Deja Boo: They’re anything but ‘just another cover band’

by James Hendicott
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On the face of it, Deja Boo are ‘just another covers band’ working the Irish wedding circuit.

That would be a gross oversimplification, though: there’s quite a bit more to the project – propelled forward by boisterous co-stars Niamh Collins and Zamo Riffman – than initially meets the eye.

Zamo Riffman, in a former life, was something of an 80s high-school icon, studying at an edgy Dublin Christian Brother’s school and playing music for fun.

If that sounds familiar, you might have seen the film made by his old bandmate, John Carney, in which those times are recreated.

Riffman (real name Eamon) stars in a colourful form as one of the main characters in the 2016 hit, Sing Street.

As well as being portrayed in the film – like Riffman as a kid, his character also loves rabbits – Eamon also has a small walk-on part as a janitor, and provides some of the bass lines for the film’s music.

In his more everyday life in 2019, though, Zamo Riffman plays under his own moniker, and in the aforementioned popular wedding, corporate and party covers band, Deja Boo.

“Our aim is to give a kind of A-Z of everything for everybody,” Riffman explains of the band.

“It’s hard, fitting all the different songs and genres in there. The first set is usually an hour, and we try and get the ‘oldies and goldies’ in, to keep everyone in the room happy.

“The second half will be all the modern stuff. At the end, there’s a full-on rave, people hanging off chandeliers and stuff! It can get very lively, and we’ve seen all sorts at weddings.”

Deja Boo’s current setlist shows that eclectic, playful direction: it features James Brown and George Ezra, Blur and The Specials.

“We play anywhere and everywhere,” Riffman continues. “It’s a great band. We have amazing musicians in there, through knowing a lot of people on the music scene.”

Previous contributors have included Jake Kearn (now a guitarist with Niall Horan’s touring band) and Rory Doyle (who now plays drums with Hozier).

“We like to think we nurtured them,” Riffman laughs. “We have a lot of on-stage experience.”

Of the modern music industry, he says: “We live in a really hard scenario now. I play my own stuff, but it’s really difficult to get anywhere.

“I think as artists we deserve a proper percentage of the money being made. These corporations are making millions and millions selling these people’s works.

“Spotify is very clever, but not great for artists. YouTube’s the same. The way round that is playing live and trying to sell merchandise, and to try and get a bit of advertising, songs in movies, stuff like that.

“I was in my first band in De La Salle, Churchtown with John Carney, as teenagers,” he remembers of those early days.

“We were called ‘The Twilight Zone’, and there’s a photograph of us in the annual in De La Salle.

“We did that for three or four years, and then John went and played with The Frames, and then became and independent movie maker.”

“He got me involved in the songwriting team,” Riffman says of the Sing Street role.

“It’s quite mind-blowing, someone making a movie about you. It’s semi-autobiographical. I can see all the little throwbacks. He’s embellished it.”

“Mainly, now, we’re a high-energy covers band. We try to do everything really intensely, like you’d get with an original band.

“For me that’s what makes Deja Boo special. A lot of wedding bands, they don’t want to be there, they don’t really care.

“We’ve never been that kind of band.”

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