Bambie Thug: “Eurovision is ‘Gay Christmas’... but it’s also an incredible platform for artists who want to push the boundaries”

Rising ‘Ouija-pop’ sensation Bambie Thug will be representing Ireland at Eurovision 2024 with Doomsday Blue. It’s a win that’s delighted fans, outraged conservative critics and bemused plenty of people in-between, but the Cork-born trailblazer promises they’re more than ready to represent their homeland on the grandest, gayest stage in music…

Bambie Thug: “Eurovision is ‘Gay Christmas’... but it’s also an incredible platform for artists who want to push the boundaries”
Sam Law
Becca Geden

Not long ago, Eurovision was off-limits for artists who truly rocked. The land of ABBA, Dana and Gina G, its campy pageantry and bubblegum poppiness were the antithesis to what was going on in real alternative music. In recent years, however, things have changed. 2006 saw Finnish shock-rock legends Lordi break through to take top spot with monstrous hit Hard Rock Hallelujah. 2021 was all Måneskin’s as the Italian supremos topped the rankings en route to superstardom. Even last year, Australia’s Voyager and Germany’s Lord Of The Lost made it to the grand final. But no entry has felt as thrillingly cutting-edge as Ireland’s entry for 2024: the inimitable Bambie Thug.

“I’m still emotional about my country getting behind me to such a degree,” the Macroom, County Cork native reflects, almost a week since sweeping to victory on The Late Late Show European Special in front of a massive national TV audience. A riposte to the cozy conventionality and absurd comedy entries who’ve represented the Emerald Isle in recent times, Bambie’s confronting brand of ‘Ouija-pop’ isn’t just about regaining respect in a Song Contest the Irish once ruled over, though. It’s about celebrating their country’s creative and cultural progression, regardless of conservative naysayers, into the 21st Century.

“We’re stirring-up things over here,” they grin. “That’s for sure.”

Was representing Ireland in Eurovision something you dreamed of as a youngster in Macroom?

“I did, definitely. It’s one of the biggest stages in the world. Plus, I was obsessed with [Swedish singer-songwriter] Loreen and used to sing her song Euphoria at open-mic nights and fundraisers! I loved ABBA, Celine Dion, Conchita Wurst and Luke Black, too. I like poppy things and weird things!”

How did it feel to get the win in front of that massive home TV audience last Friday?

“Just being there on The Late Late Show felt like a big moment in itself. People outside Ireland probably don’t understand how much of a big deal that show is. I’d actually been in the RTE Studios before, when I was 12, on Dustin’s Daily News Star Search [presented by Dustin The Turkey, who ‘himself’ represented Ireland in Eurovision in 2008]. I think I came third that day. So, to come back so alt, so goth, in a country whose mainstream music is probably even more ‘mainstream’ than what they play in the UK, and get the win was absolutely incredible. Of course, I was expecting viewers to be shocked by me. But I wasn’t expecting so much love: people coming out in droves, so excited, so delighted that I had shown up to reclaim some respect at Eurovision for our country!”

It still feels as though many alt. musicians avoid Eurovision. What made you apply?

“There were a lot of factors. I remember watching last year’s contest in Brighton with Cassyette and Tyler [Ryder] who wrote this song with me, saying how I’d like to play it one day. When we were looking it up later, and saw that they had, like, 200 million viewers, I was like, ‘Why aren’t we utilising this platform?!’ I love that Eurovision performances have the scope to be so theatrical. Plus, it’s in Sweden this year. Ireland and Sweden are tied for the most wins ever. And I’m half Swedish. It felt like the universe telling me that now was the time to go and win that title back. I’ve been on this journey for a long time. I feel like I’m ready. Ireland hasn’t been sending acts that can stand up on that world stage recently. But I really believe that I can!”

