Scruffy Wallace – 10 Questions


Scruffy, lots of people are very excited to hear you have become a Mahone. How did joining The Mahones come about?

I have been long time friends with Finny and Dom…they’re like family to me. Katie is like a little sister and the rest of the fellas have always been fun to hang around. I have played off and on with them and toured many times with them and it’s always been a great time.

What attracted you to join the Mahones, you go back a long time with them right?

I have known Finny and crew for over 20 years…we go way back. They’re great friends and I consider them family.

How will the sound of the Mahones change with you aboard?

I don’t think much about the signature sound of the Mahones will change much…I think the only change is that you may here some Bagpipes here and there. I will share whistle duties and some backup vocals.

Are you moving back to Canada?

I will always have a home in Canada, but I’m staying in Boston. I love this city and am quite content here.

How are relations with Dropkick Murphys?

I wish them all the best.

What are the Mahones upcoming plans to record and tour?

We are working out lots of dates and are excited to get to work. I will be in the studio for a few days coming up next week to do some preliminary work and you can expect to hear some great new music!

Bruins or Canadians?

Without hesitation…Boston Bruins.

What have you been up for the since you left DKM?

I have been working with a new charity called 22kill, bringing awareness to veteran suicide. Staying busy with arranging fund raisers and helping in my community as much as I can. I went to school to become an EMT and love helping people in need. Being a father to 2 boys keeps me pretty busy and I squeeze in as much playing with other bands as I can.

Favorite Mahones song?

Hmmmmm….I’ve always been partial to ‘Back Home’….has a lot of sentimental meaning to me. Of course the usual staples….Drunken Lazy Bastard, Is This Bar Open ‘Til Tomorrow and a night of debauchery that Finny and I shared in Hamburg, Germany a few years ago called ‘The Pint Of No Return’…haha. It was a hell of a night chasing the ghost of Brendan Behan….

Irish Whiskey or Scotch?

Scotch…I usually drink Lagavulin 16 or any Islay whisky….

‘Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum’ Your Piper-at-Arms, Josh ‘Scruffy’ Wallace

The Narrowbacks: Interview

The Narrowbacks are a young Irish America band from the Bronx section of New York. The band have just released the their new single Shannon and a hard at work rehearsing for their upcoming spot opening for Dropkick Murphys at the Boston House of Blues during the Murphys upcoming St. Patrick’s run of gigs.


Can we start with a little background on the band – who’s in the band, how did the band get together and how would you describe your sound? And can you explain to non-New Yorkers what Narrowback means?

The Narrowbacks are a 6 piece Irish Folk Rock band -we are obviously heavily influenced by the music of the Dubliners, Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys; you can also hear a little bit of Bruce Springsteen mixed with 90’s and early 2000’s punk, pop-punk and from our rhythm section some Funk, Metal and Jam. Every member has a very different musical background and different musical taste outside of Irish music.

Barry and I (Seamus) started the band when were were still at Iona College. The byproduct of late night sing songs; Barry suggested formally starting a band and writing our own songs. We started recording demos in Barry’s house in New Rochelle and we even rehearsed early versions of the songs with his then roommate and future Narrowback, Chris Moran. Chris wouldn’t formally join the band until a few years later. We eventually recruited my brother Pat Keane on button accordion and Fionn McElligott on guitar; who we knew from playing gaelic football. We travelled as a 4 piece for the first few months, I was singing, Barry on Bass, Pat on accordion and Fionn on guitar until Fionn’s friend Anthony Chen joined the band on Bass and Barry moved to Banjo and Mandolin.

Chris Moran joined the band in June of 2011 and he was the final piece of the puzzle.

Since then we have gone from playing Sundays at Murty’s Publick House in Pearl River, to packed houses in Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers, supporting Black 47 on their farewell tour, supporting Flogging Molly and Gogol Bordello at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park to now opening for the Dropkick Murphys across from Fenway Park at the House of Blues Boston on the day before Saint Patrick’s Day! Not a bad run so far.

A Narrowbacks isn’t really a New York thing; at least I don’t think it is. It’s a derogatory term used for Irish Americans – sons and daughters of Irish immigrants who now have it easy in America and don’t sport the wide over worked backs of their parents. They don’t have wide backs from hard labor, they have narrow backs from an easy life and lack of hard physical work.

I understand the Narrowbacks are from the North Bronx and Pearl River. Any truth that you’re the offspring of yer man and woman from Black 47s “Living in America”? Seriously, with Black 47s retirement there is a huge hole in the NY Irish scene, are the Narrowbacks the band to fill that void?

We’re not literally the offspring of the couple in “Living in America” but we probably went to school or played football with their kids. That song was written about the Irish who lived in the Bainbridge section of the Bronx who married had kids and eventually moved to Pearl River (as heard in a later version of the song), just like us. My parents and Barry’s parents both came to the Bronx and we were both born there and lived there for a short while before moving across the Tappan Zee.

