The Dead Sets frontman Luke Sharkey chats to Harry Ó Cléirigh about listening to blues as a teen and not being afraid to upset rock’n’roll puritans.
Crunchy, articulate guitars jangle within the confines of rock and roll. A humble yet busy rhythm section provides an accommodating platform for the primal vocals and expressive keys to really sing. Devoid of any histrionics, this is a blues rock outfit without a doubt, yet there is a slight twist to their sound.
Authenticity comes easy for The Dead Sets. Their sound isn’t laboured or contrived, but rather something quite natural. “I think it’s definitely a natural thing, writing rock and roll,” says Sharkey. “Blues music, the lyrics especially, really resonates with me quite strongly. Probably much more so than the music I grew up with.”
Sharkey speaks of listening to older blues records as a means of rebellion, as he grew up in a household where more contemporary music dominated the radio. “My dad was quite dedicated to discovering new music, supportingIrish music, and I think the blues came as a kind of rebellion, as it’s quite an antiquated form of music now. My dad was constantly pushing this new music at me and I kind of said, ‘wait a minute, I want to learn where all of this came from.’” Sharkey discloses this with both reverence and enthusiasm. He says that the same sentiment is true for the other four members of the group. Their interest in the blues is legitimate.
“I always try to write what’s relevant to me and to other people and stay away from some established conventions of the genre.”
The Dead Sets feel like they are beginning to belong to the nascent and burgeoning “MissiLiffey Delta Blues” scene in Dublin, pioneered by the likes of The Hot Sprockets and The Eskies. Sharkey says that they thoroughly enjoy the devout followings of more than fifty people who attend intimate rock and roll gigs in Sweeney’s and other venues on the pub circuit. “There is a rather hardcore, religious following of people who love rock and roll. I’d go out on a limb and say every time that we have played we get quite a nice response, because I feel good music really speaks for itself.”
Although their pursuit of blues is genuine, they’re not afraid to shake things up either. They’re not playing up to the Sweeney’s congregation – far from it. The Dead Sets aren’t afraid to upset the blues puritan in favour of pursuing their own sound. “I don’t think I’d like to pigeonhole ourselves and call [us] an out-and-out classic rock, blues band. Our influence is taking something from the past and putting a new twist on it. What we’re trying to do is take some of this older music and make it more attractive and more relevant. With regard to lyrics, I always try to write what’s relevant to me and to other people and stay away from some established conventions of the genre. Some Blues puritans might look down on us and dismiss us and take us as some sort of hybrid, that we’re not the full fledged thing, but we’re authentic.”
Drop into Whelan’s on the 8th of October where The Dead Sets support Those Responsible in their EP launch.