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 'Born in a bottle' during late-night drinking sessions 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 great London rebel bands: The Clash and The Pogues, blending full-on punk rock with swirling traditional Irish music, and distilling it all to come-up with their own unique, intoxicating London-Irish brew known as 'Psycho-Ceilídh'.
Initially playing exclusively on the London Irish bar circuit "for the free booze and to meet biddies", and with a name serendipitously gleaned from the exasperated landlord at their first gig, who on discovery of their cavalier attitude towards required band possessions (forget amps or drums - they didn't even have a name ), cursed them with the old Irish saying "Ye've a neck like a jockey's bollocks, ye feckers!", they have branched-out considerably, both aspirationally and geographically, since then.
That initial essence of typical Irish elan has served Neck well, seeing them tour extensively throughout the United States, Europe, UK and Ireland; their raucous, high energy live act cementing their reputation as a great festival band. Amongst their many highlights 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 defiant, uplifting music reflects the life experience of the emigrant and second-generation Irish diaspora, with O'Keeffe's inherited, passionate voice and authentic song-and-tune-writing being considered both faithful to the form, and in direct lineage from his former 'guvnor' and mentor, Shane MacGowan. Combined with the outstanding musicianship supporting these 'family heirlooms', Neck have released four albums to date, with their third, 'Sod 'em & begorrah!' being voted 3rd greatest Celtic Punk album ever, 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, dynamic and spirited musicianship has, rightly, earned them much respect, admiration and even envy. 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 renowned 'wearing of 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.
Subsequent to this renown, various members have been 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 all leads to them being recognised as one of the leading bands on the international Celtic punk, Folk Punk and Street 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.
Furthermore, despite their renowned globe-trotting, and their now well proven, & much-lauded, talents and abilities, they remain close, proud and true, to their 'County Holloway' Irish emigrant roots & that, now ubiquitous, London-Irish invention, the Irish traditional music session - to paraphrase the old Irish saying: "Ye can take the man out of the Irish pub, but ye can't take the Irish pub out of the man!". I think they'll drink to that (although, apparently, they'll drink to anything...) - - sláinte!