Now do I think we are capable of filling the void left by Black 47? No, Black 47 were a force that can not be and will not be replaced but that being said I think we can be the Black 47 of the new young Irish and American millenials, songs that tell the stories of the people we know and see with songs like ‘Lost Generation’ and “Paddy’s Field’ stories about neighborhoods changing, moving upstate to fulfill the American dream, new problems arising and things changing but also kind of staying the same. The void you’re talking about is also not as big as you may think, the Irish music scene here in New York is thriving at the moment. It’s a huge scene and an interborogh tour can be as fruitful as a tristate tour in terms of following, crowds and merch sales. There are bands from every part of New York from the Bronx to Brooklyn fighting and playing for their piece of the pie. After it all we get along like a big family and help eachother out, very passive aggressively of course – it wouldnt be an Irish relationship otherwise.

Obviously, the upcoming Dropkicks gig is a going to be a big show for you guys. How as a fairly new band did you get onto this much sought after spot? Any expectations about the gig?
We backed up Ken Casey at a charity gig he was being honored at a few years ago – he kept a CD and kept in touch. We kept in touch via text and email ever since and a few months ago he reached out and asked if we were free for the March gig….and of course with out hesitation we said we were.

So who is this Shannon that you sing about on your new single?

Barry wrote Shannon so I’ll let him answer this one.
Barry: Shannon’s a story I came up with one night while sitting in the 11th Street Bar in the East Village, a blend of some fiction and fact. I was living in the village at the time and spent most nights out at various watering holes where I became friends with a lot of the bartenders. The lyrics are kind of a composite of the stories told to me firsthand and my own observations and experiences, from the point of view of the habitué.

What’s next for the band? You’ve got your Paddy’s day shows coming up and after that any recording or touring (particularly outside of the tristate area)?

Well we’re playing through out New York and New Jersey this March, Boston on 3/16 then our own co-headling show with our friends Girsa at Webster Hall on Saint Patrick’s Day. This summer we’re playing festivals in Fairfield, CT, East Durham, NY and we will be hitting the midwest for the first time ever. So far all we have book for the tour is the Chicago Irish Festival on July 8th and 9th. We’re really looking forward to playing in Tossers country.

Ferocious Dog – Interview

In November 2015, UK based Celtic punk band Ferocious Dog made history by being the first unsigned band to ever sell out the legendary Rock City music venue in Nottingham. We caught up with front man Ken Bonsall and his son, fiddle player, Dan Booth a week before hand at the Talking Heads pub in Southampton where the band were playing in support of their new album From Without.


S&O: Ken, you started your working life as a coal miner. How do you make the transition from miner to musician?

FD: There wasn’t really a transition. There was an overlap. At first it was the pit and the music. Sometimes I’d get off shift with an hour to spare before a gig or sometimes finish a gig an hour before going on shift. While it was devastating to the local economy when the pits closed, it was beneficial for the band.

S&O: Dan, you work in the National Health Service; you must have similar pressures. How do you cope?

FD: You just do it. I was once bitten by a patient and went straight from A&E to playing a gig. Fourteen hour days prior to a gig are not uncommon.

S&O: I’ve noticed songs about Ireland on both your albums; Quiet Paddy and Gallows Justice. Despite playing celtic music, you aren’t an “Irish band” do how did these songs come about?

FD: They came as the result of visiting Ireland and particularly from camping in Connemara and being blown away by the rugged beauty of the place. It felt really tropical as it always rains. I was also responding to the “English go home” vibe you can sometimes pick up and I wanted to say “I empathise” and “don’t blame the English working class”. Things done by Cromwell and by English landowners were done to the English working class too.

S&O: Let’s stay with the history side of things. Tell us about the song Crime and Punishment.

FD: Ken found out that he was related to a poacher called Bill Sykes who was transported to Australia in 1865. Now, Bill Skyes might have been the blueprint for the archetypal Victorian villain in Charles Dickens but from what I can see he was just a working class lad from Mansfield. Sykes and some other lads were out poaching on the big estate and the game keeper was tipped off. In the scuffle to apprehend them the game keeper was killed and one of the poachers turned Queen’s evidence in order to save his own neck. The rest of the poachers refused to say who had struck the killing blow and so were all transported. Bill Sykes’ wife wrote to him regularly but the letters never reached him. They were all lost behind a shelf in an Australian police station for decades before being discovered and written about in the 1959 book Unwilling Emigrants.

S&O: It’s my favourite song on the new album along with Slow Motion Suicide. As the son of a miner from the northeast that song has some powerful resonance. What can you tell us?

FD: Ken wrote the lyrics about six years ago-beautifully telling the tragic tale of an out-of-work miner who’s turned to the drink. Dan then had to add something equally beautiful with the fiddle. The hope for the song was that it would take listeners on a journey. The music had to fit the emotions being portrayed in the lyrics.

S&O: Is that how all your song writing is done? Lyrics then music?

FD: Not at all. Our song writing is a very random and very collaborative process. Everyone is free to contribute. Ellis (Warring) is the unsung hero of Ferocious Dog. If you listen to something like Gallows Justice he layered riffs on top of riffs. Scott, our drummer will always bring something new to the mix- sometimes in the middle of a gig! But it works. We’re also influenced by the music we grew up listening to. You learn your trade listening to the music you love. Some of those influences are obvious; New Model Army, The Levellers, Flogging Molly; others are less so. For example, we were in a practise session and Scott completely stole a drum riff from the Stone Roses. We are all massive Stone Roses fans; so it all goes into the mix. But the key thing for every song is it’s got to have moshability.

