The PubCrawlers: Barn Yard Beasts
The PubCrawlers are a fine young Celtic-Punk band from New Hampshire following in the footsteps of Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. The interview was conducted via e-mail with Jon, Andy and Chad from the band.
(S’n’O) 1. Tell me about the band. Who’s in it and how did you get together?
Jon: I originally wanted to get a band together around December of ’01, but only passively pursued it. Met this great drummer on a message board who used to live in the area but lived about an hour away… I [also] ended up hearing back from this guy [Kevin, Mandolin & vocals], who said he saw my ad while drinking at the Barley Pub in Dover (great pub, if you’re ever in the area, almost exclusively carries regional beer, with the exception of Guinness and Pabst Blue Ribbon). Anyways, myself, Andy and Kevin decide to meet at the Barley Pub to see how well we mesh with each other and, if nothing else, get a few pints of beer. By the end of the night, we were sitting in Kevin’s big red truck, playing different CDs that we all dug, and we really kind of hit it off. We drew up directions to a practice space that was somewhere in between Dover and Portland, and had a list of trad songs we wanted to, uh, bastardize (Finnegan’s Wake and The Irish Rover, two of our first songs). In about a month, we had our first banjo player, Kris, and a guitar player, Chad, who Andy apparently strong-armed into being in the band. Actually, if I remember the story correctly, he ‘informed’ him that he was going to play guitar for us, temporarily. Well he never quite left, which is great, cause he’s one hell of a musician, and brings a lot of attitude to the band. Kris ended up parting ways, sighting that whole buckling down and trying to be responsible thing. Great guy though – he’s dropped by a few times since then, and I know he and Andy have known each other for years. That’s really where our lineup stabilized. Our current banjo/2nd guitar player, Seth, came out to one of our first shows after expressing interest in playing with us. He seemed quiet at first, but then when he came to practice, it just worked. He was definitely on the same wavelength as the rest of us. He’s an incredible musician, and quite frankly, half of our equipment is his. All I know about how we picked up Rabbi is that Chad found him in a Portland music shop. He discovered that he played tin whistle and accordian as well as the concertina (which was lost in a car fire) and can do this amazing Rabbi impression (thus the nickname). Just whatever you do, don’t ask him about the grape-nuts. That’s pretty much how the lineup has been for the last 10 months; I don’t foresee if fluctuating terribly much from how we are now. Maybe the addition of a fiddle player or a piper.
Andy: Yeah, that first night at the Barley Pub was definitely the beginning. Prior to The Pubcrawlers, I was playing in an Oi! band from Portland called the Lunch Money Thugs and we did punk versions of some Celtic stuff (The Pogues’ Sally MacLennane, for one). I really enjoyed playing those tunes and of course a lot of the traditional stuff is what I grew up listening to, so when the Thugs broke up and I saw Jon’s advertisement, there was really no question that it was what I wanted to do.
Speaking of fiddlers and pipers, we’re very interested in adding one or both, currently, so if anyone out there lives with reasonable distance of Wells, Maine and is interested, please drop us a line.
Chad: They made me do it.
(S’n’O) 2. You just released your 2nd demo CD. How’s it been doing? Are you happy with it? What type of feedback have you been getting?
Jon: Pretty well, actually. I’m not sure how it’s doing in terms of actual numbers, though I do know that we’ve already had to order a second batch, and we’re working though that at a decent rate. Seth would be the man to talk to, since he keeps all the books. As far as the CD goes? I am very happy for what it was, we had 12 hours of studio time, and used it to cut a live take CD. The only thing that was dubbed was the vocals, so they’d be clear.
Andy: Actually we’ve been flying through our first two runs of the CD. There’s a guy in Japan who’s selling it, as well as our pins, out of his record store in Tokyo. We’ve also received orders from Germany, France, England, Scotland, Canada and all over the U.S., so we really have no complaints. Quality wise, I think we’re all very happy with it, though of course there’s always room for improvement. Doing 6 songs in 12 hours is pretty unheard of, but I think we achieved the ‘live’ feel we were shooting for that way (that’s band-ese for “we’re too friggin’ poor to afford any more studio time so we’ll take what we can get”). Speaking of which, we did the recording at the Electric Cave in Portsmouth, owned and run by Jim Tierney. It’s a hell of a place to record if you’re on a budget and he’ll treat you right.
