Based in Houston but performing with the spirit of Ireland in their hearts, Blaggards is a four-piece ‘Stout Irish Rock’ band and frequent guest of honor at O’Bannon’s Taphouse on Northgate.
Battalion Life & Arts writer Hollis Mills sat down with three members from Blaggards’ rocking quartet to discuss life as a performer, College Station vibes and Johnny Cash.
Would it be appropriate to call Blaggards an O’Bannon’s staple?
Patrick Devlin (guitarist, vocalist): “I think you’re exactly right. As far as O’Bannon’s goes, we’ve been playing here since they opened and we’re one of the only bands that was able to come back again and again and again, so yes, staple. I think that’s the nail on the head.”
Michael McAloon (drums): “Is O’Bannon’s turning 15 years, this year? They’re one behind us.”
PD: “I don’t know. I can’t count past 10, but it’s probably 15, so we’ve been here since the opening.”
We’re here in an Irish pub, of course we’d have Irish rock, but in a broader sense what is it about College Station that you enjoy coming back to?
PD: “Honestly, without being presumptuous ... Chris, the owner, brought us back time after time because we do Irish, and he really did his best. If you’ve ever visited O’Bannon’s you’ll know that he actually went to post offices in Ireland and got the font, the design and all of that. This is all authentic stuff, so he really did his homework and he wanted somebody in here that could do the Irish stuff, yet could keep your attention, so that it’s not [PD hums a hokey Irish tune]. He wanted authenticity, but also it’s a college town, you have to bring a certain amount of energy because face it, everybody’s young here. I mean I’m the oldest one in College Station by about 100 years now. Again, I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but he brought us back so many times and he liked what we did, and that actually kept us on track doing this.”
MM: “Yeah, and I think another thing is the kids in College Station are better than anywhere else in the country, and we play all over the U.S and the world. Everybody here pays attention. They don’t miss a beat. If we throw in something crazy and then we take a break, they’ll say ‘Hey that was cool you guys did that!’ but everywhere else we’ll go, it goes over heads and they miss it. Everybody here parties hard, but they’re so respectful.”
Chad Smalley (bassist, vocalist): “Especially when they’re drunk. It’s amazing.”
As a college student, I think we’re always looking for something unique, something that doesn’t feel stagnant or pandering, so what is it about Stout Irish Rock that is a fresh alternative?
PD: “I know for us, Chad and I have been doing a podcast every week, and this actually came up. Country music came straight from Irish music. Blues came straight from Irish music. You hear the same chord changes, but we kind of smuggled it in, because we do drape some country over it and put a lot of rock on it. There’s a lot of twists and turns.”
“We’ve played shows with bands that do Irish music seasonal, and it’s very see through, very transparent. It’s a niche for them, but we do it year-round, and all of us listen to it and are constantly adding to our repertoire. We’re actually in the studio right now recording our new record and we’re putting a lot of that stuff in it. Thanks to College Station, we were able to come in here and throw a little bit of country around, but we were flabbergasted by the musical intellect these kids had when we first came here. They knew all this Irish stuff that I grew up on.”
CS: “And that was just the first generation of kids we encountered. It’s remained true year after year.”
You perform Stout Irish Rock, but according to your website you’ve been influenced by the songs of Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath. What was about those two that paved the way for you?
PD: “Listening to Black Sabbath as a kid was a big, big eye opener. On one side everybody else was doing their hippie rock; everything was peace and love, and then the other side was that kind of pop. These guys came in with doom and heavy, and it wasn’t easy. It was a kind of jazz and blues dipped in it, but they did their own thing. With Johnny Cash, that’s another guy who just transcended. You could put him in the country category and he’s perfectly happy, but then you could put him in the rock category and the pop category too. Barriers didn’t bother him.”
MM: “For me, Johnny Cash is real and he’s not the prettiest voice, he’s got a lot of gravel in his voice, but to me he’s just one of those singers that when he sings, it sounds like he’s singing to you personally. With Black Sabbath, there’s so much influence, and anything heavy rock you can trace a lot of it back to Sabbath. They were one of the first to do this stuff. When I was a kid listening to music, you just catch on to a Black Sabbath album and it just hits you and you’re like ‘Man, this is totally different than everything else.’”
CS: “There’s something about Johnny Cash. He just goes really well with traditional Irish stuff, because all really old country and all the old bluegrass came from the Irish tradition. He’s found his way all throughout this genre. It’s deep in the veins.”