S&O: Ken, every gig, you stand on stage and sing about your son, Lee. (Lee tragically took his own life as a result of post traumatic stress suffered while serving with the British army in Afghanistan). As an audience member, it moves me to tears, how do you do it?

FD: Pride. Everything we do is “For Lee”. We want to see how big we can make Ferocious Dog because everything we do is in his memory. Without Lee there would have been no band. He is the drive behind Ferocious Dog. (The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund has been set up in order to help raise funds and awareness to help others suffering from PTSD. More information about Lee’s story and the issue of PTSD can be obtained via the documentary Broken by Battle)

S&O: You are all doing him proud.

S&O: Final question. How did you manage to get Les Carter (formerly of 90s indie sensation Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine) to join Ferocious Dog?

FD: That was down to Dan. We’d done some dates with Carter and then Les offered us a support slot at their final gig at the Brixton Academy which we couldn’t play due to a prior commitment. We were looking for a new guitarist after Kyle Peters left to start his own band, the Outlines so Dan cheekily asked Les what he was doing with his “retirement” and he joined us!
S&O: Thanks for taking time to talk to us and all the best for the remainder of the tour; especially the first Hell Hounds AGM at Rock City.

Neil Bates
December 2015

Blood or Whiskey: Telling The Truth & Shaming The Devil

It’s been a while since we spoke to Blood or Whiskey so with Paddy’s Day coming up we took the opportunity to speak with founding members Dugs (guitar and vocals) and Chris (drums) about their new album Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil and the struggles of the last few years. Hat’s off to the toughest band on the planet.

BoW Photo [name]

Shite’n’Onions: It’s been a while since the last the Blood or Whiskey album studio album, Cashed Out On Culture, about 8 years I’m thinking and I know the band has had many struggles over the last few years with your health, Alan Confrey’s (tin whistle) tragic death, line up changes and record label shit. Can you share with us some of the going ons with the band over the last few years?

Dugs: Yes its been a while alright since Cashed Out on Culture our last studio album, too long in fact! But as you said various reasons where contributing factors to that, poor Alan’s untimely death back in 2006 and legal issues with our last record company kind of stopped us in our tracks because we were building up a nice head of steam back then and then all these problems started to manifest themselves and it halted us in our tracks. When you lose a band member due to death its a bitter pill to swallow because it opens up a lot of doors inside of yourself that you wouldn’t usually think of but when you lose a band member and a friend I may add, its kind of hard to put rhyme or reason on a lot of things not just band stuff but life in general as he left a young family behind and also his parents and brothers and sisters so you do ask yourself all sorts of questions like should we carry on? should we keep going? A lot of “what if’s?” and so on ,so we carried on and started to tour again playing big supports, tours and big festivals, the Reading and Leeds festivals, Rebellion etc and just when things started to look good again I got diagnosed with cancer and that stopped us again in our tracks which was a battle for 2 years and in a way in those two years I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know about myself and about life, so before I got cancer we had a bunch of songs ready to go to record in the studio but the cancer put a stop to that. But now when I look at it clearly, I would have got cancer even if I wasn’t in this band, but shitty things happen in this life to all and sundry and that’s the painting from the cradle to the grave such is this big mountain we climb we call life and when life hits you hard and you fall down you just got to take it, get back up and move on because you never know what tomorrow brings some good and bad that’s just the way it is, and we have a song on our new album called ‘Rutland’ about that, but the lads in the band showed their metal by sticking around and seeing this album out as we are all very excited about it but to say it wasn’t easy to keep it all together is an understatement but I’m so glad we roughed it out and it now seems to be getting back on track again, fingers crossed.

Chris: Yes it has been way too long but with all that has happened we are delighted to have had this chance to get this new album ready for release. What happened to Al and Paul was a tragedy for us because when you are in a band on tour with friends you become much more than just band mates you become a family, so it hurts when something happens to any of us.

Things like the record label shit as you put it are insignificant when it comes to life, so then when Dugs got back on his feet we knew the only thing to do was keep going at what we love and are lucky enough to do and give it another real hard shot for Al, Paul and thank god, Dugs.

It wasn’t hard to hold the band together because we had a common goal and that was when Dugs gets better to get this album out so we were in studio a lot over those dark days and got this album to where it is now.

Shite’n’Onions: Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil is the title of the new album. I haven’t heard it so can you describe the sound of the album and how does it compare to the previous releases? Cashed Out on Culture had a much harder punkie sound then the previous two albums have you continued in that direction?

Dugs: Yes the new album is called “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil”, an old Irish saying I picked up from the old school in pubs and hanging out a lot down the west of Ireland. To describe its sound from previous B.O.W Albums its our most advanced work in terms of different styles of music and sonically, a lot of ska , punk, Irish , I like to think a cross breed of the Dubliners / Clash / Pogues / Specials etc in places, would describe the new albums direction best. I honestly think its our best work by far for me personally because as you say Cashed Out on Culture was a lot harder than the previous two albums by Bow, the first two albums were from their time and for various reasons line up changes etc that’s why they sounded like that but we have evolved in our music as each album progressed , no band is going to write the same album over and over again because of various reasons, who is going to write the same song as they did when they were a teenager to when they become an adult? Because you don’t think the same way for one and secondly you meet a lot of hurdles in life that you have to cross when you get older, so of course your music is going to change, develop and mature.

