The classic rock and pop scenes could use a bit of the luck of the Irish—it just so happens that our prayers have been answered, thanks to Dublin-based band, Pugwash. Led by Thomas Walsh, these Irish lads are touring the country for the second time in a year. But although there won’t be any dance parties on the venues’ stages here in the States, these lads are psyched to spread their music like wildfire across the nation. Not only are they packing their guitars and drums, but are also sharing their good humor and wit with their old and new fans.
Although this seasoned band is just beginning to pick up the spotlight in the U.S., their music has swelled across Ireland, propelling them across the pond, even as far as Japan. Upon speaking with Walsh, he informed me of a not-so-minor issue—he was on bed rest while we spoke. It’s bad enough to have back trouble while on tour, but it must be even worse to be bedridden on the first concert of the tour! But he simply waved it off with humor and great, belly laughs, determined to be well before the evening’s events.
This is actually the first night of the tour—how will you be able to perform with your back?
Well, if I can get out of bed, or not be bedridden, it should be a great gig. We’ve been enjoying the last four days and—10-hour days, 14-hour days we’ve been enjoying and with my wonderfully shaped body has taken a battering (laughs). But People are coming along and we have wonderful support. We’ll be joined by Paul and John, er, Paul Morris, which is Mike Morris’ brother. But it’s going to be a wonderful night for the people who’ll see it the first time and we’ll put out the album, so…
Well, if anything, you can maybe roll the bed out on stage! Can you tell me a little about this new album?
Well, this album is out September 4 called Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) and there is a compilation album out, it’s been out for a year now and we’ve already been over and played some states to promote the compilation earlier this year, and we’re back and we love America so much. We love touring it, you know?
And we love having you guys. How’ve you been prepping for this tour?
Well… We’ve been doing this for so long but we’re still a fresh, or a new band in America even though we’re seasoned campaigners back home in Ireland. But we don’t really get together and rehearse a lot. We know the songs; we record the songs as a band, so everyone is in there… The preparation is basically just to try and be healthy but it never quite works that way. We’re kind of silly… But you have to struggle through life’s trials. But it’s gonna be great and we’ll get there.
Yeah! You’ll get there. You mentioned before that you love coming to America. I saw you have a new deal with a U.S. record label? How did that come about?
Just through a wonderful guy called Lee Lodyga, that’s his name, who was just a big fan of my music and heard me play from 10 years ago, or five years ago, and he was a fan and we became friends on Facebook and I read up on Lee and he’s very respected and very well-known and he’s a business guy and he’d just started to get back into the game and connected us with these big leaders of Columbia and Universal. And the others came back in and decided to start a label that was pure music, and they pay the band and all of this really good stuff and in the last year, one of their bands won a Grammy, so they became this really, really big label and we’re very proud to be on them, so it was basically my friendship with Lee and then Cheryl Kowalski, who is the owner. It’s just been friendships, really. And networks like Facebook really helps… It’s a good modern-day connection, really.
Totally. Talk about good networking skills.
Yeah. It’s very important, Samantha. In a good way, though. Not in the cynical—you know what I mean.
Oh yeah! Now, going back to tonight, do you have a specific setlist, or will you just wing it?
That’s a good question because we don’t really stick to a particular setlist. We do always have a setlist, but sometimes after three or four songs, someone will say something in the audience, or one of the band members will mention something and then my brain will go, “Oh!” And then it’ll be another song for 45 minutes or something silly. I love the element of choice for bands so they can stray amongst playing, so… I think we have a set and that includes new songs and others from previous records and we play them together. And there’ll be a few surprises.
It’s such a great strategy—it keeps the band off auto-pilot and brings the audience into the performance, in a sense.
Oh absolutely, I mean audience participation is a major factor for our gig. We once did a gig back in Ireland and I think there was 15 people total and I just got so pissed off with playing for 15 people that I just said, “Come up on stage.” So the 15 people came up on stage and we played the last four songs with the whole audience on stage and nobody sitting down in the audience. So that was fun!
Oh my God!
Well, there are so many places in Ireland that are remote and stuff like that. It’s just part of the tour. You can have a great gig one night and the next have very few people come and that’s the way Ireland works. It’s so small and so silly. But… So yeah, we just let the audience come up on stage. And someone took pictures and it was quite funny, actually. It was great fun. But that’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re playing. You have to kind of assess how the audiences are and just go with it. So, I can never tell you what’s going to happen, Samantha, but there should be some surprises.
