St. Patrick’s Day didn’t seem to be the same without the Saw Doctors, who bagged their annual March outing to our shores for a detour in Australia, where demand for the band knows no limits.
The “doctor” is in for the summer, however -- the band is here this week for a quick tour of the U.S.
Apart from visiting far-flung outposts around the globe, the lads have been busy writing and recording a new album.
They sent me over a few MP3s of the new recordings as a tease, and they sound as fresh as baked soda bread, with all the Irish flavor to match!
“Train” and “Be Yourself” have everything you’d come to expect from the Saw Doctors -- muck-thick accents from the west of Ireland, catchy hooks, and lyrics that touch on the simple life. The summer is looking sunnier now that we have the promise of new music from these lads!
In typical aw-shucks style, the Saw Doctors solicited fans and friends on Facebook for ideas on a title and artwork for the album cover. You can log onto sawdoctors.com to submit your ideas and keep track of the band’s whereabouts this week.
I caught up with Leo Moran as he was leaving the airport, after getting cleared to fly once the Icelandic volcanic ash dispersed over the Shannon. Here’s how it went:
You just got back from Australia. How was the tour? I hear that is a popular spot for the young Irish. Did you see a lot of Irish there?
We did see a lot of Irish. It was way too short and we had an amazing time. The audiences are mostly in the twenties, and they are just doing some job they’re not fond of.
The Australians don’t seem to have the pressure to work so hard -- 40 hours is enough for them over there. The Irish that we found are very happy to be there and the weather is great and everyone is relaxed, and tanned.
For a lot of Americans, you offer a taste of home when they see you on tour. Do you find that vibe over there?
I’m not sure if we see a ton of people from home anymore on the American tours. We have been over there dozens of times and we have a pretty solid American audience.
I am surprised also at how young they are, particularly in places like Cleveland and New York. We get a lot of first and second generation people, and not as many Irish immigrants.
Do you find yourself playing to a younger audience? Maybe the children of the people who immigrated here in the nineties?
It varies from city to city. Some places in England we do towns where everyone is more mature. When you do the festivals they are much younger audiences. Cleveland and New York are very young audiences.
When the Saw Doctors first came over here in the early nineties, you definitely had a lot of people come to the shows from Ireland after a huge immigration here. Are you seeing that trend again now that the economy in Ireland is tanking?
I don’t see as many people leaving now, and even when they do, Boston, London, and Manhattan aren’t the guaranteed places to go when you are immigrating anymore -- I see that Canada and Australia are the big destinations now. When I immigrate one of these days I will go to New York (laughs).
This is the first time you didn’t come to the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day. Was it weird to break the routine?
It was weird, but I think it was nice to shake it up a bit.
The new album is getting mixed and mastered right now. How is it sounding?
We are really delighted with it. We hope it goes down well. I can actually listen to an album and enjoy it.
Sometimes, you work so hard and you know the details and the intricacies of the arrangements, and all you’re hearing are the imperfections. You don’t get the joy of the music. It’s like driving the car when you’re a mechanic -- you know what is going on under the hood, and you’re more fixated on that when you hear a song as a musician.
Was that because you didn’t spend a lot of time fussing with things in the studio?
No. Actually, we worked very hard and drove ourselves very hard and did a lot of polishing. We actually did a lot of magnified detail work that you may not have done on other albums.
I really think this is the best album we’ve made and hopefully, the rest of the world will agree with us.
What do you make of your current resurgence of fame in Ireland? You’re playing to sell-outs all over.
The tide came up for us. People know we’re around and that we’re making a racket, and it is really great the audience is not only coming back, but we have some people so young coming to the gigs.
We have a crest of a wave in front of us, but we’re also old enough to realize that these things come and go. You sometimes slip in and out of the spotlight, and you can’t get too excited about it.
Are you going to drop some new songs into the set list?
Nearly all of the songs have appeared so far. I think they’ll all get a run in the states.
What’s good about it is that they have all slotted in and they stand up against the tried and trusted favorites and that has been happening, which is a really good sign.
How do you decide on the set list?
Davy does it and he does an hour before the show, so we play what we’re told.
Yourself and Davy have been musical and business partners for over 20 years. Some long partnerships, like Mick and Keith of the Stones, have a tension between them that inspires creativity. Is that a dynamic with the two of you?
We enjoy ourselves too much for that. It’s a lot more cooperative and just finding the things we all have in common.
Are you listening to anything in the Irish music scene and if so, what are some of your favorites?
The older I get the less open I am to tune into it. If there’s stuff not turning me on, it’s probably my own fault. There are a lot of great bands playing locally who are pretty interesting.
So, when can we hear the new album? And what is the future of albums with the Saw Doctors? Some bands are opting to just release a tune here and there as opposed to an album.
We hope to get the album out here in Ireland at the end of August. We’ll try to get things out as soon as possible after that.
As far as releasing songs here and there, I think that putting out a song a month is a cool idea but I do think there is an artistic statement, a statement of intent, when you make an album.
The Saw Doctors will play a sold-out show at Irving Plaza in New York on May 14; then they’ll appear at the House of Blues in Boston the following night, and the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on the 16th.