Need less ‘holly jolly’ and more ‘Jolly Roger?’ Pirate band YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS helps you get drunk on Christmas cheer while sharing the secrets behind every song on their new holiday album.
What do you get a pirate for Christmas? Nothing. They’ve already stolen all your gold, drank all your liquor, and keelhauled most of your crew well before December 24th rolls around. So, it should be a huge surprise that YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS were in a giving mood this year. The Swedish scallywags and fabled folk-rockers released A Pirate Stole My Christmas at the start of the holiday season. When asked what was the best present they’ve ever given someone during this time of year, the band told HollywoodLife with a laugh, “We gave our fans a Christmas album, didn’t we? What more could you ask for?”
It’s actually the perfect gift for fans of folk-rock, Viking metalhead (or metal Vikings), or Christmas aficionados craving a little more bite to their eggnog this year. A Pirate Stole My Christmas showcases the talent behind this scurvy crew of seadogs, and there’s plenty to go around. With titles like “Deck and Hull,” “Ring The Bells,” and “O, Cannonball,” you might think the album took Christmas standards, soaked them in rum, and slapped an eyepatch. Yet, the songs on A Pirate Stole My Christmas are not mere parodies. YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS brilliantly reimagined and reconfigured these Decemberween staples into yuletide dirges. They are familiar but different and fun as hell.
“It all started as an inside joke,” the band tells HollywoodLife. “Many years ago, two of our crewmen got drunk during the holidays and decided to record a crude Christmas cover as a gift to the rest of the crew. It resulted in a lot of laughter but was never released to the public. Next year, the process was repeated, and a tradition was born.” That tradition continued, and eventually, A Pirate Stole My Christmas was born.
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In an EXCLUSIVE track-by-track review of the new album, the band —Nobility, Quinton Taljenblock, Bellows, The Navigator, Freebird af Wærmaland, Monkey Boy, Happy Lou, Battery, Wan Chou Zhong, Silent Jim, Hogeye McGinn, Magda Malvina Märlprim, Scurvy Ben, Meat Stick Nick, Quartermaster Blackpowder Pyte, Old Red, Landmark, Filthylocks, Shameless Will, and Bojtikken – spills the rum – er, tea – on your new favorite Christmas songs, and the actual heartwarming gift they gave one fan.
“Ring The Bells”
HollywoodLife: “Jingle Bells” is one of those songs that seemingly every English-speaking person knows (mainly because it’s one of the first songs taught to children in primary school.) Was it a challenge to adapt it to “Ring The Bells,” especially since it seems to abandon the original’s melody?
YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS: Actually, “Ring the Bells” pretty much wrote itself. The melody is pretty much intact, only interpreted in minor. That has traditionally been our modus operandi with these songs. We take something happy and jolly, sung in major, and shift it into a minor key by then adding some less than pitch-perfect rum drenched vocals and changing by key-words in the lyrics, we usually manage to turn the song into something quite different.
What inspired the creation of A Pirate Stole My Christmas? Was it just time that swashbucklers got some of the seasonal spotlight?
It all started as an inside joke. Many years ago, two of our crewmen got drunk during the holidays and decided to record a crude Christmas cover as a gift to the rest of the crew. It resulted in a lot of laughter but was never released to the public. Next year, the process was repeated, and a tradition was born. Around year three, someone in the band failed to upload the song as private, and our fans immediately learned of these songs. Ever since, we have said that once we have enough songs to fill an album, we should cash in and retire!
“It Came To Bloody Pass”
“It Came To Bloody Pass” is a brilliant retelling of the Nativity story. It also adds depth to A Pirate Stole My Christmas by creating an atmosphere. I feel like I’m in that musty, damp seaside tavern, listening to a grizzled sailor spin this yarn. Was that the goal to make A Pirate Stole My Christmas feel more like an adventure and not just a collection of songs?
I think you are spot on. We really enjoy the album format and always try to include a meta-story, a couple of settings and themes, and the transitions between them. Some in text, some in soundscapes. And as you noticed, it’s a retelling of Luke 2:1 from a blasphemous sea man’s perspective. Blackpowder Pete likes to collect slang and phrases from 17th and 18th-century sources. We try to give him a chance on every album to spew them out in an orderly fashion.
“Deck and Hull”
“Deck and Hull” comes from a song (“Deck the Halls”) that was a perfect base for a buccaneer sea shanty. When making A Pirate Stole My Christmas, did you find that some songs didn’t work as a pirate holiday dirge?
Oh, yes. We have tried a lot of songs that we really wanted to make covers of, but in the end, they didn’t work out. For instance, we have probably made three or four versions of “O Holy Night” but never felt like any of them would be original on its own to make for a Ye Banished Privateers cover.
Did “Deck and Hull” get stuck in your head(s) for …like, weeks after recording it? It seems like it’s the perfect holiday earworm.
Definitely! I think all of us AND our spouses have been on the brink of admitting ourselves to the local psychiatric ward due to not being able to stop singing some of these songs 24/7.
“Twelve Days of Christmas”
Would you say this is the most fun song on the album? At least, when you get to the “FIVE YARS OF RUM” line?
[Laughs] Well, at least it’s the ONE line everybody gets right when we perform!
What else do you want for Christmas that wasn’t listed in this song?
Without a doubt – a cure for COVID and lifted restrictions so that we can go out on tour again.