We’ve been getting some amazing feedback — it seems like every person who’s ordered from me off of our Web site has taken the time to write back and let me know how much they enjoyed it. Makes you feel really good when that happens.
Chad: I think that the CD is great but im really anxious to get back into the studio and do a full length.
(S’n’O) 3. Any plans for a follow up / proper CD?
Jon: Our second demo is great for what it is, It helps us get our name out there, and take us home with them. However, I’m really eager to sit down and record our first full length. We have about 4 songs we need to finish writing and fine tuning, and then we’d be good to go. There’s a good chance we may record it with our own equipment, and bring in an outside sound engineer / producer to work with us. We’ve come such a long way from our last demo, and I can’t wait for people to hear the difference.
Andy: We’re always writing and we definitely have enough material now for a decent full-length album. There’s been some discussion about whether or not releasing a ‘proper’ full-length CD should be contingent upon us getting signed, but I’m pretty sure it will happen within the next year or so, one way or another.
(S’n’O) 4. Your set on the Punk Rock Fleadh at McGanns was a blast. How was the rest of the tour? Did you notice big differences in how the bands went down in each city. Who do you think were the best band of the tour. Any future plans for another Fleadh?
Jon: The rest of the tour was great. We discovered we have a new home away from home, and that’s Rocky Sullivans, somewhere between Lexington and 23rd (I think) in NYC.
Andy: Lexington and 28th.
Jon: It’s the Ruffians’ home bar, they play there every Sunday, so go check them out if you get the chance. They have a particularly moving version of the Parting Glass. Also, we really hit it off with Jackdaw, a great Celtic rock band out of Buffalo, NY. I have a strange feeling that there will be much liver abuse involving those boys. Also, can’t say enough about the Skels. They’re really great guys, and alot of fun, and have given us nothing but support, which is really important when you’re a relatively new band. I really can’t wait to make a good pub tour with them. There’s something about those Jersey bands, The Skels and the Hudson Falcons in specifically, just amazing people.
Andy: In addition to Rocky’s, McGann’s in Boston is an amazing, authentic pub and the show there (which was the first of the tour) was absolutely incredible. If we have half as much fun there next year as we did this year, it’ll still be worth the trip.
Jon: The only real plans we have are to get in front of as many people as possible and tear it up. Wherever that takes is where we’ll go. I know we’ve been talking to Jackdaw and the Skels about setting up more shows, that’s the only sure thing I know right now. Also, that we have a weekend coming up with the boys from Far From Finished. Talk to Andy, he does most of our booking.
Andy: Every other band on this bill was incredible. The Skels have been a personal favorite of mine for a very long time now, and sharing the stage (as well as the microphone) with them was definitely a highlight. We’re very lucky to have been a part of it. Many thanks to Kristen of MadCat Productions and Pete from The Gobshites for all their hard work setting this up. Can’t wait to do it next year.
Chad: The rest of the tour was great. Many thanks to Henry of the Skels for showing us some great spots in Jersey.
(S’n’O) 5. You also played with Mike McColgan’s new band (The Street Dogs) in Cambridge’s Middle East. How was that show and what do you think of The Street Dogs?
Jon: Haha, well, truth be known, the Street Dogs cancelled on that bill, so we never got to play with them. Honestly, though? From what I’ve heard off of their soon to be released CD, the Street Dogs are going to be pretty big; The stuff is just amazing. If you haven’t checked out the single they have on their website, Fighter, I highly recommend it.
Andy: The Street Dogs would do well based on McColgan’s involvement alone, and the fact that they’re really, really good on top of that seals the deal. I think a lot of people might be disappointed as they’re going to be expecting the Dropkick Murphys Part 2, which the SD are not, but if the kids can drop that stigma and listen with fresh ears then they won’t be disappointed. We were very disappointed that they cancelled that show, but shit happens and we’re trying to sort something out with them right now.
(S’n’O) 6. Obviously there is a big Flogging Molly / Dropkicks / Pogues influence in your music but I’m hearing Metal and Hard Core – Who are your other influences?
