Dublin’s Hip-Hop/Pop-Punk Fusion Six-Piece Sauce Gang Collective Discusses Their Upcoming Sophomore Album “Mustard Melodies”

Dublin’s Sauce Gang Collective is a six-piece project which is currently comprised of Lenin Mitchell on vocals, Rhyss Davies on guitar and vocals, rapper Kev Kennedy, Mark Moloney on bass, Neil O’Flanagan on keys, and Sam Shepard on drums.

The project began slowly and pretty uneventfully during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. “Rhyss was just coming over during COVID, and we were just making music together, really,” Lenin tells Post-Burnout. “We never really thought of it as a project for a while. Also, I lived with Neil as well during COVID, so Neil was also there, making basslines.”

After giving what they were working on a name, the Sauce Gang Collective just kind of snowballed after existing as a hobby without too many high ambitions. The lads in the band then invited Kev and Mark – whom Lenin had played with in a secondary school band – to join in.  

With an establishment of core members with varying influences, the sound of Sauce Gang Collective soon came to be defined by their combination of poetic rap and hip-hop beats with pop-punk-inspired vocals and guitar riffs. “In terms of […] our sound, I think punk is shoved in there purely because of our live gigs,” says Sam.

“Things just go [crazy]. We just let that set into the genre, because we didn’t give a fucking shit what we were playing on stage.” “I think we shoved punk in there because we’re not great, so we’re coping by saying, ‘Oh, you know, we’re not very good, so we’re punk!’,” laughs Rhyss.

L-R: Lenin Mitchell, Mark Moloney, Sam Shepard, Kev Kennedy, Rhyss Davies, and Neil O’Flanagan
Photo by Julie O’Brien
Courtesy of Sauce Gang Collective

During the lockdowns, the band began recording some music, which would eventuate into their 2022 debut album, Bangers ‘N’ Brown Sauce. “We recorded the album before we were a band!” says Kev. “We were legally economic,” says Neil on getting the recording done during the tight regulations.

“We were lucky enough in the fact that me and Lenny were renting a place, and it was a house – so Lenny had a massive room – and we had a studio in there and stuff, and it wasn’t the kind of mass-spreader event that it could’ve been.” “I was pretty much living part-time in your gaff,” adds Kev. “Because I was living a bit out of the way.”

Whilst recording Bangers ‘N’ Brown Sauce, Sauce Gang didn’t have a drummer and utilised electronic drums for its production, which Rhyss feels dictated some of the sonic direction of the album. “From a production standpoint […] because Sam wasn’t really there at the time, I definitely think it was a bit more aligned towards having a hip-hop sound, with electronic drums and stuff like that,” he says.

However, by the time the album was finished, lockdowns had started easing and the band began to seek out live opportunities, but they wanted a flesh-and-blood drummer in the project first. “They got the album done before they did the live shows, and Lenny didn’t want to be playing electronic drums on stage,” says Sam.

“I was the last tag-on,” he continues. “It was after COVID, the first album had been released, and Lenny had seen me and Neil at another gig that we were playing, in a band. And after that went by the wayside [Sam and Neil laugh], Lenny said, ‘Could you come and play some drums for me?’ and they were all electronic drums, but I had a bit of craic learning them and changing the sound of the band entirely. [Laughs]”

Besides the new possibilities afforded to them by having a drummer who could adapt in real-time, the band feel that the reception from their live shows has played a big part in honing their post-Bangers sound. “I think that’s the main focus for us,” says Mark. “Because there was even some stuff that we performed off Bangers ‘N’ Brown Sauce, and you could just tell the crowd were not getting behind it all! We were like, ‘We’re not doing that at all!’”

He continues, “But I think even with the new songs coming out, for us to be able to play them live, I think that’s a massive factor. […] I think the audience… – because I’ve heard it from the feedback from people going to the gigs – the main thing that people would say to us is, ‘I’m having a good time because youse are having a good time up there.’”

Audience feedback was a factor in the band selecting the first single off their upcoming second album. Released on New Year’s Day, “Nintendo ‘08” tells the story of coming of age during the 2008 global recession but being too young to comprehend it and instead having more concern for playing the Nintendo Wii with your sister, only to look back nearly twenty years later and find that the financial circumstances of the average person have not changed significantly since what was dubbed The Great Recession.

“We had the vast majority of the songs that we were doing on the album – I’d say at least half of them ready, at the time – and we just kind of said, ‘Which one would hit the hardest? Which one would sound the best live? And which one could we give the best title to?’,” remembers Kev on curating the album’s lead single.

“And I think through doing that – not only commercially but also sonically – it was probably our best option to release out of what we have. Now, the rest of the stuff is great, but when it comes to having an impact off the bat, that would’ve been the strongest one to go for.”

Rhyss adds, “It’s a good one to start off, because I think, in a way, it is a little bit different from what Bangers ‘N’ Brown Sauce is, but it is something that we would play live, so it is a good showcase to go, ‘Listen, we obviously still play hip-hop or whatever, but here’s a really rocking song, as well,’ you know?”

“On that, I think it’s really good,” says Neil. “Because, as you said, there are definitely elements, Rhyss, that are very similar to Bangers ‘N’ Brown Sauce and also very different. And I think it’s a nice lead in, conceptually, when we are in a position of, ‘Oh, that first album came out and we didn’t really know what we were doing. So, now that the second album is coming out, and we know what we’re doing, it’s going to sound very different.’

“And I think, coincidentally, ‘Nintendo ‘08’ just works as a nice little intro. We still know what the first album was, but we’ve kind of cultivated it a little bit more and nailed it down, what we’re trying to do, a little bit more.”

“Nintendo ‘08” is but a taste of what fans can expect from Sauce Gang’s new record, Mustard Melodies. Now as a much tighter project with more experience and room for versatility, the band promises that this will be a much more cohesive and complete project than Bangers.

The album is already recorded and is currently in postproduction, with an expected release date of mid-to-late March. “We’re hoping before summer but after February,” says Neil. “There’s a two-month period there.” You can figure it out!” adds Rhyss.

Sauce Gang Collective’s latest single, “Nintendo ’08,” is available to stream now. Be sure to follow the band’s Instagram and Linktree to get all updates on the release of Mustard Melodies and any upcoming live dates. Tune in to our podcast today at 14:00 (IST) on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music Podcasts, to hear this interview in full, where we go into further detail on the new album, constructing “Nintendo ’08,” politics (or lack thereof) in the band’s lyrics, what each member brings to the sound, and more.

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