OTwo Interviews: Fatboy of BRICKNASTY

Image Credit: Eve McSweeney

Isabella Ambrosio sits down with the up-and-coming Irish act, BRICKNASTY. The lead, Fatboy, walks Ambrosio through everything and everything BRICKNASTY.

BRICKNASTY has been a name on everyone’s lips in the last year. Hailing from Ballymun, BRICKNASTY is a band that incorporates more genres than you can name. Each song is different, ranging from influences in jazz, hip-hop, rap, R&B, djent and more. A part of the band’s rising fame is due to the roots that Fatboy, frontman, has in Ballymun and how he incorporates that into the music he makes. In their music video “SO SICK”, Fatboy is spotted wearing his famous balaclava with images of Ballymun flashing throughout the song. Derelict buildings, young kids riding mopeds, horse-drawn carriages through the streets, and photographs of kids playing, burning cars, and working men. The sense of community and pride in his roots is evident.

The screen is black and Fatboy doesn’t show his face, which was expected. But his voice is kind, and he gets excited when I understand what he’s trying to explain. 

“Give me an introduction to BRICKNASTY,” I ask simply. It’s a wide question, willing to let Fatboy take me in the direction he feels most comfortable with.

“We started in the band in lockdown straight away. I met the drummer - I went to BIMM for a few months - before I failed out. I met the drummer and the bassist there, and at the same time, I started working with Cillian [McCauley], our main producer. That was it. Lockdown hit so we started going mad on the internet, doing Instagram bits and Spotify bits, just trying to get done what we could. Lucky enough, then because we did all of that, we got invited, when gigging came back, we’re all able to play.”

“What was it like for you at BIMM?”

“It was pretty stinky. I’d say pretty stinky. It’s not for me. I liked some of the lecturers. Darren Bell. Darren Bell was a good lecturer. I didn’t really give a bollox. I liked Brian, as well. Other than that, I didn’t really learn loads. Any time I have the guitar, any time I’m sitting down and wanting to play, I just want to be able to f***ing mess and see what’s out there. And you’d be coming into class and they’d be asking me, ‘Where’s your guitar pick?’ and all, and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter which way I play the guitar, as long as I’m learning, that’s the main thing. If you want to jump in a wedding band, that’s smart shit there.”

“You prefer a more creative approach than a technical approach, then?”

“Yeah, exactly. They want you to do a lot of writing. I don’t mind writing, I like writing a lot. But the things I wanted to write about, there was no room for me to write about them. It made sense for me to not be in college anymore. And especially after lockdown hit, and I wasn’t able to go on campus anymore, I was basically just like that’s it. The first year, the first year was lethal. Getting to be a college student for a few, that was good. But, after that, it was a bit too much for me.”

“So, talk to me about your creative influences, then. What makes you want to write?”

“That’s a tough one. I’m trying to get back into writing riffs and all, but we were playing live there a lot, and there was a lot of technique. And a big emphasis on technique, and being able to rip through the fundamentals and having the fundamentals down really, there wasn’t really a lot of room for writing. But now that the gigs are after going down a little bit, it’s good. It’s alright to just write an eight-bar riff, if anything it’s the best move, to write a sick eight-bar, four-bar riff. The shorter the better really. And that song can turn into anything then, but the main thing, I had a mad dry spell back there, is to keep throwing ideas at the wall. Keep stockpiling ideas. And don’t conflate conceptual direction with technical proficiency, because I think loads of people get into the habit of practising loads without having anything worth saying, really. So, there’s no point in having all of this musical ability if you have no taste or no direction. Just be careful that you’re not just wanking for the sake of it.”

“Are there any artists you go back to and take inspiration from?”

“It would have to be Fergus Daly, absolutely. He is the end-all-be-all. Get into them songs. I don’t wanna ruin it on you,” he says after I admit I hadn’t heard of Fergus Daly, “When you come away, stick Fergus Daly in the Instagram, and you’ll be put wild.”

“What to you is so appealing about his work?”

“He has the craft down, you know what I mean? You know what it is bro, right, he tells a story. He tells a story. He’ll make a song and you’ll nearly listen to a song, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, when you’re listening to the song, you’re more like going on an actual journey than listening to a song itself.”

“Spot on, man. Spot on. You have it.” I can hear him picking at a guitar from over the call. It reminds me of a few other artists who would tap on the desk or pick at their bass.

“Talk to me about what it was like growing up in Ballymun.”

“Growing up was alright. There were some bits that were a little bit tricky, but mostly it was pretty good. I never wanted for anything, I never went hungry. The flats in Ballymun were always roasting warm, they were pretty big. I always think it’s funny the way they got called flats instead of apartments, only because they were in Ballymun, they called them flats. They were basically apartments, they were proper nice. Especially the ones that I grew up in, they were refurbished. So we had a little playground out the front, every flat had a slide out the front, and then there was a big playground where all the boys would go out and rap Eminem verses in. There were loads of willies drawn all over the wall. Loads of room for creativity there, you know that way?”

“Yeah, I was going to ask if your community was receptive to music and was it supportive?”

“I think it’s a bit different now, I think a few people have heard about BRICKNASTY. For the longest time, if you were from Ballymun and you said you liked BRICKNASTY, I would call you a bare-faced liar because no one was into that. But music is very integral to Ballymun, same as the inner city, like Tallaght or Clondalkin. Music is very important to them. But, the type of music that I make is a bit of an acquired taste, so I’m working on getting people into it.”

“You have a basis for hip-hop and rap, but you influence a lot of jazz and rock as well.”

“There’s a place for everything. I think jazz is the ultimate… nothing has harmony more than jazz. Harmony, and melody… Jazz is the ultimate. That obviously has its place in rap. And I started listening to rap when I was younger, that would have been my first favourite genre.”

“Who would you have listened to?”

“Eminem, 50 Cent, Tupac when I got a bit older. He was before I was born, but when you get into rap, everyone always talks about Tupac and Biggie Smalls, there were a loads of people in Ballymun who liked them already, so I got into them then. Loads of R&B, I loved R&B music growing up, like Rihanna and Chris Brown, I probably shouldn’t have probably said them two together, but how and ever. Akon. I don’t know why I said them two together,” he starts laughing pretty hard and I reassure him it’s alright, “Ne-yo.”

“To go back then, how do they play a part?”

“A lot of producers that were producing for them are f***ing phenomenal, like Pharrell, Pharell was a beast. Timbaland was a beast. Dr Dre was a beast. Dr Dre was my favourite musician for a very, very long time. Them sticky basslines, them sticky basslines. There are a lot of posh, Irish indie bands who are doing very well for themselves who could do with listening to a little Dr Dre, ‘cause I felt like that was always missing from Irish music for some reason, was the ugly, horrible bass and drums that are lethal, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, it gives the music soul.”

Fatboy and I talk even more about artists and genres, and what he’s trying to do with BRICKNASTY. He was fascinating to talk to, and BRICKNASTY’s newest release, “ina cleaner” (available on Spotify), is somehow even more fascinating.