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Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show - Interview: Captain Festus McBoyle

20 Jul 2019 // An interview by darryl baser

In his formative years Captain Festus McBoyle was a rock and roller known as Rich Manic, who performed in bands such as Runninghouse. These days however, he is the ringleader for a Vaudeville musical comedy Troupe from Auckland, Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show. The good Captain sat down with Darryl Baser from Muzic.net.nz for a chinwag over the phone.

I’ve been in rock bands for nearly 30-years, I got to the point where I kinda got bored with it. I decided I really wanted to do theatre, and I love comedy and things like that, so I get to do the whole shebang with this project. I still get to dress up, wear make-up, and jump around like a bleedin’ idiot. It’s good fun, it’s a really good outlet you know. It feels more honest than doing the rock stuff, I feel more free and it’s much more playful. In many ways, this project is more rock and roll, than rock and roll ever was. We’re flown around the country, put up in good hotels, we’re paid good money to play. We’ve played to crowds of over 16,000 people, played most of the big festivals in NZ, WOMAD, Splore, Cubadupa, Wondergarden, Auckland City Limits, Nelson Arts Festival. We’ve done more in this genre than I ever did in the rock genre.

I'm not adverse to the idea of playing in ‘rock’ bands again, I just got sick of having to find new drummers and bass players. I feel very fortunate to have played with some great musicians over those rock years and I’ve also been very fortunate within this genre too. I feel very lucky indeed. 

My partner Larissa is a costume designer for film and television. She’s a great jeweller and also a key performer in this project as well. She’s extremely talented. My current guitarist is Gareth Price. He comes from a long line of bands such as Semi Lemon Cola, Augustino, The Mamaku Project and he’s also a great surrealist painter. The new album is called Bubbles n’ Squeek. It was recorded and produced by Amos Clark at Showpony studios, blimmin’ good he is. A very talented musician in his own right. He’s working with Fuser at the moment, doing their album I believe. So yeah, I’ve got a really good circle of talented friends around me , I really can’t complain.

So, what are y’all up to at present, playing live much?

We’re coordinating a series of events called The Free Family Fun Day Mash Ups. These are fusion events, we bring together local bands, comedy acts, circus entertainment and Children’s performers for one epic show. Bernie Griffin and the Thin Men is who we’re playing with next. We’ve already played with Otis Mace and The 1B4s, Galveston and Torana. The next one’s having Irish dancing too. These are community events, a celebration of family and community. Kids get to see live bands, hopefully inspired to be the musicians of tomorrow. Adults get to see kids’ entertainment that isn’t all sugar coated, ‘cause there’s a lot of it out there. You could definitely say we’re the rock and rollers of the kid's world. We’re a tad edgy, a definite swagger, we’ve also got wide appeal and transcend age and culture with ease. 

These events [the Mash ups] are currently happening all over Auckland, but it’s a template which can travel. It could go all over the country really, the main travelling entity would be my lot, and we’d pick up locals in each region. The cool thing is we bring in schools, who run cake stalls and sell sweets and stuff, so they make a cut on the event, we then bring in the local Lions or RSA clubs to do all the hot food, then we bring in the local food banks. When people come they bring dried and tinned food to donate, so we create a food mountain for the community, and the whole event is free thanks to funding. The next one’s funded by the Albert-Eden local board. We did a ticked one at the Kings Arms just before it closed, that had like 450 people. Crazy it was. Sweatiest gig I’ve ever played. We’ve got another couple of grant applications going through now, it’s a great way of keeping us busy and provides a great free family event for community 

You know with rock bands, there’s always one person who does all the work? That’s always been me, this has been really good for getting my head around event coordination and grant applications. The more you do, the better you get, it’s a very worthwhile thing to do. We’ve managed to pull in a fair bit of funding now, getting a NZ On Air grant last year was the icing on the cake. 

They ain’t easy to get.

Well if you want the money you’ve got to do the hard yards you know. We just couldn’t justify putting money into music videos, bloody expensive to produce and very few places to play them, so we were putting all our money into show reel pieces, and that’s what got us to Australia. We did 21 shows in Melbourne in a week. Show reel footage is so important; we’re pretty much guns for hire, show reels are how you get your festivals, they need to see what you do, trying to capture that in itself is an art form.

So yeah, getting a grant from NZ on Air was brilliant, we managed to produce three music videos and finish off our third album, which was bloody fantastic. Very grateful indeed.

Captain Festus has a song on a compilation put together by children’s entertainment legend Suzy Cato.

Yeah that came about after Suzy did Dancing with the stars, she was asked to do a kids album by Sony, she also spearheads The Kiwi kids music collective, which is basically a collective of NZ children’s entertainers, she put together a compilation album and chose our song ‘The Little Things’ which was pretty awesome, we got huge mileage out of that, We delayed the album release to ride that wave. Then the next thing ‘The Little Things’ was chosen as a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. It was chosen as part of the last 2% of  19,000 entries, we got chosen for best kids’ song in that one. We didn’t win it, but it was great exposure.

The band ain’t restricted to simply being in the ‘children’s music’ genre.

We’re quite lucky because we transcend age and culture with ease, we target new-borns to old age pensioners, we’re like a vaudeville musical hall/ panto style mixed with Monty Python and Spike Milligan, a bit cheeky and a bit risqué. Being that versatile has helped us get into festivals all around the country, there’s not much we haven’t played now, it’s pretty cool.

All success aside, the group isn’t resting on their laurels, after the recent release of their third album.

We’ve got another video coming out very soon, a song called Jack Spratt, it has a strong Monty Python collage animation feel, it’ll help re-launch the album nicely, it’s a video that’s  animated by Guy Capper and my partner Larissa Lofley has directed it. 

We're currently working on album number 4, called Wot The Cat Dragged In. We’ve got a few tracks down already. We’re also looking at doing a web series, we’ve bought ourselves a nice camera now, so we’re going to start doing some stuff soon. We’ve written a couple of books and we're looking at illustrating them now. We’re currently exploring funding avenues, putting together things like this is not a cheap do. There’s always plenty in the pipeline and to be honest..... I just don’t have a plan ‘B’ so I just have to keep doin’ it basically. Still the best job in the world though. 

New Album Bubbles n’ Squeek

The Little Things Music Video

The Free Family Fun Day Mash Up Facebook Page


About Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show

A Vaudeville musical comedy Troupe from Auckland who are regularly compared to Monty Python and Spike Milligan. They target unsuspecting families with utmost precision, and transcend age and culture with ease.

This lot are more fun than a squirrel up ya jumper. Award nominations for both their music and their videos, current semi finalists in the International Songwriting Competition and recent NZ on Air grant recipients, they regularly perform all over NZ and parts of Australia. A unique and dynamic experience for the whole family. Masters of Mischief and Mayhem and simply an act not to be missed.

They've played everything from WOMAD to Splore to Cubadupa to sell out shows at Nelson Arts Festival to Town Hall shows with the entire Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show


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