Wow. I can’t get over that you had the entire audience come up on stage. That’d never happen here!
(Laughs) No! Probably not for health or safety or something like that. But back home, we couldn’t give a shit, really. So, the audience came on stage and it was just great!
They’re so lucky! But although you probably won’t be able to share the stage with audiences over here, you’re sharing it with some other acts, too. Have you toured with any of them before?
Yeah! Yeah, actually we have. And my brain isn’t as quick, but our manager Joey puts together a lot of the gigs. But I think the Anderson Counsel are playing with us, which are a wonderful band, and obviously the Paul and John which is tonight. And there are a few other bands out of L.A. and Portland and they’re really, really good. We like to give people a chance to come and play, so some we don’t know and then meet and some we really like and we ask back and so yeah, there’s some really great support coming.
So you’ve got a lot of people jumping in on tour!
Yeah! Well, they’re spread out and all. But if you’re going to a place for the first time, like we’re going to Arizona for the first time and Chicago and those kind of places that we have to have a local support because a lot of people don’t know who we are. So it really helps. Sometimes you hear about a band and you look them up on YouTube and they’re very good, so there’s things like that. But yeah. It’s fun.
I bet. Clearly you’ve got new venues coming up. Do you have any that you’re really psyched about?
Yeah. We’re going to be going up to Nashville, which we’re really, really excited about. And we’re going to see Graceland and that’s gonna be a dream-come-true. Have you ever been to Graceland?
No, sadly. It sounds like such a great place to visit, though!
Aw! Well people have asked me if I’ve ever been to where Guinness is made and stuff and… Well I actually have, but I haven’t been there as often as you think. I mean, I only live down the road from the Guinness brewery in Dublin. So sometimes, even if you’re American, you don’t see a lot of places that are in your own place, so… But we’re looking forward to going to Nashville. And I think the other new place is… Oh. We’re not going to Chicago. We were all excited about it and we aren’t even going there. But San Francisco will be great fun and Phoenix, Arizona, as I said. The reason why I keep mentioning Arizona is that it’s going to be about 45 degrees—or 105, you know? And the sun so, we’re only pale, little Irish people. We’ll catch fire.
I completely understand. Tanning isn’t an option for me—I turn into a lobster.
Oh yeah! (Laughs) Oh! And we’re coming your way. The reason I’m not mentioning New York is because it’s our first and dearest loved place. We love New York so much and we’re going back to one in New Jersey? Asbury Park… We played in Hoboken last time and Brooklyn, so we’ll definitely be back in your area. We can’t wait. We love New York. We love the East Coast. So much! We’re ending the tour on the East Coast and we’re flying back out of JFK and we’re driving across America—we’re driving across America to get to the East Coast because we love it so much.
Yeah! Save the best for last, right?
Save the best for last—absolutely! I mean, we love L.A. and all the places in between, of course, but it’s a special love for New York. Especially as an Irish person. A lot of Irish people around the area, so it’s a good feeling and it’s a beautiful place. We love it. It’s special! We made it there in April? May? For the fourth time and it was just so special, I could hardly take it all in. People always say, “Oh, you’ll love New York, you’re gonna love it,” and I’m like, “Oh yeah. Okay.” And then I went and was like, “Jeese!” But yes. I do love it so much and I can’t wait to go back there.
We can’t wait to have you guys back! It’ll come soon enough. What’s on the agenda for after the tour?
Sleeping! But ah, we’ll probably go do a U.K. tour. When we go across the pond, as you’d say, to do some gigs in London and Liverpool, things like that. We have some great fans in England. And we’ve had some really serious offers to go to Japan, which we definitely want to do. We’ve got some great fans there who’ve traveled—we had a fan travel from Japan to Dublin. A 14-hour flight to see us play in Dublin. And in New York, too. In The Living Room we played, and she traveled to see us there, too. So, we have some really devout fans from the part of the world. But we’ll be promoting the album and it just doesn’t end. It’s just a big record for us, so we have to keep going with it, especially into next year. So, when we go home, there’ll be a little break, but then we’re gonna go to England and play some gigs.
These Irish lads have gigs in Asbury Park’s The Saint on Sept. 10 and New York’s The Living Room on Sept. 12. Their new album, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends), was released on Sept. 4. For more info on the band, visit their site: pugwashofficial.com.