Indeed, after their Eurovision dominance in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it felt like Ireland had lost interest. The classic Father Ted episode A Song For Europe even joked that Ireland didn’t want to win…

“I’ve had a lot of Father Ted jokes over the last couple of days! I think we’d either lost interest in winning or we’d lost the ability to fund hosting it, which you had to do the year after a win. More than that, I think Ireland were guilty of winning, but then just continuing to send the same kind of artist over and over. The thing with Ireland is that we don’t really have that creative support in the music industry, in terms of nurturing and developing new talent once you’ve found it. I hope that my selection could be a great thing for the music industry over here: just putting that faith in something so weird and queer and alt. for a change. I hope it could open a door for all different styles of music. Eurovision can be a platform for anything if it’s got the right ingredients.”

What does your selection, after those years and years, say about Ireland as a country in 2024?

“I think it represents the modern Ireland: our people. My main support coming from the public vote, and all the love and solidarity that I’ve seen for the queer community, speaks volumes for this country. This isn’t the old ‘Catholic Ireland’ of yesteryear. People need to remember that we publicly voted for the legalisation of abortion rights and gay marriage. Our country is loud. Our country is, as a whole, staunch in their support of freedom of expression, freedom of peoples and freedom of self – and their pursuit of peace and heart and emotion. That’s the Ireland inside me.”

Of course, there is still that conservative minority who have responded hatefully to your selection online, leading to your issuing of a statement asking for people to ‘live in love…’

“I’d just repeat what I said to those people online: please remember that I am a person, too. Also, remember that this is art. I’m sure those people enjoy going to the movies. I’m sure they enjoy going to see a show. What I do is exactly the same thing, except I’m pro-freedom and not part of the far-right. I hope that at some point in those people’s lives that their mindset changes and they stop being consumed by their own hatred and their own fear – of the different and of accepting themselves. It’s 2024. Being racist and homophobic, transphobic and anti-love is so yesterday.”

How relevant to that message is Eurovision? Graham Norton described it as ‘Gay Christmas…’

“It is definitely Gay Christmas! [laughs] But it’s also an incredible opportunity. Eurovision is a song contest, sure. It is about the songs. But it’s at least as much about who you’re sending to perform those songs. It can be an incredible platform for artists who want to push the boundaries, who will use it for the right reasons, and who will continue to make music to do that long after it’s over.”

For a show that’s so much fun, there’s always a political element, too. Given criticism of Israel’s involvement following their brutal bombardment of Gaza, how do you approach that?

“I am clearly pro-Palestine. I don’t think that you can be truly Irish and not be. I go to the marches. I post about it online. It breaks my heart. I think there’s something to be said for having a representative there who is pro-Palestine. Not that I think anyone Irish wouldn’t be.”

Fittingly, Doomsday Blue is a song of defiance in the face of heartbreak. What made it your pick?

“I picked it for many reasons. Firstly, I’m not allowed to have any cursing – which rules out a lot of my other songs! Secondly, it needed to be three minute long. Thirdly, it’s just a bit mad – so many genres in one, pushing at the boundaries, with so many possibilities to become a beautiful spectacle onstage. The message rings true for many people in my community, the music industry, and the wider world going through heartbreak, too. It’s a song that could shake things up!”

Will you be bringing Cassyette and your other co-songwriters along for the trip to Malmö?

“We haven’t actually discussed it yet. Cassy is a busy woman right now! But I’d really like to bring them. Even if I’m not able to have them with me onstage, it’d love to have them [in attendance].”

How do you rate your chances of actually taking home the top prize?

“Well, for the first time in a long time, the Irish entry is up there in the Top 10 for the betting odds. That’s crazy in itself. I reckon if the staging is done right, my chances are pretty good because, live, I’m undeniable. Regardless of the outcome, though, this is the start of so much more to come.”

What exactly have you got in store?

“More music. More shows. More videos. More everything. I even want to have a go at acting at some point in my life. Basically, I want to be so annoying because you can’t get rid of me! The material I’ve got stored in my vault right now is some of my favourite that I’ve ever written. And I’ve been saving it for when I’ve got that bigger platform. Right now, I’m all like, ‘Nobody knows…’”

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