The Saw Doctors will bring some friends from the Emerald Isle when they roll into Cleveland March 21st.
The Galway-based So Cow started off as the one-man musical project of songwriter-guitarist Brian Kelly a few years ago. Tapping his love of classic rock, punk, and power pop, Kelly issued a couple EPs before settling on the group’s present three-man lineup. The guitarist will be joined at House of Blues by bassist Jonny White and drummer Pete O’Shea.
The trio’s latest work, Out of Season, is a split-LP with Dublin band Squareheads that showcases Kelly and company’s get-in, get-out economy and singular wit. Opener “I Hardly Know You” commences with a bubblegum buzz recalling Lennon / McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You” (from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul), but then veers into left field. Kelly’s love-consumed narrator would like to commit but can’t trust anyone and would just as soon forget the 600 people he’s already met than form new relationships.
“I prefer questions, from which I’ll determine the facts,” he informs a would-be paramour. “Fill out this worksheet and put your name on the back."
Surf-rock throwback “Days From The Ninth” has Kelly’s detached observer watching commuters down Diet Cokes and fritter away their days with sports news instead of walks on the beach. “Ruane vs. The A-Bomb” dispenses with subtlety and goes for the jugular with sixty seconds of distorted, high-velocity punk. “Laundry Service” lollygags over a buzzy pop jangle and Weezer-like whoahs as a radio commercial plays somewhere in the background.
“Waltzer” starts out in ¾ time—as the title suggests—but Kelly’s drunken slinky lead guitar takes listeners back into hard rock territory for more ugly (but funny) glimpses at life on the street. We caught up with Kelly via email for a chat about the new songs and a couple So Cow history lessons. Turns out Cleveland is one of Kelly’s preferred destinations.
You’re probably asked this all the time, but after hearing the first two tracks on the split-LP, “Hardly Know You” and “Days From the Ninth”, the initial impression is "Beatles." But then you get to the other songs and it's a different story. So is the early Beatles influence a conscious thing? I take it you're fans. Nice harmonies there.
Well, the two bands that loomed large over my childhood were The Beatles and Queen. Now I'm playing music in a guitar band, it's pretty much going to be impossible to avoid The Beatles...and Queen to a degree. There's a song on our next album about the Queen bass player John Deacon, for example. I don't sit around listening to Revolver every day or anything, and in fact I think a good chunk of Beatles songs are junk, but the good stuff was great and hit my brain at a very important age. I'm more and more a fan of certain solo Beatles albums, like Paul McCartney's Ram or Harrison's All Things Must Pass. Someone called us a 'Punk Beatles' recently. I have no complaints with that. On to the other songs, they're more punk...with a bit of humor thrown in. I grew up listening to stuff like Dead Milkmen and Angry Samoans, and tunes like “Ruan v.s The A Bomb” is quite like that. So what are your influences in that regard? Punk-wise, I think we'd all be big fans of The Minutemen, who had a good chunk of humor too. There's always a part of my brain that gets excited when I see a song on an album that's under two minutes. Like, seeing that a song is 1:45 seconds suggests it's going to have to do what it does quickly and well and you don't have to wait around for it. Otherwise, Dead Milkmen would be a definite influence. I've not heard much Angry Samoans, so I'll go YouTube them for the next two hours!
I know you're from County Galway or thereabouts...could you discuss a little history of the band and how you came together?
The band started when I was teaching English as a foreign language in Korea. It wasn't even a band, just a recording project. I started playing shows when I went home to Galway during holiday time. The other two guys in the band are from different places. Jonny White (bass) is from Cashel in Tipperary, and Peter O'Shea (drums) is from Leixlip in Dublin / Kildare (I've never figure out which county it's in, or bothered to look). We base ourselves in Galway, it's where me and Jonny live and work. The biography of the band is all over the place to be honest, and we've had any number of line-up changes and geographical mix-ups, so it's hard to keep track of it all.
Watch So Cow’s video for “Ruan vs. The A-Bomb” here: www.vice.com/read/vice-premiere-ruane-vs-the-a-bomb-by-so-cow
How'd you work out the split LP deal with Squarehead for inflated? Is that your first "official" release?
Dan from Inflated Records simply emailed and asked if we'd be into doing it. It just so happens that we'd gotten to know Squarehead quite well around that time so it made total sense. We recorded our half in two days up in a basement just off O'Connell Street in Dublin, down what is probably Dublin's dodgiest alleyway. It's the third So Cow LP; the first two were put out on Tic Tac Totally, based in Chicago. The first one was a compilation of what I guess you'd call The South Korea Years that came out in 2009 and there was a follow up in 2010 called Meaningless Friendly that somehow ended up being mostly about hurling (the sport). The split is the first full-band recording, which is great as Peter's a way better drummer than me and Jonny's a way better bassist.
How'd you hook up with Saw Doctors? Are you on for their whole tour, or just select shows like the one in Cleveland?
We're only doing two shows with them, unfortunately. It just so happened that we planned to be in Cleveland and Chicago on exactly the same dates they were. Leo Moran has played short solo sets at two punk nights we put together in the Rustic Vaults pub in Tuam, and is always into hearing new bands, especially any new music in that town. It came up that we were in the same cities for two nights and we took it from there. This will be our seventh tour of the US. We're going over for SXSW and then making our way up to Cleveland for that show. We've played a few places there, in various line-ups and guises. I played a solo show at Tower City 2012 (if that's still going?), and we've played Now That's Class a few times. We love those guys. Also, The Beachland Tavern. Cleveland's on our good list.
Tickets for The Saw Doctors & So Cow at House of Blues Cleveland on Thursday, March 21st are $20.00 general admission ($25.00 DOS) or $28.00 for reserved balcony seating.
Click below for details: http://www.houseofblues.com/tickets/eventdetail.php?eventid=77658