(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 www.cdbaby.com/cd/tincanhooley . (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 www.reverbnation.com/tincanhooley .
(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!