Monday, March 30, 2009

Q&A: The Welch Boys

The Welch Boys

Born out of the ashes of two of Boston’s most underrated punk bands, The Blue Bloods and Slapshot, The Welch Boys have a sound that is decidedly working class Boston and still fiercely independent. Their debut on Sailor’s Grave did a decent job of introducing them to the world, but it’s Drinkin’ Angry, their two years in the making follow up record, that is going to force punk fans to really pay attention.

Eighteen songs of anger, tension and bar room poetry unfolding in just over 45 minutes, the record is much more focused than their debut and showcases a stellar punk band that has finally found its voice.

TJ Welch, former member of The Blue Bloods, and guitarist/founder of The Welch Boys, spoke recently about their new record, the death of their original drummer and finding time to tour.

What have you guys been doing since the last record came out?

We have been writing and recording new material, and playing occasional live shows. We would like to make a third disc within a couple of years. Since we do not tour that much, we like to do videos. We worked with director Stefan Glidden on a video for "Head in the Sand". It’s up on our MySpace page
We are in the process of working on an animated video for Police Dog with another director. Other than that, we may get a chance to tour in Europe this summer. We are working with our label I Scream to make this happen.

I Scream put out Drinkin' Angry overseas and unfortunately your old label Sailor's Grave is having problems - have you started looking for someone in the U.S. to release the album?

Sailor's Grave is still in operation, however, not at the pace that they were at before. They are putting out a few releases a year now. They just put out a great CD by Mark Lind. We miss working with that label.... however; we decided to go exclusive with I Scream worldwide on this disc. I Scream is now operating in the U.S. as well. The label president, Laurens, lives in New York. They have done a good job by getting the CD in stores in the US.

How does Drinkin' Angry compare to the last record?

The debut CD was a band finding its sound. We were still feeling things out when we recorded that. I like the disc, however, our song writing was not evolved yet. I think that we are more complicated on this disc. We are also musically more mature. We lost our drummer and good friend to drugs, and that shook us all up. We have endured divorces, births, deaths, addictions, and a world gone to hell. The music is angry and dark, with a healthy dose of disregard and black humor. In between the lines, you may also hear a little hope and faith. Something's got to keep us going.

Do you even need a record label nowadays to get your music out there?

I think that the Internet is a great way to get your music out there on your own... DIY is king in the world of punk, but I have found that sooner or later, as a band grows, they need an established label. I think record labels are necessary. Even in the age of MySpace and mp3’s, bands still need the influence, connections, and distribution of a label. Generally, we are artists and not music business people, and we do best when concentrating on producing music. A good label can handle much of the other business aspects of making sure that our music is out there in both CD and MP3. They make sure that the music is promoted, and sold at the proper places. Record labels have the machine in place to do more than a band could do on their own.

How tough is it for you guys to find time nowadays to write, record, practice and tour?

It is very difficult to tour, or even play out locally with any regularity. Most of us are married, with young kids. We have tough jobs with long hours. I work two jobs. On the other hand, writing and recording music is easier. We can do that without having all of the band members present. We have the use of technology to record and refine our demo material. When we have a CD's worth of demo songs, then we go into a good studio like the Outpost, and record with a great producer like Jim Siegel.

I love the song "Pervert" off the new record, but what did Pete Townsend do to piss you guys off?

Everyone in the band are all big fans of his music. We cannot fathom how anyone could justify paying for and looking at child pornography under any circumstances.

Do you guys have plans to play shows outside of New England in 2009?

Yes, we hope to play in Europe for a week or two this summer. We have been invited to play some of the music festivals there, and we are working with I Scream Records to try to make that a reality. Our music seems to be bigger over in Europe than it is here. We may also do some shows opening for bigger bands like the Dropkicks. They always seem to make sure that we get a chance to play a few shows with them. They are great guys. I think we are opening for Fear in May when they come to town. I have always liked them. I can see us playing a few east Coat shows at some point, but I do not see us playing a proper U.S. tour this year. We just do not have the vacation time. Even the Europe deal will be hard to pull off.

Can you tell me about the benefit you are playing for Ron Holbrook?

