Tag Archives: The Larkin Brigade

THE LARKIN BRIGADE: S’n’O interview with Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys

The Larkin Brigade is a 4 piece Punk’n’Reel band straight outta Boston who have recently released their debut CD, “Paddy Keys For Mayor!” on Squealing Records. The band describes itself as “a loud and fast Irish folk band from Boston….. …… if the Wolfe Tones had sex with Ben Folds Five, and then, nine months later, a tearful Ben Folds Five left a bassinet on the doorstep of a bewildered Minor Threat, who, after attempting to raise the little bundle itself, passed the kid off into the social services system, where it went through a series of foster homes including the Pogues and Blood for Blood, before it was taken under the wing of the Rolling Stones, who paid for it to take piano lessons from Scott Joplin and then Jerry Lee Lewis, each of whom in turn kicked the kid out of class for not practicing, and finally the kid ran away and worked in an Irish pub, where it osmotically memorized every song in the book while mopping puke off the floor, until one day the Wolfe Tones walked in to order a pint and recognized its own offspring running cases of Magner’s behind the bar, and, after a brawl that caused thousands of dollars in damage and a bar tab that cost hundreds, bestowed upon the kid a lucky cladagh ring with special powers, then that kid would grow up to be the Larkin Brigade.”

Pat Kennedy (vocals & piano) was good enough to answer the following few probing questions.

(S’n’O)
So who the feck is Paddy Keys and why should I vote for him?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
That’s just my stage name. (Other monikers include Paddy Flyers because I always have show flyers on me — and I mean even at weddings — and Pit Kennedy because I always cut a rug at hardcore shows). But this one’s taken on a life of its own with that album title. “Paddy Keys for Mayor” was actually (drummer) Dennis’ idea, and at first I thought it was re-tahded. But then he described his cover concept, and we all dug it, and Brian McCaffrey from Overnight Color & Graphics did an awesome job with the campaign sign, and Dennis’ fiancée Nancy took a great photo of it on a Dorchester street, and we’re all pretty happy with the outcome. But it’s just a humorous album title. I wouldn’t run for deputy dog catcher.

(S’n’O)
And, what have you against present Boston Mayor, Mumbles Menino – especially when I suspect your drummer is one of his illegitimate sprogs?

Dennis/Mumbles one and the same

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
Oh, that guy gets a worse rap than he deserves. He’s done a decent job – although it is high time for some new blood in that office. I voted for Hennigan in the last election, and she’s supposed to be insane.

(S’n’O)
Last political question – who’s Larkin and why isn’t he running for mayor?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
We named the band after Big Jim Larkin, a prominent Irish labor activist in the early 20th century. As you know, there’s a statue of him out in front of the GPO in Dublin.

(S’n’O)
The band is a little different from most Celtic punk bands who are basically 4 piece punk bands with additional traditional instruments – TLB have neither electric or acoustic guitars. Was this deliberate or could you just not find one? What else makes you stand out from the pack?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
That was deliberate. We knew we could achieve a pretty full sound with just piano, fiddle, bass, and drums, and we just wanted to keep it simple. Guitar and say, whistle, on top of that, would have just made the band unwieldy. And Joe (fiddle) and I are also very into Cape Breton music in addition to the Irish stuff, and that is basically just piano and fiddle. I mean, I absolutely love the Bothy Band and Planxty and those kind of Irish ensembles, and of course the punk Irish ensemble, the Pogues — but they’ve already done it, and this is just the best way for us to rock out. Let’s see, what else sets us apart? Well, for better or worse, I don’t do a gruff thing with my voice; I really try (operative word) to sing, like say a Tommy Makem (may as well shoot for the stars). Paul and Joe are stepping up with the harmonies, too. And at the same time, we are very loud and rockin’ – if they took Dennis’ energy and turned it into an injectable liquid, all the ballplayers would be trying it to get around the MLB steroid rules. And finally, we’ve spent a lot of time in the past going to see New York hardcore bands like Murphy’s Law and Sick Of it All, and local ones like Blood for Blood, and I think that no-pretense kind of shit-talkin’ and rough-edged but fun party atmosphere naturally comes out in our stage banter and overall live vibe.