So this album is a different direction from all our previous releases. I know one thing I’m sure of, change is inevitable regardless of what you do in life, that’s just the way it is. But I’m very proud of this album because it took a lot of hard work to get this on the table after what we have been through as a band, but if you like punk, and ska with a topical feel I think people will like this one, there is even a Johnny Cash sounding song on it called ‘Montpelier Hill’, about the devils appearance at a card game in the hellfire club in the Dublin mountains, hence why the album title fitted so well, I think most styles that influenced us all to be in a band is on this album, we hope you all enjoy it.

Chris: The sound of “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil” is a progression from “Cashed Out” in my eyes and ears, our usual influences are still in there beating there way out: (The Pogues, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Specials etc). We collectively as BOW love similar music, yet have very different tastes at times and when that all comes together, BOW is what comes out the other side. As for how does this album compare to our previous releases, to me its the best we have ever done which is not in any way knocking our previous albums, it is just where we are now. As musicians you always try to create something you can be proud of and stand over which is what we have done again. “Cashed Out” had its differences alright but at the end of the day it was still very much be BOW to us. To answer your question, yes we have continued to progress in this direction and really feel we’ve nailed it again.

Shite’n’Onions: One of the things that always struck me about Blood or Whiskey was the attitude and realism in the lyrics. Given the shit the band has been through in the last few years how are the songs/lyrics on the album influence by what’s happened to the band.

Dugs: Yes our lyrics on this album are pretty true to life and very self autobiographical in places, so in that aspect yes the new album doesn’t change in that respect, we basically write about what affects us from a personal point of view to what happens in our country and the world around us, there are songs about sickness a song about cancer diagnoses (Rutsy), our old unwelcome friend called emigration that has been a blight on Ireland from day one both of the past and today pop up in places on this album with Seanie o Keeffe, Emigrant, Cannibal Economy, Gone and Forgotten, to world issues in Dirty Auld War, Gernika, to some light-hearted tales of the devils appearance in Dublin at a card game in the hellfire club where the rich and the elite used to get up to all sorts of skullduggery back in the day (Montpelier Hill), so yes I think we touch on a lot of important issues but we also like telling a tale or two as well but yes nothing has changed in that regard of Blood or Whiskey with the lyrics.

Shite’n’Onions: BoW are one of the longest running bands on the Celtic-punk scene and in fact predate the scene. Are Blood or Whiskey part of a Celtic-punk scene and does the scene influence you? As a band from Ireland what are your thoughts on the scene? What hasn’t there been any other bands from Ireland playing Celtic-punk?

Dugs: Yes, thanks for reminding us were ancient hahahaha , when we started there was no term for this music, I certainly didn’t hear the term Celtic Punk, or Paddy Punk, I think folk punk was the most consistent when people labelled it, and there was only a handful of bands doing this, but did the scene influence us??? , Well hell yeah there would be no BOW if we hadn’t heard The Pogues, but it wasn’t a movement back then like it is now, The Pogues, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, I suppose are the first that spring to mind, but as I said it wasn’t a big deal like it is now, The Pogues were regarded as more of an alternative act because the term Celtic Punk hadn’t really been invented then and if it had we didn’t hear it much in the media, but also I have to say there would be no Blood or Whiskey without the punk scene and ska movements from the Pistols, Clash, to The Specials who were equally as important to us as The Pogues were as making us want to be in a band in the first place, regardless of what style we were playing, because in Blood or Whiskey we always wrote about personal stuff or stuff that effected our lives, we just happened to be Irish and could play those instruments like the tin whistle, accordion etc because we were force fed them at a young age either in school or by our parents, it was just part of growing up in Ireland, so we basically used what we knew and started to play this kind of music with a punk attitude and that’s how we started to play this celtic punk which now kind of reminds me a bit of the 2 tone movement or punk explosion all of a sudden there is loads of bands doing this music from all over the world which is pretty cool as it shows are little isle has touched many hearts around this globe with its songs , but I don’t really think about it too much to be honest, I like some of the bands in this scene and don’t like others but in general that goes across the board in all types of music, some songs you like some you don’t but in general I don’t have a real view on it ,as I’m a big fan of all types of music from across the world, but hey if people want to be in an Irish celtic punk/ rock/ folk/ band well good luck to them enjoy the music but your right in Ireland there is not many paddy punk bands as people were brought up with this kind of music at a very young age and its ingrained in their psyche at this stage they would rather be in bands that don’t celebrate their Irishness because they know their Irish if that makes any sense.

Chris: Yes we have been at it a long time kind of makes you feel a little old, in saying that we have just arrived home from watching the mighty SLF in Dublin tonight and they proved yet again that age doesn’t matter whatsoever when you love what you do, they are around a good few years more than ourselves and you wouldn’t tell from looking at them tonight they were brilliant.