Ron was our drummer on the first CD. He was a good friend that PJ (Dionne, guitar) and I had known for many years. We talked him into playing in our band, even though he didn't know shit about punk music. He was a great guy. He crushed his finger by accident while operating a forklift at work, and had surgery. This delayed the recording of our first disc for a few months, but he bounced back, and played great drums on the CD. Unfortunately, when he was recovering, he developed an affinity for pain killers that grew into a full blown addiction to opiates. Shortly after recording the disc, we had to ask him to leave the band. We tried to help him and stayed in contact with him. He tried to get better, but never was able to kick. He passed away in August of 2007.
Ron left two young daughters behind. Ron's brother, Craig and I worked to put on a concert in October of 2007 to memorialize Ron, as well as raise money for his daughters. We had a bunch of great local punk bands that played for free. The Blue Bloods, Death and Taxes, The Beantown Boozehounds, etc. It was a big success, and raised a lot of money.
We are going to try it again this year. We have a bunch of bands playing with The Welch Boys over two nights on Feb 21st and 22nd at a club called Great Scott's in Boston. We have about 10 bands playing, including the Ashers, Mark Lind, The Scars, Refuse Resist. It will be a great way to remember Ron, and raise some money. We would like to keep doing this every year. We are grateful to have so many great Boston bands that help to make these shows a reality.

The Boston scene has always had a distinctive sound. Is it still a pretty tight community?

Yes, for 30 years this town has produced some of the best punk music ever made. The community is tight. All the bands know each other. We all have a reverence for bands that have come before us. Gang Green, SSD, Bosstones, Dropkicks, DYS, The FU's, Mission of Burma, Slapshot, Jerry's Kids, Darkbuster, The Unseen, The Ducky Boys, The Freeze... this list goes on forever. We know that we have something special here, and we are glad to have our scene. This is a rock and roll town. Most bands are made up of working class kids. There is not a lot of flash and image. The fashion consists of jeans and a t-shirt. Our nectar is a two dollar and fifty cent 16 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. We like our old Marshall amps and we don't like to use effect pedals. Subject wise, our music is similar to rap music. It comes from the city streets. We all show up at each other's shows. We buy each other beers, we buy each other's shirts and CD's. The club scene is pretty good. There are still a lot of all-ages matinee shows going on. There is a unique set of circumstances that goes into producing the Boston sound. I love it.

What have you been listening to lately?

We are all over the place. Ed (Lalli, vocals) likes punk and hardcore. PJ is more of a blues and metal guy. Steve (Maffeo, drums) likes a lot of alternative. Mark (Powers, bass) likes Irish and punk. I listen to a lot of vinyl. All genres with guitar are ok by me. I like bebop jazz too. Lately, I have been listening to the new disc by MGMT. I've also renewed my appreciation of older stuff by Prince, Thin Lizzy, Love, Lenny Kravitz, Bob Marley, Spearhead and Shuggie Otis. The new CD by The Sword rocks. AC/DC's new one is great as well. Local discs by Mark Lind, Refuse Resist and Death and Taxes are great.

What's next for the band?

I think the most important thing now is writing new material. We would like to do a third disc within two years, and we need to get going now to do that. Right now, we are trying to write a song for a UFC fighter from Maine, Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis. He likes our stuff, and he asked us to try to write something. Gotta try to help out a fellow Irishman.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jon Snodgrass Interview

iTunes is stacked with musical legends who do nothing more than re-release the same album over and over again. Jon Snodgrass is not one of those musicians.

Whether it’s playing 90’s pop/punk in Armchair Martian or drown-your-sorrows cowboy rock in Drag the River, Snodgrass can never be accused of writing the same song twice. So it’s no surprise than that his solo work is just as diverse.

Snodgrass just weeks away from release his first solo record, Visitor’s Band, spoke with about the album, playing punk rock and sets the record straight about Drag the River.

What made you decide to finally do a solo record now?

I'm going out to do a bunch of solo shows here in the states and in Europe with my friend Joey Cape. I wanted to have some fresh music out. That's all really. I always hope to put something out once a year too. Drag The River has too many songs as it is. I just sent out music for three different new DTR 7 inches the same day I sent my record. One of them consists of songs we pulled from the last release that didn't fit... but the other two are things Chad and I tracked a couple months ago.

What can people expect it to sound like?

I didn't want to make a record that sounded like Drag the River or sounded like Armchair it kinda sounds like both. Whoops. I am what I am it seems.

Did you find it easier or tougher to write and record on your own?

It's the same process.

What musicians did you record with?

