Dundalk brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy have been charming audiences in their guise as hip-hop duo TPM since 2015, with a run of hilarious but infectious singles about life on the dole, their love of curry sauce and their hatred of the national broadcaster. But their more recent reinvention as stout-swilling folk band The Mary Wallopers, with friend Seán McKenna in tow, came as something of a surprise. Armed with guitars, banjos and a seemingly bottomless well of traditional folk ballads, the trio have supported the likes of Lankum and Junior Brother, as well as playing their own riotous and boozy shows the length and breadth of the country.
But when Covid-19 struck a year ago, the group, like so many others, turned to livestreaming. Rather than make do with a blurry Instagram Live feed, the group went all out, building their own bar, first in their living room and later in their shed, utilising high-quality cameras, beaming in guests and encouraging messages from viewers to try and emulate the live gig experience as closely as possible. Debuting last St Patrick’s Day, the ‘Stay At Home With The Mary Wallopers’ streams have continued sporadically over the last twelve months and have already become something of a national institution. This St Patrick’s Day they return once again – grab a stout and join in on their YouTube channel from 9pm.
Before the show, Cathal McBride caught up with the lads to discuss streaming, gigging, and becoming international stars.
You did your first live stream a year ago on St Patrick’s Day 2020, did you ever think for a moment that venues would still be closed a year on?
I suppose we didn’t but we knew it would take a good while. We were just rolling with it as it came, which is why we started the livestreaming so quickly. You have to think on your feet.
The Mary Wallopers streams seem to have garnered a loyal following both in Ireland and abroad, how much have you seen your audience grow since the streams began?
It’s mad now that we have a more international audience than before the livestreams. We noticed now when we are posting merch that its going all over the world. We would have had to play gigs in those places before to get a following.
Your streams are more interactive than most, with messages from viewers playing a big part. How does it compare to the atmosphere of a live gig? Have you been itching to get back in front of a live audience?
We wanted to make sure that our streams were very live from the start. To us a live streamed gig might as well be pre recorded if you don’t have an interaction with the audience. You need that danger to make viewers feel more part of it. We wanted more of a virtual pub experience and we feel people need to be having fun and if anything, forgetting about Covid for a while. We are absolutely foaming at the mouth to play live again.
How does the atmosphere differ between a Mary Wallopers show and a TPM show? Is one more enjoyable than the other?
They are both enjoyable, TPM has a few more sexy dance moves but that’s about it.
Your knowledge of traditional folk ballads seems to be encyclopedic. Where do you come across them all, and are you constantly finding new ones to add to the repertoire?
We learned a lot of songs from our families when we were younger, and since then we find them everywhere. We’re always looking for more songs in books, on the ITMA and on Youtube. We use every resource available.
Can we expect a follow up to 2019’s A Mouthful of the Mary Wallopers EP in the offing any time soon?
Yes, we have an album nearly finished so it should be out this year.
Given the accessibility of live streaming for people who can’t get out to venues or live on the other side of the world, do you think live streams are something worth persevering with even when the world gets back to normal?
Absolutely, the extent to which the medium of live streams can be used hasn’t been near explored yet. It would be nice to see more creative uses of it as opposed to just capturing events.
Finally, what do you have in store for this year’s St Patrick’s Day stream? Any surprises or business as usual?
Yes, there will be some lovely surprises and as usual; ballads and stout talk.