Rum Shebeen are David Ashby (Vocals), Matt Allchin (Guitar), James McCool (Keyboards), Bob Doyle (Bass Guitar) and Bobby Hewitt (Drums). After graduating from Camberwell College of Arts they all unfortunately had to get proper jobs, but soon “got fed up with photocopiers.” The splashes of paint on their clothes reveal they haven’t given up on their art school roots quite yet. This year they’ve released their first single Tropical with Strummerville and in autumn they tour the UK, linking up with many of the label’s bands. Interview by Maksymilian Fus Mickiewicz
Tell me about Tropical.
David: Tropical is in some ways about escaping, in other ways just being
James: It’s lusting over some kind of paradise…
Bobby: …that doesn’t actually exist.
What was it like recording your first video?
Dave: We basically had a ridiculously small budget but we managed to get a massive studio and a fake beach.
Bob: People worked really hard on it, I don’t know how we paid for it. We had our friend’s Ferrari.
Dave: We did an outside shoot in Peckham as well. They filmed us down the high street, miming along to a little ghetto blaster. Most people couldn’t actually hear anything. Someone went, “What are you doing?” and, “Play some fucking music.”
Did you get involved with arts collectives around Peckham?
Dave: We played a really big !WOWOW! event, we’ve been involved with them in various ways over the years. We used to rehearse in one of the basements of one of the squats.
Bob: The squats are actually much better than some of the places that you pay for in London.What are the Joe Strummer campfires like?
Dave: When it started raining, suddenly a massive tarpaulin would come out of the Strummerville van. It’s outside now, actually. Our van broke down so they gave us theirs, that’s how good they are. They’re a music charity that does what they say: help bands.
Matt: Not in a weird community workshop type of way.
Dave: They talk about the artistic inspirational things Strummer said. To be independent from those who aren’t passionate or in love with what they’re doing. The campfire is a way to inspire conversation.
Does London get depressing in winter for you?
Dave: It can be in the summer, as well, when it’s sweltering. If you get on a double-decker bus from down here, the amount of palm trees you will see on shop fronts, you will be amazed.
Matt: There’s a beach on the Thames and you get tropical food everywhere. So in a way you can fool yourself into thinking your somewhere else.
Bob: Especially our music. It’s like later Joe Strummer had Congo rhythms going over his stuff, quite Spanish and Latin with the energy of it.
Dave: The rhythms we use mix in exotic percussion like steel drums. At night, when the doors are shut at a gig and everyone is sweating, it might as well be summer.
How did you get involved with the Joe Strummer Foundation?
Dave: They heard a couple of our songs. They asked us, “What do you guys want to do? Do you want to release a single?” We said, “Yes.”