I did a song in Rhode Island with Two Cow Garage, my friend Emerson Torry Jr. and his Dad, Emerson Torry. It's a song I taught to Two Cow the night before by playing it on the jukebox at Jake's bar in Providence. Emerson's dad was in a band called The Schemers with Mark Cutler. E.T. Jr. and I had always wanted to cover this song of theirs. Two Cow is good and we pulled it off live in the second take I think; Then eight songs in Kansas with Chad Rex, Matt Brahl and Jason Magierowki. Same deal, live with a lot of bleed; one song in San Jose with Eric Powers, Chad Rex and John Elliot. We used a big kick drum and recorded in a big house; A bunch more in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Chris Pierce. Joe from the ERGS! came and played some bass one night too. I like recording songs wherever I can. You put yourself in different situations and just see what happens. I never like the idea of booking time in a studio. You never know if you want to make a record 2 months or weeks down the road.

So is Drag the River officially over or just taking a break?

I NEVER said Drag the River was over...and it never will be. We will have played 50 shows this year. I think that's the way we should have been doing it for a long time. We missed Minneapolis, Richmond and a couple other places. We'll do those at some point. Chad is doing the California part of the tour with Joey (Cape) in February. We're playing this weekend with the band and going to Florida in January... So yeah, it's still a thing. I love playing with Chad. We were running it pretty hard for a long time though.

Do you plan on doing more solo records in the future?

I could. Like I said, this was just a collection of songs written at the same time. It's funny ‘cause up until three weeks ago I'd thought eight of them were lost. I wasn't too concerned...I hadn't heard them since we'd tracked them. I'm glad they turned up because they came out better than expected. We were just goofing around in Kansas with some new songs. We got decent sounds and Chris Fogal mixed them for us in Denver a couple weeks ago. Anyhow, I kinda thought I was gonna put out a 7 inch. 12 inches is better.

Do you ever miss playing the punk music you started out with?

I still play it.

You spend a lot of time on the road - any great bands you've discovered on tour that people should know about?

Sure. Most of them end up on the Suburban Home record label and I know The Enablers are working on a new record right now. That'll be good. I like Cory Branan a lot too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Couple of Great new releases...

Suburban Home Records, one of my favorite indie labels, has two great releases coming out in April.

The first is from Mike Hale (from In The Red and Gunmoll). He has a fantastic new solo record coming out in April (You should also give a listen to In the Red, if you haven't already). SHR is putting it out on CD, a limited LP release and a deluxe set (which includes the LP (grey w/ red haze), a CD, a coffee mug , poster, t-shirt, coozie, and button).

I'd go for the deluxe, if all my money wasn't tied up in diapers and strollers!

Here's the specifics:

Mike Hale - Live Like Mine

Pressing info
300 on Black/Clear Inside Outside
700 on Grey w/ Red Haze

There is a test pressing contest for this album; pre-order it and have a chance to win. Records should ship by the end of April.

You can stream two tracks from Mike Hale’s Myspace page here.

Second release is from Montreal's Yesterday's Ring.

SBH label founder Virgil describes the band as such: "At times I am reminded of Murder City Devils, at other times I hear some Lucero/Drive By Truckers, and for a brief moment, I hear some Rancid/Tim Armstrong."

This one is also coming out as a 15 song CD and/or a 16 song double LP. Additionally, there will be 100 deluxe sets for sale, which include contain a double LP (black/purple radioactive vinyl), a CD, a pint glass, button, poster, shirt, and coozie.
Here are the specifics:
Yesterday's Ring - Diamonds in the Ditch
Pressing Info:
300 copies on Black vinyl
700 copies on Black/Purple radioactive vinyl

You can listen to two tracks from the album: Punx Not Dead, It’s Just Sleeping and Quebec City Blues on the band’s Myspace page.

What Do You Think?

Thanks to Maggie at ILC PR, we have a sneak preview of the first track off of DUBIOUS RANGER's forthcoming new album.

That song is called "Weapon" and the CD is Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole.

They are a San Francisco-based band with a sound described as "mixes (of) David Bowie, Pavement, Talking Heads and modern indie rock."

Listen to the MP3 and please leave feedback good, bad or indifferent.

Happy listening!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Better Than Green Beer...

St. Patrick's Day is less than a week away, so here's an early St. Patty's Day gift. The Pogues playing a live version of "If I Should Fall From Grace With God."

The Pogues are Irish, so it counts.