Origin: London, England
Genre: Celtic Punk
Years active: 1994 to present
Leeson O’Keeffe, Sara-Lou Bowrey, Guido McFister, Charlie Keegan, Hugh O’Neill, James Gavin
2001: Necked (A Few Odds From the Oul’ Sods)
2004: Here’s Mud in Yer Eye!
2005: Sod `Em & Begorrah!
2009: Come Out Fighting! (UK)
2010: Come Out Fighting! (USA & Canada; Europe)
Singles and EPs
1999: The Psycho-Ceilídh EP
2002: The Fields of Athenry
2006: Everybody’s Welcome to the Hooley! – proceeds go to Love Music Hate Racism
1999: With or Withbout You ( + Performance appearance)
2005: Pirates of the White Sand
2006: The Emerald Diamond
2009: The Supermarket
Neck is a six-piece London-Irish Celtic punk band from the North London neighbourhood of ‘County Holloway’ (known informally thus due to its Irish population). Following Leeson O’Keeffe’s cathartic ‘Tour of Duty’ as a former member of Shane MacGowan and the Popes, Neck were formed during late-night drinking sessions (known colloquially as being ‘Born in a bottle’) in 1994 by a mixture of Irish emigrant & second-generation Irish drinking buddies. The band takes their lead, both musically and ideologically, from two other London bands: The Clash and The Pogues, blending the electric energy of punk rock with the swirl of traditional Irish music, to play a London-Irish style known as ‘Psycho-Ceilídh’.
Initially playing exclusively on the London Irish bar circuit, apparently mainly for more hedonistic reasons, and with a correspondingly ‘cavalier’ attitude towards required band possessions, their name was serendipitously gleaned from the reaction to their approach by the exasperated landlord at their first ever gig, cursing them with an old Irish saying using the term “neck” – implying high levels of nerve or impudence.
They would appeared to have branched-out considerably, both aspirationally and geographically, since then: touring extensively throughout the United States, Europe, UK and Ireland; gaining a reputation as a raucous, high energy live act, leading to them becoming an established festival band. Such festivals include: Tantsy festival in Moscow Hermitage Garden; Dublin Irish Festival, OH – the second largest Irish festival in the USA; Paas Pop in The Netherlands; The West Belfast Féile an Phobail; Berlin’s Punk & Disorderly festival four times; the UK’s largest festival, Glastonbury festival, six times; and the UK’s Wasted/Rebellion Punk festival ten times!
Their music is known for having an uplifting quality, and it reflects the life experience of the emigrant and second-generation Irish diaspora, with O’Keeffe’s authentic voice and song-and-tune-writing being considered both faithful to the form, and in direct lineage from his former band-leader and mentor, Shane MacGowan. Combined with deft musicianship, Neck have released four albums to date, with their third album, ‘Sod ’em & begorrah!’ being picked out for particularly high praise by being judged, variously, the second and third greatest Celtic Punk album of all time, the former above, and the latter behind only The Pogues and Flogging Molly. They’ve also appeared on numerous Compilation albums, and their natural London inclusiveness and Punk sensibilities came well to the fore on their Joe Strummer (of The Clash) -inspired anti-racism anthem “Everybody’s Welcome to The Hooley!”, which charted in the UK Singles Chart and UK Indie Chart in 2006.
Their music can also be heard on various Motion Picture soundtracks: on the “surreal” Pirates of the White Sand short (2005); The Emerald Diamond, a 2006 documentary film about the Irish National Baseball Team – contributing four songs, including the traditional “Star of the County Down” and the original “Every Day’s Saint Patrick’s Day”; the Boston-set Gang War Shoot-’em Up Beantown (2007); and the “Capraesque” homage to ‘Small Town America Coming of Age’ Supermarket (2009). They also appear performing two songs, the traditional “Carrickfergus” and the original “The Ferry Fare”, in the 1999, Belfast-set, Film 4 Romantic Comedy Drama With or Without You, directed by Michael Winterbottom (Family / Welcome to Sarajevo / 24 Hour Party People).
With over half their members drawn from the renowned London Irish traditional music session scene, their authentic, spirited musicianship has earned them much respect and admiration. Staying true to those roots, they often perform acoustic ‘Unplugged / Irish traditional music session’ sets, even alongside full electric ones, and such is their flair, energy and passion – exemplified by O’Keeffe’s ‘wearing his heart on his sleeve’, that they were awarded the honour by the Irish Cultural Centre in London to perform such a Seisiún at the Reception for the Irish Paralympic team in London 2012, in order to set the right Irish tone and ambience to the proceedings.
This reputation has led to various members being invited to appear both live and on other band’s recordings. The most well known being O’Keeffe guesting, on banjo, with the Alabama 3, as well as co-writing an original song “That’s It, I Quit” on the Hayseed Dixie album No Covers.
This has all led to them being recognised widely as one of the leading bands on the international Celtic punk and Folk Punk scenes, alongside their US contemporaries Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, and such is their influence that not only is the Boston, Massachusetts-based website covering the Celtic Punk scene, Shite ‘n’ Onions, named after one of their tunes, but bands as far flung as in Germany and the USA now cover their songs, while O’Keeffe even gets name-checked in songs by other bands.