Yes we are without doubt a part of the Celtic Punk scene simply by the instruments that we have in the group and that is a good thing, it always makes me smile when I see how far Irish music and our culture has travelled, we have played everywhere from the US to Japan and all over Europe and every where we go there is a love for this small nation it makes you proud to be Irish and proud of all the great music and musicians from Ireland that came before us and managed to influence people all over the world. Going from what I have just said the Celtic punk scene makes me personally proud to be Irish as it shows me how the rest of the world loves and enjoys Irish music and culture. I’m not sure why there has not been many other bands from Ireland playing Celtic Punk because you do get other bands mixing folk with rock etc just not so many doing the Celtic Punk thing. Maybe it’s because the Punk scene isn’t as big here in Ireland as it is in the likes of the US and Europe, mainly due to the size of our population I suppose.

Shite’n’Onions: Is Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil going to be available in the US and on what label?

Dugs: At this initial stage ‘Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil will be available by download on iTunes etc as we were talking to various labels that wanted to take this album but we decided to bring this out ourselves on BOW records and its 100 percent self-funded by our own personal pockets, we could have gone down the pledge route that a lot of bands seem to be doing these days, but for various reasons we didn’t feel comfortable with that alternative, so we scraped what little savings we had and recorded this album ourselves. But I am sure in time you will be able to buy this album in whatever record shops that are left these days as the music landscape has dramatically changed since we last released a record, but you will be able to buy the album via iTunes and the other digital download sites and if you want to buy physical copies you can buy directly from BOW records or catch us on the road at gigs.

Chris: We absolutely want to release this album in the US and are working hard to make it happen, not just for download but also physical copies in the shops, because lets face it there is nothing like having the CD or Vinyl. We have great fans in the US who come out to see us anytime we make it over to play, so we want to make it as easy as possible for them to get there hands on Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil.

Shite’n’Onions: Can we expect Blood or Whiskey back on the road in support of Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil and especially the US as it been a while?

Dugs: Yes of course we are going to tour this album as much as possible , and we hope to be back in America as well hopefully all going well, hope you enjoy the new record first and foremost and we get to play it to you all in a city or town near you, peace and love, Dugs.

Chris: One thing I can say for definite is that we (Blood or Whiskey), want to tour the hell out of this album, we love touring and want to play this new material and the old classics to as many people as we can reach. As for getting back to the US if we were told the flights were booked for tomorrow morning we’d be on them. So here’s hoping we see you very soon in a town near you. Securing the right booker would speed up getting back to the US.

Blood or Whiskey: New album in March

Ireland’s Blood or Whiskey (wow Celtic-punk from Ireland – though they just liked Garth Brooks there) have a new album out in March. We will be running an interview with main man Dug’s soon.


Introducing…………………..Tin Can Hooley

Tin Can Hooley  

(SnO) So who are TIN CAN HOOLEY (when formed, band members, where are you from)?

I’ll try to summarize. Benny (accordion, tin whistle, bagpipes, harmonica, vocals) and Will (6- and 12-string guitars, bouzouki, vocals) are from the Boston neighborhood of Brighton. Back in the ’90s, they toured the country together in Toxic Narcotic, a crusty, thrashy hardcore punk band. They played electric bass and guitar, respectively, in that band, but they’re both very talented multi-instrumentalists, and when they had down time between gigs, they would busk on the streets or at parties, playing traditional Irish dance tunes on accordion and mandolin. It actually got the band out of trouble with the law on more than one occasion. Around 2000, they started doing the trad thing regularly in bars back in Boston, bringing in more musicians, and that’s when I came in. (Paddy, piano & vocals, grew up primarily in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury.) Subsequently, I played in the Celtic pub rock band the Larkin Brigade with first John (drums, orig. from Pittsburgh but has been in Boston since 1997) and then Heavyset Joe (fiddle & vocals, native of Madison, Wisconsin, has lived in Boston since 2003). Finally, beginning in 2009, all five of us started playing together as Tin Can Hooley, combining and building upon Benny and Will’s repertoire of jigs and reels and the Larkin Brigade’s repertoire of Pogues covers and Irish folk songs (leaving out most of the LB’s originals). And we’re really liking the result.

(SnO) What inspired the formation of the band?

Literally, it was Benny moving back to Brighton (after his second stint in the Marines), where I now live, and calling me up to tell me he’d bought a real piano, and I had to come over and jam. That and Joe and I whipping up a set of tunes to play at John’s wedding reception. What catalyzed it all was our buddy Brian McCaffrey asking us to play a gig at the Sligo Pub in Somerville. It all came together quite organically and grew from there.

(SnO) Describe your sound (and influences)?

