Those minimally familiar with Irish punk (the fortunate offspring from the marriage of Irish Traditional Music and punk rock) has certainly heard, at least once, the classic works from the likes of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys – bands that, for their musical excellence and fantastic showmanship, have smuggled the sound of tin whistles into the most oblivious St. Patrick's Day party at the most unexpected corners of the world. Listen to them too much, however, and their music may start to blend together in an uncomfortable feeling of "sameness" – and perhaps we may find ourselves wishing for something a tad divergent from the genre's norms. Hey, nothing against that old bitter ale hammering our tastebuds, but every once in a while the palate might as well be allowed a bit of a witbier just for contrast's sake. I myself, having heard one too many "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya", found a breath of creative fresh air in the sound of a band called Irish Stew Of Sindidun.
The band hails from Belgrade, Serbia, which apparently has been a rather fertile ground for the sprouting of Irish punk bands. While not waiving their rights to an electric guitar (Ivan Đurić), bass (Aleksandar Gospodinov) and drums (Marko Jovanović), Irish Stew Of Sindidun appears to go easier on the hammering of drums and distorting of strings, and adds to the ensemble an acoustic guitar (Nenad Gavrilov), a tin whistle (Bojan Petrović), a banjo (Ivan Đurić), a fiddle (Ana Đokić Brusić) and a vocal clean as the bright blue sky (Bojan Petrović), which is many times harmonized by a backing vocalist (Nenad Gavrilov). Indeed, there is some extra "folk" added on top there: not only the non-raspness of vocals, but that range of emotions both subtle and epic, which oozes from the Irish melodies and truly speaks of some genuine truth. This is a sound that truly stands out.
The band has drank from the fountain of the Pogues, classic Irish punk pioneers, and actually began their career with some competent covers of Poguean and traditional songs alike – but their very first album is already rich with creativity and showcases a good deal of Irish Stew's captivating style: with 9 original tracks, So Many Words was an instant success in the Serbian market. Dare To Dream, the band's second album, does not get left behind by any stretch – but I feel like it's their third one, New Tomorrow, that deserves a special mention here. With the addition of the current drummer and fiddler, this one boasts an even more mature and well crafted sound, starting with the charismatic "Lady Of New Tomorrow":
In 2017, 6 years after the release of New Tomorrow, Irish Stew Of Sindidun released their long awaited fourth album: City Of Grigs, with their highest production value yet and, quite possibly, highest Irish value as well. I refer not only to the sound itself, which is notably Irish-enriched, but also to the very choice of tracks, which includes traditional songs such as "Step It Out Mary", "Paddy's Lamentation" and "Down By The Glenside". The album was preceded by the single "Heavier Than Sin", which shows well enough what this new production came for:
Despite showing great personal involvement with their musical production, which is clearly made with remarkable passion, and also despite the band's unquestionable success, not everything is a walk in the park for a Serbian band playing "alternative music" – to use the same expression from an interview that the band answered to website princip.info. "Is it possible to live in Serbia from alternative music?" asks the Ivo Kovačević, to which Irish Stew's frontman Bojan Petrović answers: "You can, but you can live quite modestly and not be forced to feed more than one more mouth, so in addition to music, we all mostly do some other things." That was in 2014, when the band was still, arguably, on their rise. Nevertheless, in 2019, the same question was asked again, and the answer was not very different: "We don't live from music, we live for music. And I can tell you I’m glad about that. In order to live decently in Serbia exclusively from music, you have to either play at weddings, or be a "freelance" musician and play what one likes one day and what someone else likes the next [...]. Or play something that may not be music." This, to me, resonates a lot with the Brazilian experience – not only when it comes to careers with "aternative music", but with "music" altogether. Still, also no different than what we do here, the members of Irish Stew Of Sindidun occupy themselves very passionately with the entire range of activities necessary for the taking off of a niche-market enterprise such as their own: "There is an error in the system. They say that the most productive system is the one in which everyone does what they are best at. Therefore, bands should be engaged in making songs and rehearsing instruments, and some other people should do their job of marketing, production, management. However, as we are still far from a serious system here in Serbia, we are mostly forced to manage as we know and can. We have the luxury that among the members of the band there are people who are able to deal with all these accompanying and in fact very important activities, so we often function as a small company. Unfortunately, then music suffers because not everything can always be achieved, but what to do is a compromise that is inevitable. Of course, we try to cooperate with others as much as possible. We have people who occasionally help us in every way, but in the end you still have to push through most of the story on your own." When asked what advice he would give to bands wanting to follow Irish Stew's footsteps, Petrović said that "If they want to deal with music because they need to express themselves creatively and creatively, and if that is a goal in itself, then go ahead. Get ready to learn marketing, copyright, management in addition to playing… Exchange experiences with others on stage and absorb knowledge, be ready for lobbies and stumbling blocks, but you must not stop. And with a little luck, your music will reach the listeners, maybe not to a great extent, but enough that what you are doing makes some sense. In both cases, hard work, dedication and, above all, continuity are essential."
By the way, Irish Stew Of Sindidun will be featured in an upcoming Brazilian online music festival of folk, celtic and related persuasions: the Alcoholic Meeting At A Distance (Encontro Alcoólico À Distância) will happen on the 23rd of October, 2021, with a line-up of almost exclusively Brazilian artists (including Tailten, A Barda, Bando Celta, Harmundi, Brinde À Revolta, Capitain Cornelius, Mare Nostrum and Tandra):
Here's to yet another solid musical recommendation for those seeking a bit of an outside-the-box Irish punk, a specially well-crafted and genuine sound: