Kneecap share single ‘Fine Art’ and tell us how “it’s not very hard to piss people off”

Kneecap have shared new single ‘Fine Art’, as well as talking to NME about recent controversies and what to expect from their debut album.

The Belfast rap trio have been making headlines recently after leading the Irish bands boycotting SXSW, in solidarity with Palestine and protest against the showcase festival’s sponsorship from the US military and weapons manufacturers. They’re currently in the midst of a North American tour, after making waves with their debut US TV performance with Jimmy Fallon.

Now, ahead of the summer’s release of their self-titled movie starring Michael Fassbender, and long-awaited Toddla T-produced debut album ‘Fine Art’, the band have shared the record’s title track. The pummelling song is a brutal portrait of where Kneecap are at – blending hard hip-hop beats with a mix of the band’s quickfire Irish lyrics and some in English to really ram their message home: “You can love us or hate us“.

The title and lyrics were inspired by “the mental reaction of the media to our mural unveiling of a police jeep on fire”. Before the drop is a sample of journalist Steven Nolan, who discussed the mural on the BBC.

“It’s him commenting on the mural as a piece of fine art,” Kneecap’s Móglaí Bap told NME. “Everyone wanted us to provide some kind of massive political analysis on the mural, but we just sent the media those two words: fine art.”

Mo Chara continued: “That was the first track we did with Toddla as well. It was done separately to the album as part of a standalone practice run to see if it was going to work or not. It was a pretty important track in the development of the whole album.”

 

Bap added that the song “sets the tone” of the whole record, drawing on the many headlines made by the band due to their references to politics and drugs.

“We’re using the drama of the last two years around Kneecap as the context of the song,” he said. “We’re using themes, storylines, headlines and newspaper clippings about us. It’s a concept album and a taster of our story.”

Asked if Nolan was thrilled at being part of ‘Fine Art’, Bap replied: “That’s what I’m excited about – someone telling him that he’s sampled on our track. He’ll be looking for royalties! He’s one of the highest-paid BBC presenters, on like £400k a year or some madness. I think him and Piers Morgan are best mates.”

Chara agreed: “I’m sure a lot of their fucking politics align.”

From behind his Ireland flag balaclava, DJ Próvaí added: “He’s phoned us a few times to ask us to go on to his show as well, but he was told where to go.”

Check out the rest of our interview below, as Kneecap caught up with NME from their North American tour to talk to us about cracking the US, the SXSW furore, their film, and a big summer ahead.

NME: Hello Kneecap. You’re having a pretty wild and full-on 2024 – a movie and a debut album on the way, but only after you’ve pissed off people in America. How does it feel to be in Kneecap at the moment?

Chara: “Busy. It’s not very hard to piss people off, but it’s good.”

Bap: “We’re in a special position to have a debut album coming out, and a movie at the same time. I think that’s a very rare occurrence. So it puts us in a very good position, and we’re playing a lot of very big festivals. We’re going to fucking Norway, we just got back from Iceland and it’s cool that we’re popping off in all these countries around Europe and stuff.”

Are you ‘breaking’ America?

Chara: “I feel like America’s breaking me!”

Bap: “It depends. When you think about ‘breaking America’, you’d think you’d be making money or whatever. You don’t make any money in America. We had 1,000 people come see us in New York, though – that’s pretty fucking impressive. Two sold-out nights in Vancouver and San Francisco.”

Chara: “It’s one of those things where you have to put a shift in. Once you get above venues of a certain size then you start making money. It costs so much money to come over here, to get visas, six flights, baggage and shit.”

Bap: “It’s not all doom and gloom, though. It’s quite enjoyable.”

What kind of audience have you found? Do people get you? 

Chara: “It’s younger crowds in Ireland, definitely. Over here they’re a bit older.”

Bap: “We’re definitely getting the energy. A lot of people who support Palestine come to our gigs, which I suppose in America can be a hard thing to talk about because there’s not much dialogue around it. The energy and the craic that we bring to the gigs really resonates with people – even if they don’t know what we’re saying.

Were you disappointed that your Fallon performance was pre-recorded and you couldn’t make a statement about Palestine?

Bap: “Well, it definitely makes it easier if you have a few times to record the tune rather than do it live! There was less pressure, but that meant we couldn’t do anything for Palestine. That was the only reason we got away with it on [Ireland’s]  Late, Late Show.”

Próvaí: “It gave us a platform to bring the people to our own pages, so we knew it would be good to show them from there as well. Millions of other people saw what we’re about.”

Chara: “Anyone who was interested after seeing us on Fallon probably went on to Google us or chat on social media or something, then it’s all pretty clear what we stand for.”

What response did you find to making your pro-Palestinian statement on The Late Late Show?

Bap: “Oh, people loved it in Ireland. They were over the moon. There were a lot bald men shaking my hand in the streets after that. People were appreciative that we were using the platform for what we did and putting our necks out. I think it had one of the lowest number of complaints on RTÉ ever – there were like two complaints! Whereas Normal People was on and got like 50 complaints or something. That’s a thumbs up from Ireland in terms of where they stand on Palestine.”