Basically a ceilidh band that sings. The piano, accordion, and snare drum mix harkens back to the bands you’d hear in the dance halls in Dudley Square in Roxbury in the 1950s and ’60s and the Irish Social Club in West Roxbury in the ’70s and ’80s. And indeed one of Benny’s top influences as an accordionist is Joe Derrane, who was big in the Dudley Square scene back in the day. John’s percussion style, to me, sounds like Fluke Holland (Johnny Cash’s drummer) meets marching band. (And in fact, John did play snare drum in the Boston College Screamin’ Eagles Marching Band.) (Coincidentally, Benny also plays in a marching band, as a bagpiper, in the Boston Gaelic Fire Brigade Pipe & Drum Corps.) We’re also pretty into Cape Breton music (e.g., Natalie MacMaster), which is heavily piano-and-fiddle-driven. And we at least have some pretensions of arranging tunes in interesting, rock-informed medleys, with dynamics, stops and starts, a la Planxty, the Bothy Band, and De Dannan. Vocally, we’re shooting for a powerful singing group sound, like the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, especially. And of course, we’re all very influenced by The Pogues. And it should be noted that we all met and cut our teeth in the local hardcore/punk scene, so any flaws in our approach (like sometimes borderline-excessive speed or volume) can be blamed on that background. But we’re really just playing folk that rocks, not folk rock.

(SnO) What going on with the band right now (recording, touring etc)?

We just released our first full-length album, Racket in the Parlor (a nod to our origin in Benny’s living room), on our own label, Hubernia Recordings. It’s almost an hour’s worth of music and can be purchased at . (I recommend buying the physical CD to get two bonus tracks, plus great artwork and detailed liner notes.) We recorded it with Richard Marr at Galaxy Park Studios, mostly in his new location just across the river in Watertown, Mass. (Benny, who is a licensed contractor, actually oversaw construction of Richard’s new studio.) So we’re selling the album online and at gigs, and we’re sending out copies to bars, radio stations, festivals, etc., around Boston. And right now, making plans for the next St. Paddy’s Day season! We’ll likely play the Common Ground in Allston again. Stay tuned at .

(SnO) What song in you catalog best defines your sound (and why)?

Well, for a quick sampler, “Johnson’s Motorcar” does pretty nicely, because it showcases both my and Joe’s vocals (both separately and in harmony) and then throws in an instrumental at the end, which is par for the course. (We can hardly play a song without attaching a tune to the end or inserting one in the middle.) Also, the fact that it’s nominally a rebel song (from circa 1921) yet has a sense of humor somehow puts it up our alley. If you like what you hear of that short one and are ready for a tour de force, “Irish Rover/South Australia” has the same attributes (trading off and sharing of vocals, significant instrumental portions) but the action all takes place on the high seas and, in the case of “Irish Rover,” is highly exaggerated in classic Celtic yarn-spinning fashion — all very fitting for the salty, overly tattooed and outsized personalities that make up Tin Can Hooley.

Soapbox – anything you’d like to say?

Gosh, haven’t I said enough already? Support your local scene, and God bless Shite ‘n’ Onions!

Introducing THE LAGAN

An interview with The Lagan

I recently caught up with rising stars of the Celtic Punk scene, Kingston UK’s The Lagan prior to their support slot to The Mahones at the Black Heart in Camden, London. What followed was a pleasant hour, holed up in The Brew Dog pub, talking music, life on the road, anti-fascism and pasties. Recently joined by a new drummer and the addition of an accordion player borrowed from south-coast folk-pirates, the Jack Ratts, the lads from The Lagan were on good form.

So, how did the good ship Lagan come to be launched?

We started out after spending St. Patricks Day in Boston about five years ago where Brendan (O’Prey, lead vocals and guitar) and Martin (Bell, bass) had gone to see the Dropkick Murphys. Here we bumped in to and ended up becoming good friends with the BibleCodeSundays, who were playing a support slot at the Murphys’ Paddy’s Day bash. Inspired and encouraged by the Biblecodes, we started to think that we could do something similar, once we escaped the pubs of Boston. The line in “Sunny Day in Southie” on the debut album sums up the trip. We spent about a week living in McGann’s pub…”McGann’s could be the death of us”.

Both Brendan and Martin had been in separate bands but we realized that what we really wanted to play was Celtic influenced punk, so we gathered like minded, hairy, hard drinking lads and The Lagan was born.

The new album is doing well and has had good reviews, is it all good?

Reception of the album has been good, although one reviewer did accused us of Islamophobia! We can only guess that this person mis-understood the sentiment behind the title of the debut album- Where’s Your Messiah Now?

Typically for these lads, the misunderstanding was sorted out over a beer and an apology was made.

“I have been told that my name is on Red Watch”, comments Brendan.

Red Watch is a website of the British far right which publishes the details of potential targets for fascists.

The racism thing is stupid. We are an Anti-Fa band. We are happy for people to see as anti-fascist. One guy who turned up at a gig with an EDL shirt (English Defense League: Far right group) was told to remove it or leave. He removed it! We don’t however want to be thought of as just another band playing rebel songs. We play punk songs inspired by an Irish musical tradition but we’ll also put a stop to shouts of “Up the IRA”. This has happened at a gig in central London but we aren’t pandering to that mentality either.

As well as Irish traditional music, we are also influenced by ska bands. A lot of the songs Brendan is currently writing sound more like Irish tinged street punk than straight forward trad. Someone recently described us as “Mumford and Sons if they were really angry”.

What’s the most frustrating thing about being in The Lagan?

Juggling full-time jobs in offices and on building sites with the demands of and the desire to tour and play live gigs as much as we can. Having to get up for work the next morning limits how far from home we can play gigs.