(S’n’O)
Did making the piano the lead instrument have anything to do with your fixation with Elton John and The Pet Shop Boys?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
Oh, Liberace, almost exclusively. No, I just suck at guitar. But I’ve always loved the Black Crowes (that’s right – believe it, three out of four Larkin Brigade members are huge Crowes fans) and duh, the Stones, and other piano-laden rock ‘n’ roll (that includes some of your pubbier Oi!), not to mention old-school Jamaican ska music, and obviously Irish ceilidh and the aforementioned Cape Breton, and ragtime…and of course the music of Randy Newman, specifically that written for the movie “The Three Amigos.” Oh, also, while I suppose you’re right to say piano is the lead instrument, I don’t generally play leads so much as lay down the foundation — I’m equivalent to a rhythm guitarist while Joe is the Yngwie J. Malmsteen who shreds hot lixx.

(S’n’O)
Is there any truth to the rumor that the piano has been replaced by a synthar so the live show won’t be so boring?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
Well, first we have to save up for the headset microphones. Then the keytar, and finally the fretless five-string stick bass for Paul. In order to swing this, of course, we may have to replace Dennis with a drum machine, but that’s a trade-off we’re willing to make.

(S’n’O)
Who’s better, the Skels or the Larkin Brigade? Who’s fatter? Who get the most groupies? Which band has the most lawyers in the band?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
The Skels used to be better, because they could drink for three seconds. But now we’ve got ‘em beat, because we drink for four seconds! I don’t know what they could do to compete with that! Fatter? Jaysus, but that’s a good question. They have more members, and they talk up their fatness an awful lot, but Joe is one hefty fellow, and Dennis is no slouch (although note, he’s actually more of an exercise nut than any of us). Henry and I are the skinny guys in each band, so we cancel each other out. Paul and Rich are average. I’m gonna say it’s too close to call. The more important question is who produces more sweat on stage? We played with them at the Rippin’est Town Rally a few weeks ago, and by the end of the night, little fish had bred in the puddles on the floor. Okay, most groupies? Gosh, that’s tough. I guess the Skels, because our ladies reject the term “groupies” in favor of “band aides.” More lawyers in the band? I believe that’s a draw. We got more nurses, though.

(S’n’O)
How do the punters outside of Boston catch the band live?

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
Talk to your travel agent for the best deals on flights to Boston. Ah, no, we do play New York sometimes, and we even played Toronto once, and of course we’ll play other towns in New England. (Check our website, http://www.thelarkinbrigade.com.) But we’re all workin’ stiffs, and this band is strictly DIY, so a serious tour is not an option for the time being. If you really want to see us live, a) drop us a line to let us know there’s some interest out there, and b) get our CD into the jukebox at your local bar, request it on the hip radio show at the area college, post a song on your myspacial profile, saunter down the street blaring it on a ghetto blaster, and maybe eventually a promoter in your town will get wind of the buzz and offer us a doable gig there.

(S’n’O)
Finally, who thought up the description of “The Wolfe Tones had sex with Ben Folds Five”, that’s sick, really sick.

(Pat Kennedy AKA Paddy Keys)
Naturally, yours truly. Disgusting, isn’t it? Hey, for real, let me say in closing to all you readers out there in computerland that John Murphy is truly doing one hell of a job with Shite ‘n’ Onions, and I hope yez all appreciate his efforts! Now buy the CD. He gets a cut. And we want to buy that keytar.

The Skels – The Castlebar, Brighton, MA (JULY 17, 2010 )

July 19, 2010

You might have notice on the bottom right hand side of the blog there is now a little widget that tracks site visitors and how they found Shite’n’Onions – well to my surprise I’m getting lots of visitors from Saudi Arabia – now originally I was thinking that my Arab friends were actually searching on Shiite and getting Shite but then I noticed that the key words being searched were, “hairy backed guys” and I realized to my shock and surprise that The Skels have a fan base in the Middle East!

Speaking of HBGs, The Skels were in Boston for the 1st time in a long while, paying their 1st ever gig in bass players Henry Ryan’s home from home – Brighton’s own The Castlebar. The special occasion that merited 3 sets from The Skels and was to celebrate Paddy Keys of The Larkin Bridges impending nuptials (congrats Pat), and The Skels were in rare form – lots of Pogues covers, their own master pieces and synchronized Judas Priest style guitar/banjo poses – in fact there were even a few new tunes and an new CD announced which is schedule for release at the end of the year (though Chris Skel wouldn’t commit to which year). It was also nice to see Benny from Toxic Narcotic join The Skels on his accordion for a few songs.

