bill bodkin gets his Irish up …
The Celtic movement in the world of punk rock is a glorious thing. The rollicking spirit of punk rock melds beautifully with the freewheeling audio anarchy that is punk rock. It’s like a fine whiskey that has a beautiful taste but still has a bit of fire and kick to it.
Two summers ago Pop-Break.com was attending a concert of one of the leaders of this movement — The Dropkick Murphys. Our photography editor Maxwell Barna came up to the staff who was in attendance and told us the following…
“Watch this next band, they’re going to blow your mind.”
And he was right.
The Second City band The Tossers came onto the stage and rocked the famed Central Jersey concert venue with their self-described “drinking music for punk rockers.” These Chi-Town natives, who proudly call themselves “the world’s loudest Irish folk band” play a perfect blend of rowdy, high-energy punk and traditional, heart-pounding tunes of the Emerald Isle. It’s the musical equivalent of a perfect pint of Guinness on a brisk March day. And for those who have Ireland running their veins, the music of The Tossers is an absolute must-listen. It’s so much fun, so full of life, such drinks-in-the-air inducing music. It’s beautiful.
Recently, Pop-Break caught up with Mike Pawula, guitarist for The Tossers, to talk about their new album, whiskey and Chicago.
Pop-Break: Your new record Emerald City dropped this March. After the dust has settled post-release, how has the reception been from the fans to the new tunes both from those listening to it through their ear buds and those attending your concerts?
Mike Pawula: Overall the response had been fantastic. Almost completely across the board. It’s great to be so happy with the record as a band and have it received so well.
PB: In your bio you mentioned that there was far more preparation and care taken with this recording. What measures did you take in terms of prep and why take all of these for this record as opposed to others?
MP: We began recording approximately a year before finishing. A lot went on for the band over the year but we kept a steady pace and the extra time allowed us the opportunity to tweak what we were doing. In the past we have tended to rush the whole process, but we worked on this more and I think it shows.
PB: How is this record more personal to you than previous efforts?
MP: As we went along, we started to collectively feel like this would be a great record. With that in mind, we poured more of ourselves into it. We worked harder on it and felt more cohesive as a group which added to how much we put into it.
PB: You guys wear your Chicago pride on your sleeve — talk about how the Second City has influenced the music of The Tossers?
MP: The city is in the DNA of our music. I think this record is a bit of a love letter to it. The city means a great deal to us. We have always felt a part of it. In the early days of touring we would always come back and people made us feel like we were home.
PB: There’s a lot of references to whiskey in your songs, which as a fellow person of Irish American descent, I greatly appreciate it. My question to you is, if there was a law on the books that you could only drink one whiskey for the rest of your days — which would it be and why?
MP: Jameson. I am a fan of most whiskeys but that is the go-to.
PB: Has the success of acts like Dropkick and Flogging Molly opened doors for you guys in terms of gaining a new audience and/or getting your foot in the door for business opportunities you might not have when you first started out? Or has the success you’ve achieved, the fans you’ve made — been a result of the hard work and the music of The Tossers? Or is a little bit of a Column A, a little bit of Column B.
MP: A little bit of both, certainly. We’re friendly with most of the bands in the genre and their success is our success. We’re happy for them all. But, those doors would not be open if we hadn’t put in the work. We have our share of stories about roughing it on tour. After 20 years we wouldn’t be here if someone had just opened all the doors for us.
PB: What do you think makes the fusion of tradition Celtic music and punk rock work so well? And what makes your brand of this style of music unique from all the other acts out there?
MP: The two share a rebelliousness, a genuine love of a good time, some politics, some fighting. The Irish culture has always had trouble with authority. We are different in that we stay true to a traditional element of Celtic music, we’re all basically acoustic and we can play real fast and real slow. Some other bands can do some of these things but we do it our way.
PB: You guys got these questions around Saint Patrick’s Day, to me and many of us who in New Jersey, March is Saint Patrick’s month, so I believe this question still holds. What is your favorite and most time-honored Saint Patrick’s Day tradition? For me, it’s a viewing of The Quiet Man, a pint of Harp and a thick corned beef sandwich.
MP: We tour a lot through March so we have adopted a new tradition which is to play in our home town the weekend of St. Pat’s. That is our tradition. We always have a great show. Outside of that, maybe stepping out to the local bar with friends.
PB: What are your plans for the rest of 2013? Also, when Christmas time rolls around this year, when you’re sitting down at home, with the year of performing and recording behind you, where would you like to see The Tossers at?
MP: We are in the process of lining up shows and routing out some more dates in September. The goal is to play as much as we can. Given that there are a few families involved, it becomes more difficult, but we will be playing more than we have in past years. At the end of the year I would like people to look back on the record favorably. I would like to have played some great shows and have a solid plan for ’14 in place. Basically, I’d like to keep on going, playing shows and thinking about what we’ll do next.