However, we have been talking to Mike Bermingham (founder of Rockin Irish tour promotions, ) about the possibility of doing a No Sleep til St.Patrick’s Day tour in America.

The problem with getting over to America is it’s expensive…but we’ve all booked holidays from work, so something will happen. We’d love to get out there and play some of the big Irish festivals.

You all live in Kingston…is it as rough as you make it sound in the song “Same Shite Different Night”?

It can be! There is always somebody looking for trouble. The town is split in two…the pubs down by the river are nice. It’s not a war zone but it can be a bit edgy.

Any final words?

Yeah, we wanted to give a thank you and a shout out to Shite’n’Onions. It was the first Irish Punk blog we ever saw and it sets the standard for promoting the type of music we all love. It’s really good to feel that we can be part of something that awesome.

And the pasties?

Check out Martin’s reviews on twitter @ThePastyReview

“Where’s your Messiah now?”, the debut album on by The Lagan is out now on Banquet Records ( You can find more Lagan related goodness at and on facebook at

Neil Bates

September 2013

Introducing Between The Wars

So who are Between The Wars?
We are a Celtic folk punk band from Melbourne, Australia. Jason (uke) and I started this thing in 2009 so we’re coming up on four years old this year. Our lineup is myself (Jay Stevens) on vocals and guitar, Jason Hatcher on uke and vocals, Aaron V. Allen on mandolin, electric guitar and vocals, Paul Trevorrow on bass and vocals, Hayley Anderson on the violin and Dan Scalpelli on the tubs.

What inspired the formation of the band?

Just a wish to write stories and to push ourselves in a different creative direction than what we’d been used to in the past. We’ve all been in a bunch of bands before so this just seemed like a good option moving forward. Most of the band members have their own side-projects (or BTW is their side-project) so we make sure that we get ourselves creatively fulfilled.
Describe your sound?
The main musical and lyrical influences on this band have remained storytellers like Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen, the Wolfe Tones, the Dubliners, Christy Moore and Frank Turner. We try to write stories instead of just songs – giving each protagonist a back story and perhaps involving them slightly in other songs. I’m a big fan of the Decemberists as well. We basically put all of those influences together and see what comes out the other side. Many of our members are huge fans of punk rock bands as well, so we maintain a bit of that aesthetic as well.
What going on with the band right now ?
We’re just preparing to release our new album “Won’t Go Quietly” on St Patrick’s Day 2013. The pre-order will have begun by the time you read this (11/2/2013) so head over and pre-order your copy now! Currently, we’re playing a heap of shows around Melbourne and branching out into the rest of Australia over the rest of the year. I’m also heading over to the UK to play some dates in mid-October with the Lagan and the Roughneck Riot, which should be a blast!

What song in you catalog best defines your sound?

Between The Wars is a constantly evolving unit – so we consistently try to change up our sound a little bit from album to album. Currently, I’d say “The Tail of the Rats” from 2010’s “The Rats” EP or “Goodnight Sweetheart” from our new album fits into the best over-arching idea of what we try to do.
Soapbox – anything you’d like to say? 
Thanks to everyone that’s supported us over the past four years. Can’t wait for you all to hear this new record, we’re so psyched for it and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!

Three Day Threshold – Good Country Gone Terribly, Terribly Bad

(S’n’O) So who are Three Day Threshold?

Kier Byrnes Three Day Threshold was formed in 1996 when I moved down from New Hampshire to the city. Over the years, we’ve gone through some lineup changes as well as musical changes. We wobble back and forth between Celtic, Country, Americana, Gypsy and Punk, depending on who’s playing and how we are feeling that day. We have been gigging 50-100 gigs a year since then. Last month, The Noise Magazine (New England’s oldest running music magazine) called us the longest running active local band. We plan to drop down to about 30 shows this year though.

(S’n’O) What inspired the formation of the band?

Kier Byrnes I just saw a need for it, for myself creatively to get out the songs I had stuck in my head and because at the time I didn’t see a whole lot of people out there doing what I wanted to do.

(S’n’O) Describe your sound (and influences)?

Kier Byrnes I’m heavily influenced by my travels. I’ve been lucky enough to make it to 48 of the 50 states and about 19 countries internationally. Everywhere I go I’d like to think I pick something up.

(S’n’O) What going on with the band right now (recording, touring etc)?

Kier Byrnes Ha, that’s tough to say. It’s a rebuilding year for the band; we are writing new tunes and exploring different musical collaborations. I got a lot of stuff going on outside of music, like a wife and a baby on the way too. That one is a biggie. Totally changes the way you think.

(S’n’O) What song in you catalog best defines your sound (and why)?
“My Favorite Titty Bar” is a new one we really like a lot reflecting some of the new styles of the band.

Kier Byrnes “Pub with No Beer” is a great blend of high energy Celtic rock and it’s a song we like to end our sets with; especially at last call.

(S’n’O) Soapbox – anything you’d like to say?
Nah, short and sweet, today. Thanks for thinking of us and good luck!

