Barleyjuice is a band based in Philadelphia that lives up to its name. They play a boozy, high energy mix of rock riffs and Irish ruckus that has been distilled for your consuming pleasure on “The Irish Collection,” a greatest hits package that they put together on the occasion of their first QVC appearance.
The disc was a runaway hit, selling thousands of copies in a matter of hours.
Their mischievous “What’s Up Yours” is a rollicking pub anthem that tempts the question of what goes on under a kilt, while their jigs and reels whip the listener into a sudsy euphoria.
The readings of classics like “Nancy Whiskey” and “Tim Finnegan’s Wake” make “The Irish Collection” a joyous Irish history lesson with a few original chapters thrown in to keep things fresh!
“We are Celtic enthusiasts with roots in rock and roll, which is probably the simplest way to put it,” says Kyf Brewer, the lead singer and writer for Barleyjuice. “We started with the trad stuff and we used the instrumentation from that to enhance our rock melodies.”
I spoke with Brewer about the explosion in popularity ushered in by QVC and other topics during a great chat punctuated by lots of laughter. Here’s how it went:
Tell me about the QVC experience.
We had this opportunity to go on QVC and we were looking to see what album we could pick. We got a collection together of the best stuff from the last four albums.
They did an amazing job over there. It is the lowest common denominator of marketing. The host, if they caress the album, the sales rise. You pick up the bagpipes, the sales rise.
But hey, it worked! Over the course of a 24-hour period we sold 6,000 copies. We had a lot of people get turned onto us that never heard of us. It was a great experience that got us fans all over America.
I see in your bio that you acted in cult classics like “Serial Mom” and did voiceover work. Do those acting elements make it into your music?
They do to a degree. We have good musical performers in the band, so we can play as well as any band. But whereas some people play music, we actually like to think we perform the music. We do both.
The acting that brings an entertainment value to what we did. I never did a lot of professional acting because it got in the way of drinking and music (laughs). I had an agent that was working for me, and there were people like John Waters that came to see this band I was in at the time called the Ravyns.
He threw me in front of some casting directors. Considering I didn’t go out for much, I did pretty well.
You came from a rock and roll background. How did you land on playing Irish music?
In the eighties I was trying to do what was popular, trying to do whatever people told us because we were desperate to get a record. I was in a band in the nineties and we had record company support, so we had this opportunity to record a video in Scotland. I just fell in love with the bagpipes and the Celtic spirit.
From there, everything rose up and I just really got into the melodies and the spirit of the music. Of course, by that time I was old and ugly and didn’t care much for a record deal.
After putting “The Irish Collection” together and looking back at all the band has done before, how did it make you feel and what does it do to prepare you for the next album?
When we thought of this collection in deep terms like that, we were just trying to pull something out to sell on QVC. But then as we were going through tracks, we did say many times, “This isn’t who we are anymore.”
Then in the process the best tracks were strung together, and I sort of fell in love with who we were again when I listened to it for the first time.
As for what is next, we joked that maybe this is the peak and we should disappear. We thought our last album (“Bonny Prince Barley”) was like our “Revolver” and we are feeling that with the 15 songs we have written become our “Sergeant Pepper.” We are aiming big!
For more information on the band, log onto www.barleyjuice.com