“Playing Irish bars had a bit of stigma attached to it”, says Rob. “But”, he quickly adds, “for us it was a great way to start”. He considers it their “Hamburg period” playing the gigs, honing the craft.
Hobnail Boots now celebrates a mind-boggling 25 years of treading the boards, of boarding planes, trains and various automobiles all with the aim of getting the music to the people, getting to the gig, getting the songs from the page to the stage, getting the music out of their heads into the hearts of whoever is there to listen. So, it was Irish bars to start with and for the first two albums it was music that existed to be ‘sold’ to a live audience. Whoever was buying. Many were drinking and some were thinking they might drink in some of the tunes on offer too.
Hobnail was Rob and Jo and that duo was at the core. Then it was a trio. But it was always A Band. And this band has gone from Irish Bar Music to folk and pop and back around the back of some of the Aussie bar-bands of the 1980s like Paul Kelly, The Triffids and The Go-Betweens. By then it was more with the aim of being a thinking man’s band, not just a drinking man’s band. Add Caroline Easther (The Chills, Barry Saunders) to the mix and this group started to move between stand-up dancing-song shows and sit-down, intimate gigs. What’s always been there as the albums continue to arrive, as the shows continue to get booked, and roads are travelled, from Paekakariki to U.S.A, through so many “Hamburgs” and back around the back...from opening sets for visiting guests to playing to the barkeep as they shut down the pub far closer to breakfast than any end of the night...is the passion. And the songs. The passion informs the songs. You hear and feel the spit and sweat, the grunt and heart and soul. You know a Hobnail Boots song has been lived in, has actually lived, before you get to hear it. And here you hold the very best of them dear. Just as the band always had. This, their latest gift. To you.
Simon Sweetman, Off The Tracks.