Larry Kirwan does HARD TIMES. A Civil War Musical

Black 47’s Larry Kirwan has written a musical set in Civil War era New York during the Draft Riots. The Federal Government hard pressed for army recruits introduced the draft but gave a exception to anyone who could afford to pay $300 to buy their away out. The poor (often newly arrived Irish immigrants) rioted over 3 days burning draft stations and attacking the wealthy Yankee upper class  and African-American who they feared would take their jobs if slavery ended. The rioting only ended when Federal troops were bought into the city to squash the riot.



S’n’O – Larry, I know you are the author of many off Broadway plays over the years. Is Hard Times your first musical?

Larry Kirwan – No, I’ve written a number of them including, Days of Rage, Rockin’ The Bronx and Mister Parnell, so I guess I’m an old hand. It’s a bitch of a genre. Plays are tough enough but you have to be totally daft to do musicals, there’s just so much to pull together. I suppose it’s like anything though, the more you do it, the better you get.

S’n’O – Hard Times is set during the American Civil War and specifically during the New York Draft Riots. Can you give the readers a little back ground on the Riots. What caused the riots? And what happened during the riots.

Larry Kirwan – Hard Times is set during the Draft Riots of 1863 but it’s not really about them, per se. Basically, I feel that the US in general, and NYC in particular was changed on July 13, 1863. Up until then Irish women and African-American men lived together and were often married in the Five Points area of downtown NYC. They were called “amalgamationists.” After the burning of the Colored Children’s Asylum the fluidity that existed between different people in NYC was squashed and the US set out on a path of 100 years of segregation and discrimination. That’s the setting for a moment when Stephen Foster meets someone from his past.

S’n’O – What was the inspiration for the play – the New York Draft Riots were possibly the lowest point in the Irish-American experience (arguably something best forgotten)- one group on the bottom rung of the social order turning on the group not yet on the bottom rung while the elite buy their way out of danger yet still make the decisions – is there a message that resonates in today’s political climate? (Anti-immigrant sentiments, racial politics and the Tea Party or class divisions and the Occupy movement)

Larry Kirwan – With the exception of the Occupy Movement all of those things you mention were present in 1863 and I suppose Abolitionist feeling could double for the Occupy Movement. History is never black & white but a million shades of grey. Awful things happened that day but that’s not what the play is about. It’s about five people trapped inside a saloon and how they react to the events happening outside. Stephen Foster, the composer, happens to be one of them.

S’n’O – The music was co-written with Stephen Foster which is a great achievement given Stephen is nearly 150 years dead. Who was Stephen Foster and why was his music so important? What type of stamp did Larry Kirwan put onto the mega hits of the 1860’s? Will Celtic rocks fans enjoy?

Larry Kirwan – Yeah, I should probably have phrased the “written by Stephen Foster & Larry Kirwan” differently but it’s what actually happened. I wanted to use his songs and was able to find a dozen that fitted well with, and moved along, the story. But most of his songs had been frozen and calcified by their treatment in the Victorian years. I wanted to let them breathe again. One of the ways of doing that was to write contrapuntal intros and bridges – in Foster’s era those devices hadn’t been introduced into popular music yet. I had done that quite a bit when Black 47 updated Irish melodies and added new words to them – I always added original intros and bridges to add flavor to the songs and make them more interesting musically So, I knew how to do it. Amazingly – to me at any rate – most of Foster’s songs veered towards Gospel or Irish when unmoored. I think these new versions will make Foster’s songs more palatable to Celtic Rock fans. But who cares what other people think. I’ve always done what I wanted and luckily there’s always been an audience for the end result.

S’n’O – Who is the audience that will enjoy Hard Times – Irish Americans, New Yorkers or is there a wider audience (and message)?

Larry Kirwan – God, I don’t know. I guess I tend not to think in those terms. Let’s just say that Stephen Foster was gifted with a particular genius. I’m not quite sure what it is but when unleashed it tends to move you in the most soulful manner. It’s like being touched by something from another world so I would imagine anyone with a bit of soul will feel it. I know I do. Foster was a complicated person – our first professional songwriter – he died 6 months after the events in Hard Times at the age of 37 with 38 cents in his pocket. I think anyone who has been touched by the music business will identify with the story of this brilliant, tortured man.

S’n’O – Any plans to tour with Hard Times or bring it beyond Manhattan?

Larry Kirwan – Not at this point. It’s an achievement to even get the project up and breathing. I couldn’t have done it at all without the support of the wonderful people at The Cell, including Nancy Manocherian, artistic director and Kira Simring the director.

S’n’O – Cheers Larry! I”m going to try make it down.

Larry Kirwan – A pleasure, John. I think it will be well worth the trip. The six actors are so committed to their roles. I think we’ll create some magic and hopefully re-introduce Foster to a very different world.

Hard Times will be performed at The Cell, 338 W. 23rd St., NYC Sept. 13-30th as part of the First Irish Theatre Festival. For info

Directed by Kira Simring and produced by Nancy Manocherian of The Cell, performances Sept 13, 14, 15, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Hard Times stars Jed Peterson as Stephen Foster, Erin West as Jane Foster, Almeria Campbell as Nelly Blythe, Phillip Callen as Michael Jenkins, Stephane Duret as Thomas Jefferson and John Charles McLaughlin as Owen Duignan.