The Skels are always great to see live and 3 sets in The Castlebar a special treat – I’ve been going to see The Skels for over 10 years and they never fail to impress and hope to see ’em again when they come back from their tour of Iran, Iraq and Yemen.

The Larkin Brigade: Paddy Keys for Mayor

Rightso…2 things I have to say before I even start trying to review this album, and these are the first 2 things that struck me within 30 seconds of getting the package out of the mailbox, opened on the kitchen bench and chucking the CD on the stereo…

1) Reading through the song titles on the back of the cover, as sure as Shane MacGowan is the godfather of our beloved paddy punk, “We’re all Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” is the coolest name for a song I have ever heard

2) They have a piano in their line-up. This is rather unique for this style of music and as soon as the first notes hit my ears I was whisked away to a magical, faraway place in my early childhood (about ages 3-7) because at this time my parents exposed me to exclusively classical music (which I was not fond of) AND the following 4 albums (all of which I was very fond of): Billy Joel – The Stranger, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Steeleye Span – some collection, who knows what and 5 Hand Reel – For A’ That. And bizarrely enough, The Larkin Brigade sound like a mix of all 4 of those artists. Go figure???

OK – sorry about that, but I felt compelled to share…now back to the topic at hand given that this is an album review, not a “My Mum didn’t hug me enough” psychiatry session for me.

Paddy Keys for Mayor is the first album release for The Larkin Brigade – a 4-piece from Boston playing fast-paced Celtic-infused music, with a punk-ish feel. Drums, bass, violin and piano make for a very unique sound that needs to be heard to be properly appreciated. The album is well upbeat, kicking you out of your chair and cocking your ears to catch the next funky piano lick, or violin trill over the top of a driving rhythm section. I reckon these guys would do one solid live show that couldn’t leave you with anything but a big smile on your face.
The first track, “Tim Phoolan and the Worst Campaign for City Council Ever” is a great intro to the album. It hits you straight away with what The Larkin Brigade are all about – cymbal-heavy percussion, beefy bass, violin-melody with a crazy piano running all over the place. Pat’s vocals are thick-sounding, yet light-hearted and engaging.
“Banana Republic” and “Dot Day” follow this up nicely with a similar feel to Tim Phoolan. Some sweet work on the harmonica in Banana adds a nice touch. Dot has a catchy melody and great toe-tapping rhythm – very clever little song.
“Planxty John L.” incorporates some great timing changes that deliver a punch as good as the Irish-American boxer who is the subject of the song.
“This is a Rebel Cry” and “Mission Thrill” are a couple of fun tracks complete with drinking and ninja turtle references. The latter has a great bridge section that could have come from traditional session in any decent Irish pub the world over.
“Sean South From Garryowen” shares the same tune as Roddy McCorley and cranks up the temperature with some wicked bagpipes giving you that extra shot of adrenaline only a good ol’ rebel song can deliver.
“The Tinker” has some great changes of tempo infused with a clever violin riff and finishes with a soaring fiddle solo. Following this is a sweet little instrumental: “Tabhair Dom Do Lamh” and then we’re transported straight into a noisy piano bar for a bit of good ol’ rag time jamming.
“We’re All Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” as I already noted could never go wrong for me and it is a great song turning the piano bar into an Irish pub full of drunken Powers-infused punters wrecking the joint.
The album closes out with “The Banshee Went to Outer Space”, another solid track with some crazy fast lyrics, punk-beats and vocals, a bit of electronic madness chucked in for good measure and all with the goods on the rhythm and pounding piano this album delivers in spades.

So this album really gives you something unique. Not for the die-hard punk perhaps, but to anyone who likes their music with a cheeky sense of humour that isn’t taking itself too seriously, who can handle their rhythm loud and proud and void of guitar, who can dig a violin and piano being used as assault rifles on the ears, and can take their whiskey straight or in a tall glass of coke – this comes with an A-grade recommendation from this reviewer. Slainte!

2007

Review – Alex Dean