Words by Angelika May
Photography by Nicholas O'Donnell
“To anyone who hasn’t been to one of our gigs before, God fucking help you.”
Few frontmen open their sets perched on a crowd member's shoulders. Few frontmen could part an audience like the red sea with such immediacy, or have them kneel patiently with bated breath. Are we looking at a future cult leader or a formidable lead vocalist? As with most outlandish musicians, the answer is; probably a little bit of both.
I caught Scustin, the Dublin quartet at The Victoria in Dalston for the last night of their UK and Ireland tour and my God, was it good craic. A busy bank holiday Sunday night, which consisted of a strong lineup of alternative, indie and post-punk artists such as Oslo Twins and Tung In Cheek, I speculated Scustin would follow suit. Instead, I was elated by a genre-blending, Mike Skinner meets James Brown, meets Jocose spoken word or as Scustin put it, “shite talking”.
Scustin’s lead guitarist (Liam), dazed me with his effortless groove, replacing the traditional 16th rhythm with pushes and sticking to an 8th instead, which created a laddering of staccatos and fine fingering, that perfectly complemented the rhythm section, whilst equally showing the audience his immense talent and mastery of funk.
The band accompany one another as old school friends do, from first appearances; an off-kilter quartet who may not have the same interests but possess the same core fundamentality to life. They seamlessly picked up on each other’s intentions and the flows of each track. The percussive strums of the lead guitar were flawlessly backed by often wonderfully syncopated beats or linear patterns, created by Wally (drums). These syncopated structures were executed again by bassist Dan, whose bassline transitioned from definitive funk lines to a heavier, richer sound more akin to the rock genre.
Aside from their instruments, their presence on stage allowed us as an audience to feel comfortable in taking the set in jest, vocalist Larry would often interject with Liam to create more colloquial elements to their tracks. As someone who has attended a fair few Seanchoice’s in their time, one area the Irish excel in is story-telling, and Scustin were no exception.
Tracks such as “The Killer”, a little more nuanced, abstract and comedic, created a portrait of the extent of Larry’s imagination, whilst others, such as “Drinking Can’s In A Field With Matt Damon” (we were lucky enough to have a visual aid of a Matt Damon mask for this one), or “I’m never flying with Ryanair again” were more on the nose and discussed hot political topics such as the pandemic of 2020, or the shambles of budget airlines.
Artistically I have to say I am a sucker for erudite lyricism, however, I did not stop smiling for the entirety of the gig. Larry's charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent really coaxed this weasel out of me. Particularly during one song, which had the room in an uproar screaming “Don’t put blackcurrant in that pint of Guinness!” (Yes, you dirty English swine.) Politics and music go hand in hand, the ideations of particular lyrics such as “give us back our city” in the song “Our Regards”, regarding the current economic state of Dublin, were felt heavily in a room adorned with Irish supporters. Perhaps sugarcoating these sentiments would have allowed its literalism and angst to flop.
Closing their set with a cover of “The Rocky Road”, was elating and joyous even as an outsider to the Irish lineage and only exemplified the powerful ode to community and spirit held in the room.
God fucking help you if you miss out on one of their gigs.
Check out more from Scustin here