Every Irish band went on to pull out of SXSW in solidarity with Palestine. How was the mood among you all who were out there?

Chara: “There was meant to be an Irish stage at it, but it had to close. That was a big fucking great show of solidarity in a different country. There were 80+ artists that pulled out, which was incredible – it wasn’t just the Irish bands showing solidarity.”

Próvaí: “We pissed off the Governor of Texas [Greg Abbott] as well, which was a nice bonus.”

Do you have a message for Greg Abbott? 

Bap: “Suck our balls. He needs to take a wee trip to California, take a few mushrooms and chill out. Go see a concert instead of looking at guns all day.”

Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army sponsorship.

Bye. Don’t come back.

Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command.

San Antonio is Military City USA.

We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas.

If you don’t like it, don’t come here.
https://t.co/t3RyQgLRKN

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 12, 2024

Do you feel like SXSW learned a lesson from it? 

Bap: “Their statement was so water-y. They agreed with us doing it but they also agreed with having the army there. They weren’t giving much away, really. They must be getting a lot of money from the army. It’s hard to tell. Will they change? I don’t think so. Artists don’t make any money at SXSW. At least the Irish bands did the right thing and gave their time to showing people what’s happening.”

You also made waves when you hit back at the UK government for withdrawing funding from you and “silencing” you. How did it feel to have rug pulled from under you like that?

Chara: “I think we actually ended up getting some money out of Culture Ireland for flights. We’re lucky because we’re touring band playing spaces where we could make a few bob, but the other Irish bands were in more of an up and coming position. It was a lot harder on them because they had to sacrifice a lot more.”

Have you received any apologies from the BPI or any Tories? 

Bap: “Not yet! The BPI thing was meant to go to court. They had two weeks to reply but they never did. We’re meant to either get the money or it goes to the High Court. Hopefully it does – for a duel! I’d need to buy a suit.”

What kind of statement did you guys want to make with ‘Fine Art’ as an album?

Chara: “Sonically, we wanted it all to be pretty representative of the gigs. The gigs can go from pretty chill at one point to then totally chaotic. That combined with all the controversy of the last few years has been the real driving force of the songs and what we want to talk about. This is the real introduction to Kneecap. We’ve been touring for five or six years, we’ve got loads of music out, but this is our real debut so we wanted it to be inherently Kneecap. This is our world.”

Bap: “We’ve been touring for years and our live shows really build the energy. We wanted to emulate that for the album. The whole thing sums up the fun and the craic of our gigs. We have the interludes and all that. We always wanted to incorporate the idea of a concept album because we like the storytelling and we like having one massive piece of art. Hopefully we’ll have the second then a trilogy of these albums.”

How find did you have to push yourselves to find these really intense corners of your sound? 

Chara: “We all have ideas about what we want and what we’re listening to, but [Toddla] T was the real driving force with his ADHD energy in the room.”

Bap: “For a few years, people have had an idea of what they think Kneecap is. We wanted to challenge that on this album. We’ve got a song like ‘Parful’, but then we’ve got a song on a flute with a guy speaking Mandarin, then we end on some wholesome shit just for the craic. Sometimes we want to do the opposite of what people expect – that’s why we wanted to get [Fontaines DC frontman] Grian Chatten involved, Jelani Blackman and Radie Peat from Lankum.”

KNEECAP – CREDIT: Press

Most bands when they release a debut album just tour, play some showcases, and maybe try get on Later With… Jools Holland – they don’t go as far to make a biopic with Michael Fassbender…

Chara: “Most bands need someone to die until they get a movie made. We’re up and coming, so we didn’t need the risk of doing a film that could end up being really wank, embarrassing and potentially career-ruining. We did it and it has ended up endless doors for us now.”

Bap: “We’ve got some new songs that are going to be in the movie too, which will definitely propel the album.”

It’s semi-autobiographical, right?

Chara: “Yeah, that’s showbiz baby!”

Bap: “The whole thing is some truth intertwined with a bit of fiction. Some of it’s toned down. DJ Próvaí doing heroin in school had to be taken out!”

So where do you go from here? Make a musical? Broadway? 

Bap: “The Troubles: The Musical. I can see that!”

Chara: “We’re just taking it one day at a time. We’ve got Glastonbury and Electric Picnic this year. There’s a lot going on.

Bap: “Maybe a murder documentary or a book? There’s a lot of money in books.”

Próvaí: “A colouring-in book! Or kimchi?”

Bap: “Do you even know what kimchi is?”

Próvaí: “I do. A little bit of Kneecap cabbage.”

Kneecap release ‘Fine Art’ on Friday June 14 via Heavenly Recordings. Pre-order it here. They’re touring the US, Europe and the UK throughout 2024. Visit here for tickets and more information. 

The post Kneecap share single ‘Fine Art’ and tell us how “it’s not very hard to piss people off” appeared first on NME.

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