Swagger and growl
Swaggering Growlers blend Irish, Canadian and ska influences
By Dana Unger firstname.lastname@example.org
On a recent Friday night, the back room of The Shaskeen in Manchester was filled with guys clutching beers in hand, girls jumping and swinging each other around, and plenty of fist-pumping, whiskey-laced exuberance. All of them had come to see the riotously Irish folk-punk sounds of The Swaggering Growlers.
Though primarily based in the Boston area, the hard-rocking group got its start in Dover, playing its first show at Biddy Mulligan’s on St. Patrick’s Day in 2005.
The Growlers incorporate a strong Boston punk and hardcore sound akin to that of The Pogues, The Tossers or The Dropkick Murphys with the melodic soul of Irish and American folk music of Flogging Molly and Woody Guthrie. Some may immediately brand them as another Boston Irish punk band, but that’s a label they dismiss.
“I don’t really see that stereotype at all, because we do so much more than Irish-influenced music,” said vocalist and guitarist Jonny Swagger (the band members prefer to be known by their stage names). “There’s a lot of ska in there, and Canadian folk. There is that influence, but it’s part of what we do, not all of what we do. We’re not worried about being pigeonholed by people — especially once they come and see us.”
The group released their debut, The Bottle and the Bow, in February 2007. The album was nominated for WBZ TV’s A-List Best of Boston: 2007 Best Album, was named one of the Top 20 Celt Albums of 2007 by Paddy Rock Radio.The group fast became known for their high-energy live shows. The members say they thrive on a chaotic atmosphere at their performances.
“We love it,” Jonny said. “As much as I enjoy being a songwriter, what’s more important is seeing people have a good time — when people are into the music just as much as we are. When you get a great show going on, you get that energy, it feels like a juggernaut. You come down off of an hour and a half on stage and you feel like you’ve been up there for 15 minutes, and you can’t figure out why you’re drenched in sweat.”
They admit that they get people who come to their shows expecting a straight-ahead Irish band but end up staying for the diversity of their sound. The group says they have no aspirations for a record label deal, finding success through their own format. “I did the math out one day,” Jonny said. “If we sold 5,000 records ourselves, we would get the same returns [as] if we sold 50,000 on an independent label. That’s not even a major label. That’s moronic. A record label is for the exposure and publicity, and we’re finding it’s not necessary anymore. We can do it ourselves.”
The Swaggering Growlers are currently working on tracks for their new album, tentatively titled Keep Your Head Held High. The band says they are excited about the buzz it’s already garnering and hope to release it within the next couple of months.
“All through that first album were just great sounds,” said drummer Chestnut P. Growler. “I mean I could listen to it way more than I probably should. The album coming out — most of the songs are in much of the same vein as songs from the first album, but there’s a growth there. Some of the changes are a little subtler than others, but I think this album is going to grab people by the throat. They’re going to have to listen.”