash yet another full-length upon the world under the form of ‘Hestia’. Recorded in the middle of the pandemic and with their brand new vocalist Mike Rivkees (originally from Irish infested Boston), they seem to be ready for another step forward in their career. Time to have a chat with Mike about the album…
(note: this interview was recorded before the album came out)
GRIMM: So Mike, you’ve joined since April 22 The Rumjacks. How did that come about? I saw that Frank left them under not the best circumstances, like there was some bad blood that was between them. How did you come to be where you are now? Because I saw you were a guest vocalist at one point.
Yep. I had actually initially met the band. While my Boston band Mickey Rickshaw, we were playing with the Rumjacks in Germany. We did a festival with them. And I don’t know, I think it’s just a nature of people from Boston and people from Australia. They’ve really similar cultures. So we got along really well, we just became friends. And then when everything went down with Frankie, and they decided, “Alright, we’re going to continue the band, because we’ve worked 10 years on this, but we can’t continue with our current singer.” That’s when they decided, “you know what, we’re just gonna get Mike“. And that to me, felt totally strange, like absolutely the weirdest thing in the world. When they asked me to join the band. But I said, You know what? It’s a huge opportunity. So…
GRIMM: yeah, I can imagine these are kind of a big shoes to fill, so to speak, because it’s been like… How long has it been, 10 years?
Absolutely. What I always say is, is that you know what? Frankie had his own shoes. He had his own footprints, I’m not going to put on another man’s shoes, especially during a pandemic, I’m just going to write the best songs that I can with these guys. And we’re just going to do our own thing. Still keeping true to the sound of the band. But I think it’s important that obviously, I know everybody will compare the old stuff and the new stuff. But I think for us, the best thing was just to say, don’t worry about it. Don’t try to compare and just, you know, do the best stuff we can.
GRIMM: That’s interesting. I had a chance to listen to your album already. Well people can do a deep dive on the former albums and it does seem you hold on to the roots very well. So let’s talk about the album, ‘Hestia’. It apparently is the name of the Greek goddess. What’s that about? Is there a reason behind it?
So the song itself, it’s basically about this character, this girl that lives in the woods, and it’s almost a Little Red Riding Hood type, old folk tale, where it’s a girl lives in the woods, and there’s a wolf. And she takes care of the wolf that’s been harassing her, you know, she ends up shooting the wolf down. And, yeah, so it’s out of an old school folk tale kind of song. And Hestia being the goddess of the home and the hearth, I just thought it made sense to name the song after her. But you know, it’s a song about a woman protecting her home, protecting herself. Obviously, there’s a million different ways people can interpret that in terms of symbolism in terms of what they relate it to today. But I leave that open to interpretation.
GRIMM: I can see that. It’s the goddess of home and hearth. And she is defending that home in the song with striking back with a double barreled, so to speak.
Yeah. And then the album cover is the wolf with the Hestia symbol carved into his forehead.
GRIMM: Oh, I didn’t even notice that!
Yeah, it’s a sneaky little thing we threw in there. But honestly, I just thought it was a badass sounding name, like Hestia. That’s cool. Just a good ring.
GRIMM: It makes a statement. That is true. Apparently, you are very happy to how it turned out. I can tell. So what songs are you the most excited for on the album?
So my favorite song on the album is ‘Rhythm of her Name’. The way that song came together, it was pretty random. We were in the 11th hour about to start recording maybe two days away. And I was sitting there in the studio with Johnny, our bass player. And I said, “You know what, I have all these voice recordings on my phone of just song ideas just from,… I don’t know, just whenever I’d be sitting, you know, in my home studio, just playing guitar, record, playing guitar, record. And I came across this one. I said, Oh, wait a minute. Listen to this one.” And Johnny said, “Dude, we need to make that a song.” So right there, we kind of made a demo, put it together and then said, “Yep, the song is gonna make the album.” Today, it’s my favorite song that I’ve ever written. So…
GRIMM: The recordings in the fridge are usually like the number one source of inspiration sometimes. Yeah, so I saw on Facebook, that you you and the band were in Italy for three months, to record the album probably under very strict conditions. What was that like? How did it work out?
So Italy got hit by COVID pretty badly, as we all know. But by August, the numbers were very low. And we said, “All right, if we all have work documents and everything, then everybody can make it into the country to record, because our manager lives in Milan.” And that’s where the studio is where they recorded the last album, our drummer’s from the same area, our tin whistle bagpipe player, he’s the audio engineer. So basically, this DIY album was put together in Milan, and we just wanted to make sure we were going to be able to make it there. And once we were there, then it was like “alright, let’s pretty much lock ourselves in an apartment and live in the apartment to the studio. And that’s just gonna be our life for three months.” It was great!
GRIMM: Yeah, I can imagine that must really have brought you guys together in a way.
It was the first time we’d ever hung out as a band, you know, especially like, I’ve known the guys, but we never actually got to really spend time together like living in an apartment like that.
GRIMM: I gotta admit, that sounds very fun!
Yeah, it was, it was awesome! It was cool.
GRIMM: So the general vibe in the band is like… I saw in an interview as well on your Facebook profile a while after you joined, that you and also the band, like really renewed the focus on songwriting, back to the music, that sort of thing. So is that still a thing? Is the vibe still good in the band so to speak?
Absolutely. I mean, I guess I can’t speak too much as to how the process was before, obviously. But I think for them, it was kind of like… “Alright, we got to, we got to, like, try to make an album come together.” And I don’t know, they described it as a very, it wasn’t as fun of a process. It was very just like, kind of mechanical almost. But the way that I’ve always played music, I only play music because it’s the most fun thing to do in the world for me. So naturally, I mean, I was like, “hell yeah, let’s record this album”. And I was excited about it. And they were just like, “oh, oh, this is fun”! I’m like, “Yeah, why are you guys doing this?” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is fun.” I don’t know. I don’t know what it was like before. But yeah, we had a blast.
GRIMM: Hey, sometimes it gets you. You get just get caught up in the slump of things. And then somebody new and fresh-faced comes along and then everything just falls into place. Again, it sounds great.
I was wondering, you guys are from a lot of different places. Has that affected your sound in any way or has it affected what you bring to the table in terms of songwriting, in terms of music?
So oddly enough, a lot of my influences in this type of like Celtic, punk folk punk stuff, a lot of my influences are their influences also. I lived in Sydney for a little bit; Sydney, Australia. And there I got into bands, one band called Roaring Jack, they’re an Australian Celtic punk band from the 80s. And then there’s another band called Sydney City Trash. And these two bands were huge influences of mine. And also because they’re from Sydney and the Rumjacks are also from around Sydney… So yeah, we already saw eye to eye on a lot of things musically. So it was really interesting to have like, some ideas and they’re like, yep, that’s exactly as we would have played it. So it was a good fit in that way.