Jon: Actually, thats funny, because my biggest concern when we started the band was that we might sound like any of the bands you mentioned above. I think we’ve definitely carved out our own sound. There’s a whole mess of different influences in the band. I mean Andy and myself love Ska, for example, and I think that comes out in some of our arrangements. Chad has a very strong acoustic/bluegrass edge.
Andy: Chad mostly brings the metal, as well.
Chad: Yes, I do.
Jon: And yes, Half the band grew up listening to metal, and that really comes out with the way we structure some of our songs. I made the joke once that we do to Celt what The Mighty Mighty Bosstones did to Ska. As more time progresses, I’m starting to realize there’s some truth in that comment. We’re Celtcore. Speaking personally, I’d say the main influences to my bass playing have been alot of second generation ska, as well as Rancid’s bass player, Matt Freeman. Anything other than playing the same three damn notes over and over again (though admittedly, that has its time and place, too).
Andy: We do get quite a few Dropkicks/FM comparisons, mostly because there just aren’t all that many non-acoustic Celtic punk bands out there, but I truly don’t believe that we sound like either of those bands, which as Jon said is something we tried to avoid from the beginning. We try not to limit ourselves stylistically while leaving no doubt that we’re a Celtic band. We’re finishing up a song right now that has a Doo-wop breakdown, for the love of God! There aren’t a lot of styles that I haven’t personally been influenced by but punk and traditional ska have been the norm for the past 10 years or so. I also play the bodhran which I’m trying to incorporate more and more.
Chad: I am myself am new to the Celtic thing. I don’t pretend to know any sort of style. I just do what I think sounds good,(Lots of palm mutes, heavy gain and cross picking!) and alot of the time it works with the kinds of songs we are trying to do.
(S’n’O) 7. What’s your dreams for the PubCrawlers?
Jon: The biggest and most important dream I have is to actually be able to make a decent living playing music and traveling. Making music is very important to me, as is seeing people enjoy themselves. If I can spend my days helping someone escape the worries of the world for a few hours, have a couple of pints of beer, dance, get rowdy, and have a good time, then I’ve done more than I could have ever hoped for.
As far as playing with other bands? I’d love to play with Flogging Molly. Maybe even go on tour with them. I’ve met some of them, and some of my friends have known them for a few years now, and I think it would be one hell of a crazy party. Also, I’m hoping we get to play with the Tossers. I loved those guys the second I heard “The Pub” off of Long Dim Road. Agree or disagree with their politics, one cannot argue how passionate they are with what they do. Their most recent disc Purgatory, is just incredible.
Andy: I think that being “successful” in music is a relative concept. Sure, I’d love to be able to support myself by playing music, but let’s face it, that’s usually not a realistic proposition. Unless you happen to be in the right place at the right time and get spotted by a record company rep who snaps you up on the spot, you’re pretty much stuck scheduling gigs whenever you can around your day job. However, if you can do that and still manage to build up a decent fan base — which I think we’re well on our way to doing — then that’s a form of success in its own right. In short, I guess my personal ultimate goal for the band (realistically, anyway) is to play for as many people as often as possible. Monetary success is secondary to being known and liked. As long as we’re making enough through gigs and merch to keep going and turn on a few more people each time, then I’m happy.
Chad: I want a bus.
(S’n’O) 8. Thanks guys for taking the time to answer my questions. Anything else you’d like to say?
Jon: Wow, I’m sure that was more than anyone has ever wanted to know about us. I hope no one’s asleep.
Yeah, I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported us over the last year or so. I mean, I know I like playing music and entertaining people, however, that doesn’t mean I thought I was any good at it! Also, Thanks to the rest of the band, as well as their girlfriends (as well as my own!). It’s really become an extended family to me at this point, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
And finally? Beer.
Andy: I second that. There are many, many people who have gone out of their way for us and I can’t thank them enough. Whether it’s the “Significant Others Club” who still manage to make it out to every single show or members of other bands who constantly want to play with us, it’s definitely appreciated. Also, thanks a lot for taking time with us. Cheers!
Chad: Yeah thanks alot for your time and thanks to everyone who comes out to our shows.