How did one come up with the concept of having two dueling attitudes on “Sulphur Ahoy”? There are those who wish to sleep and those who want to sing all night long. It’s a clever concept that makes “Sulphur Ahoy” one of the more complex and entertaining moments on the album.
The concept is really based on our personal experiences in this band. When we go on tour, its always the same story. Some of our members act like responsible adults and try to have everyone go to bed on time so that we can perform at our best the next day. Luckily, we have a couple of party animals who are very good at convincing the rest of the band that bringing our instruments to the bar and doing some improvised drunk acoustic session would be a much better plan.
“Little Rummer Boy”
Perhaps one of the best things about A Pirate Stole My Christmas – and Ye Banished Privateers in general – is the number of diverse instruments used on this album. There are various “all things beatable,” but as “Little Rummer Boy,” you don’t simply rely on a snare drum as the main percussion. When making this song, was it a moment when you decided, “we’re not going to make this like every other version out there?
Not making it like any other version out there has pretty much been our vision for every song on the album. If our version didn’t feel original enough, we would just scrap the whole idea and choose a new song. And when it comes to “The Little Drummer Boy,” our drummers suck, so we probably wouldn’t be able to stick to the standard arrangement anyway!
“Little Rummer Boy” seems fitting since its use in eggnog has made rum the drink of the season. If you made Ye Banished Privateers holiday drink, what would go into it?
We do have a drink that we make every year! Dissolve gingerbread in dark rum and heat it. Pour it in a shot glass, then add Galliano and a spoonful of marshmallow cream on top. We call it the cannonball!
This song is actually rather sad, and sorrow isn’t an emotion often associated with Christmastime (though, personally, I find it a less-advertised component of the season.) Why did you take “O Cannonball” in this more serious direction than, perhaps, something more jubilant?
We wrote this song when the Syrian civil war was in its bloodiest state, and the presidential soldiers were bombing their own people with barrel bombs from helicopters. We actually had a completely different song in mind for that year, but with the news being dominated by this horrendous human tragedy, we decided we wanted to make something more heartfelt that year.
Again, we have another moment of atmosphere and historical significance. Why was it important to include this remembrance to a time when Christmas was outlawed?
It’s such an absurd thing to try to abolish Christmas, and it’s always fun to find those instances where history is more absurd than something we could come up with ourselves. This text is from the very puritanical Massachusetts bay colony and the very dawn of the golden age of piracy, and we thought it would fit in just right. A Christmas album is a quite horribly jolly thing, isn’t it? So it feels right to add in some anti-Christmas propaganda to restore some balance to it.
“Drawn and Quartered”
Was it intentional that the most church-sounding song on A Pirate Stole My Christmas is the most visceral? Like, was that a conscious decision or a happy coincidence?
We always like to play with contrast. We felt that having the choir perform as a regular nice group of carolers, rather than our usual drunk pirate mob, made for a far more interesting listening experience, and also makes Peter’s gruesome vocals stand out even more.
I know this can’t be the first time this was brought up, but this song invokes images of a priestly Tom Waits speaking to a congregation. So, if Tom Waits were to give you a present this Christmas, what would it be?
We are die-hard fans of Tom, of course. The greatest gift he could give us would be to perform one of our songs. We think it would be a match made in heaven!
“Carol of Bellows”
The song not only offers a new take on “The Carol of the Bells,” but it reveals that news of Bellows’ death on Hostis Humani Generis was premature. Is this a bit of a gift to your fans who have paid attention to your lore?
You are absolutely right. Even though we do not give away in detail how this is possible (you will have to wait for our sixth album to get the whole story), we decided to treat our fans with a little Christmas miracle.
“Away In The Gutter”
The album closes with “Away in the Gutter.” With all the ways a pirate’s tale could end, why did you settle on a tender track that could double as a pirate’s lullaby?
We don’t know why, but this has sort of been the case with all of our albums. During our live shows, we always want to go out with a boom of explosive energy, usually by playing “Libertalia.” But with our studio albums, we feel it’s more suitable to end on a more mellow note, giving some room for contemplation and creating a curiosity on “what comes next?”
What’s a favorite holiday song, pirate or otherwise, that you think needs more love?
We have a whole range of Swedish holiday songs that we haven’t touched so far, since we feared they would be too alien to our international audience. A favourite that we will definitely make our own version of in the future would be the Swedish carols “Hej Tomtegubbar! (Hey Santas!)” or “Staffan var en stalledräng (Stefan Was a Stable Boy.”
What was one of the best presents you’ve ever given someone during this time of year?
We gave our fans a Christmas album, didn’t we? What more could you ask for? Haha! No, seriously. Three years back, we took part in a live auction charity show on radio, where we donated a trip with us on tour for two people. The auction raised over $3500 dollars for kids in need. That felt really good, and we had a lot of fun with the winner of the auction and his +1.
With 2022 around the corner, what are the plans for YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS?
We have a show in France in March that we really hope will be possible. Then we have the postponed European tour from 2021 that is scheduled to take place in September. Other than that, our schedule is pretty open at the moment. But based on last year’s experience, we know for sure that things will start moving pretty quickly as soon as the infection rates go down and restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we are very much looking forward to writing and rehearsing material that has NOTHING to do with Christmas!
A Pirate Stole My Christmas is out now.
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