It's not often that a band can look back fondly about a time they were tricked into a playing a venue. But fortunately for world-traveled Celtic rock band Young Dubliner's the luck of the Irish was on their side the first time they were asked to play Muldoon's Irish Pub in Newport Beach. For a band who makes their living playing to enormous festival crowds all over the world, the fact that they'd plop down in a cozy little Irish bar in OC seemed like a surprising way to end a massive tour throughout Europe and the U.S. But it turned out they fell in love with the place and hand picked it as their last show of the year after the events coordinator pulled a stunt that became a funny piece of band lore that they've never forgotten. On the cusp of releasing a new follow up album to 2010's Saints and Sinners, front man and guitarist Keith Roberts talks about how the band got scammed into playing the bar the first time and why they can't wait to play there again on Sunday for an acoustic set at 2 p.m.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): You guys are used to playing huge shows all around the world, what made you want to close out the year with some smaller more intimate gigs like the one at Muldoon's?
Keith Roberts: The main reason was because we'd been on the road for so long that we just did a month in Europe and a month back east and three weeks in the Midwest. So it ended up just becoming this two-and-a-half, almost three month trip. So we decided no touring at the end of the year. But you get back and you have all these offers and you just realize that a show like this is a lot easier on us since we're just gonna be able to go home after the gigs. Muldoon's though is a total one of a kind, there is nowhere else in the world where we play a venue like that, that small.
So why do it?
That goes back to a guy named Richard Kaplan [Muldoon's special events coordinator], who sort of tricked me into it the first time, saying we were getting an award or something and we showed up and we did a few songs and the award ended up just being a picture of us at the bar. So it was such a classic scam. And so after wards we talked to the guy and everyone at the bar was amazing so we ended up agreeing that we were gonna return to do this little odd gig at the end of the tour. I let them know we'd be available and they immediately said we should do it. So we get to kind of go back to where we started for a couple of shows without all the pressure of a tour or a major show.
And at this point you're still wrapping up a new record right?
We're at the stage now where all the basic tracking is done and I'm writing lyrics like a lunatic and re-writing lyrics and second guessing myself, all the joyful parts of finishing an album. So we're trying to get that done and released by March. We're playing a few of the new songs at the gigs, it's good to get them out live a little bit to find out if something's good or not.
What kind of direction are you going with this record, is there anything that is a new element to the sound versus 2010's Saint's and Sinners?
It's still very much us, we're not really fad chasers. Bands like Mumford and Sons sort of worked their way into our genre, it's still a lot of the same instrumentation, but also there are a lot of other great bands like Of Monsters and Men, I love the fact that they're as rocking as they are. We're still a band that's got that new existence, we could play a song on acoustic guitar and the next one we could be blasting electrics. I like all types of music and modes of rocking out but we never want to be just an acoustic band or just a noise band. We're kind of somewhere in the middle.
How do you go about incorporating the traditional Celtic instruments into your songs?
The main lineup for us is bass, guitars, drums and fiddle. And when you add the fiddle, it's easy to give things the Celtic vibe right off the bat. But we really write songs on acoustic guitar so they're not deliberately Celtic. Sometimes we write a straight song and Chas will add the fiddle and we'll decide we don't want fiddle and Chas will go to Mandolin or keys. You don't wanna force anything on a song just to make it sound Irish. I hope that's what kind of distinguishes us from a lot of bands in our genre. I want you to hear the new record and really be taken all over the place. Who wants to listen to the same song rehashed 11 times?
Any New Year's resolutions for the band that you're thinking about yet?
We've decided that we're going to tour more sensibly and less hard and maybe rethink how many shows a year we take. It may sound alarming to people, like the band's breaking up, but it's not that. We're just exhausted. We'd like to make this be a little more user friendly so we're not away from our families for so long. And for me, to be singing for 25 years, it takes a lot out of you. So I think I'm going to go on a huge health kick, try a lot of vocal remedies and try to get my voice back to where I want it to be. We're definitely backing down from the band, we just want to make it better and make all the gigs a little more substantial and less exhausting. So maybe not 250 gigs a year, maybe just 150 gigs a year.
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.