They’re a metal band from Auckland who write songs about life as part of the 2% – those born with red hair. Hussein Moses sits down with Bloodnut to find out where the sweet spot is between taking the piss and being completely serious, and just how far they’re willing to push the concept.
Bloodnut are the band you didn’t know you needed in your life. The Auckland-based stoner sludge trio might not make the kind of music to please the masses, but their tongue-in-cheek approach to what they do is something we could all benefit from a little more of.
They refer to themselves as a “band of gingers” and on their new album St Ranga – a title which winks at Metallica’s best-forgotten record St Anger – they explore what they call “the darker side of what it means to be red of hair” and “songs that cover religious persecution, the negative myths and history surrounding the 2%”.
It was a concept that first came to bassist/vocalist Doug McFarlane back in 2012 when he heard a song called ‘Prejudice’ by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. In it, he sings about how only a ginger can call another ginger “ginger” before proceeding to run through a list of nicknames commonly given to the red-haired – fire truck, carrot top and blood nut.
“I was like, ‘Bloodnut is a cool name for a metal band,’” says McFarlane. “Then I was like, ‘I wonder if I could form a metal band with actual redheads and make that the theme of the band.’”
That’s exactly what he did. And the group, which is now rounded out by guitarist Doug Robertson and drummer Ty Boniface, haven’t looked back since.
You’re a self-proclaimed “band of gingers”. How hard has it been to find band members that fit that criteria?
Doug McFarlane: It’s quite hard because there are varying degrees of ginger as well. People who are redheads will say ‘I’m auburn or strawberry blonde’, but it’s all ginger from the outside. It’s hard to find drummers, but Ty’s been in the band for quite awhile now.
Bands like Red Fang, Melvins, Big Business and Kyuss all incorporate humour into their music. But there are people out there that are going to – maybe even rightfully – think this is a bit of a gimmick. What do you say to that?
Doug Robertson: Come to the show.
McFarlane: I would say lighten up. Why does all music have to be completely serious? Bands like Big Business – I love them – and Red Fang have made a niche for themselves by doing funny videos and they’re quite funny live. I think there’s a fine line to walk between taking the piss too much and being completely serious, and somewhere in the middle was where we wanted to go.
Ty Boniface: We never let a joke make a song lame. We still make the song dope. If we’ve got something that kind of makes us giggle, Doug might write some lyrics based around that. But we just write songs that we like to begin with. Just the same as any other band.
Is it fair to say you’re taking the piss, or that’s there’s at least a tongue-in-cheek element about the whole thing?
McFarlane: We’re tongue-in-cheek, but we’re not a piss-take band is what I always say. It’s a band with a theme. I like the fact that it gives us walls to work within, otherwise we’re just a band. Like, Killswitch Engage just always wrote songs about girls. At least we have a reason to write a song. It doesn’t have to be always about redheads, but it gives you parameters to work within and I think that’s a good thing.
There’s a dark side to the things you sing about too, with lyrics that reference a grim history of persecution. What made you want to cover off those topics?
Boniface: Gingers are 2% of the population and whoever’s different always gets picked on.
McFarlane: It depends how much people are paying attention to the lyrics, but I do think there’s a serious side to the background of redheads. A lot of women and men were burned at the stake just for being redheads. Recently it’s just been bullying, but throughout the ages it’s been like ‘let’s sacrifice the redhead to get something’; and we weren’t allowed to breed together and stuff like that. All that stuff I put into the music as well, to give a bit of depth to it.
It takes some true commitment to stick to this theme. Don’t you ever feel like breaking out of it?
McFarlane: We have a little bit. The new album we’re working on we’ve got a song called ‘Clean Green, Yeah Right’. It’s kind of about New Zealand now. We should be taking marijuana seriously and also climate change.
Are those sort of political issues close to your heart as well?
McFarlane: Yeah. I try not to be too political with the band, but we do it with a bit of tongue-in-cheek as well. That song’s about climate change and marijuana, but we’re going to put a ballad out which is kind of a memorial to a friend Karyn [Cullington], who used to have the Lucha Lounge. We played there a lot. It’s a song for her.
Boniface: We grew up there. That was like Bloodnut kindergarten, really.
Let’s talk about your new album, St Ranga. The cover art is wild. You’ve created this deity, The Space Orangutang. Where did that idea come from?
McFarlane: Yeah, the song is about a deity that I made up for redheads. It’s kind of a poke at organised religion as well. One of the lyrics is “your imaginary deity is no more powerful than ours”.
‘Burning Bush’ contains the lyrics, “You Thin Lizzy your freckles away to hide your Scottish roots”. In your own words, and for the kind people that read The Spinoff, how would you describe the song?
McFarlane: I wrote a song ages ago – which we don’t play anymore – called ‘Bloody Roots’, which was the same kind of thing; where you have black hair and the red comes in in the roots. I reference it in ‘Burning Bush’ as well. It’s not supposed to be hateful, it’s supposed to be a fun poke at people who aren’t being their true selves.
St Ranga is a reference to St Anger, an album that Metallica seemed determined to forget. Are you fans of that record?
McFarlane: Nah, not really. I think it was good as a soundtrack to the documentary.
Robertson: Hopefully our drums sound better.
Is there a Some Kind of Monster-like documentary in your future?
McFarlane: We could do one of those. We’d have to pretend to hate each other. That fiery ginger myth – that we’re all supposed to be angry and fighting each other – that’s not true at all. It hasn’t been true of anyone in the band so far.
To keep with the running theme, you’re also donating 10% of album sales to Melanoma NZ. What made you want to do that?
McFarlane: We did something for the first album for orangutans and it seems like a good way to give back. Also, we’re probably going to get skin cancer at some point living underneath a hole in the ozone layer.
Robertson: This is the thing: the model of the music industry now is different to what it used to be. Musicians aren’t making a similar amount of money as they used to. At the same time, it’s no excuse to not try and do something good with what you do make.
Boniface: I don’t think you need to go ‘we’ll do that stuff when we’ve got enough money to’. Just do it now.
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