The American Wake is an amazing Irish Band from right here in Long Beach California.
Consisting of: Eric Ree – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Frank LaBlanc – Mandolin, Mandola, Vocals, Chris Hatt – Bass Guitar, Vocals, Robert Keysers – Fiddle, Vocals, & Tod Warren – Drums, Vocals. These guys are the real deal. You can catch them most any weekend here in Long Beach, & I spoke with fiddle player/vocalist Robert Keysers about a little bit of their past & some of their upcoming plans Here’s what he had to say.
Eddie: Robert, hope you’re well my dude. I know you were not an original member of the band but can you tell me how The Wake got started?
Robert: Uh, sure. It was back in the mid 90’s. They started the band in 94’ I think. It started with Eric and Frank who met through a couple of mutual friends when they were in college and they got together to learn a couple covers songs like some Pogue’s songs, whatever, for a big St. Patrick’s Day party they were gonna do at a warehouse with a bunch of their college buddies. I think they ended up learning a total of 8 songs, and they played those same 8 songs all throughout the night they got progressively drunk, as did everybody and people were like, “play that song again, play that song again”. Anyway, at the end of the night Eric and Frank were standing around and Frank apparently knew someone who worked at The Harp Inn, in Costa Mesa.
Robert: and He was pretty confident he could get them a gig out of that, so he hit the rest of the guys up and asked if they wanted to do it again because it was so fun, and they all said “Yeah, I’m in”. So they ended up going through a couple different line-ups, particularly different drummers before I joined the band in 2000. But, The American Wake was started to get free beer at an Irish Party in 1994.
Eddie: Nice, Hahaha. That is cool as shit. And you say you started with a different drummer, how many drummers has the band previously had?
Robert: Well they had a guy named Duncan as their first full time drummer, but they had a guy before him at their first gig. Duncan quit after like a year to go do his own project. I don’t know how that is working out for him. Damien Murray was the drummer right before I joined and then he went out with back surgery like right before I joined in like 2000 and so for the first year that I was playing there was a guy named Jason who was on drums. What is that 3 or 4 drummers already? Haha.
Jason quit when Damien came back and was good from surgery. Damien played with us until 2010, and now we’ve got Todd Warren so fuckin 5 drummers, like fuckin Spinal Tap.
Eddie: Hahahaha. Yeah, I’ve met Tod and Damien. Both great guys and both are badass behind the kit.
So, I’m actually going to feature a video of one of your tracks from the last album Tell No Tales, and here it is… This track is titled: She Swears Like A Sailor. It’s a great blend of vocals, spiked with some amazing fiddle & mandolin work, topped off with a lot of Irish Attitude! Take a listen.
Eddie: I know you guys are preparing for an upcoming album that you have coming out. Can you tell me a little about that and the direction you guys are going? Are you going to stay traditional or are you guys writing some new material, what is the direction you guys are headed with the new album?
Robert: Actually, at this point, I don’t believe we have anything slated in terms of traditional stuff. We don’t have any instrumentals on this one yet, but there is definitely room for it. Since we did the Tell No Tales album, that one had kind of a nautical theme to it, you know the pirate thing was all big at the time and all that shit so we kind of rode that wave, and the Irish thing and also the sea shanties are always easy to do so we kind of went that direction with that album.
This one were going kind of working man, blue collar thing which also fits with the Irish deal, and also fits with the drinking thing so, haha, yeah were kind of going that route. It’s a lot of stuff like working on the railroads and shit like that, you know that type of Irish-American tie in with hard work and you know, play hard, party hard, blah, blah, blah.
Eddie: Very cool, very cool. So, the wake has its Annual Big Red Bus Tour this Saturday is that right?
Robert: Yes, Indeed. On the 10th.
Eddie: What exactly does that entail?
Robert: Well. In previous years past, the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day we throw this thing, because
St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t always fall on a weekend so not everybody can come out and party. We lucked out this year because it falls on a Saturday so everybody and their mom is gonna be out. But, we started the tradition about 5 years ago with renting 2 of the English double-decker buses they have from the Big Red Bus Co. down here in Long Beach, and basically we load them up with a bunch of people, a bunch of beer, and we drive to a minimum of 3 pubs. People get on the bus and we give away free beer on the bus. You can bring whatever you want in terms of whiskey or whatever you prefer to drink. These guys don’t care. The only rule is don’t chuck nothing off the bus otherwise they get in trouble, and we would like to be invited back.
So, they pay for their ticket, we start at The Auld Dubliner traditionally and go to another pub. We usually end up going to Gallagher’s in Long Beach, and then we end up back at The Auld Dubliner where we do a 4 hour regular Saturday night show. It starts early so we can get back to The Auld Dubliner about 9:30-10 o’clock and go until closing. We do play at least one set over at Gallagher’s, and the last couple years we’ve done at least a half hour set or so kind of stripped down of course at the first pub. The first pub is usually the smallest one but anyway this year it is gonna be different cause we’ve got a 3rd bus. Each bus holds 50 people. That means there is gonna be 50 more people drinking and partying and having a good time. Tickets are 25$
Robert: Yeah, this year we’re doing a place called The Tilted Kilt, which is like a new sort of hootersesque place with a Scottish-Irish kind of twist down on P.C.H. by The W.O.W. center. We’re not gonna play at that one but it is going to be our first stop cause we know they can accommodate the logistics of 150 people just come barging into a bar. We’re going to Gallagher’s after that. Then we’re doing an hour and a half over there, and then wind up back at The Auld Dubliner to party the rest of the night off.
Eddie: That’s excellent man. You guys have a pretty solid schedule around Long Beach and Southern California, don’t you?
Robert: Yeah, the 2nd Saturday of every month is The Auld Dubliner down at The Pike in Long Beach there. We play at least, one Saturday a month at the Gallagher’s in Long Beach so that one is either the first weekend or the last weekend of the month; it kind of goes back and forth because of holidays and stuff. We also play the Huntington Beach Gallagher’s though we’ve kind of had a little bit of difficulty with the people doing the booking at this point because of new ownership and new management and all that. Growing pains you know. So we’ve recently acquired a spot playing at Silky Sullivan’s in Fountain Valley. We played there 2 or 3 weeks ago, and it went off like The Auld Dubliner. It was out of control. So, they called us the next day and booked us for 1 of the Saturday’s this month and we’re going to play the Thursday before St. Patrick’s Day there as well. So that would be next Thursday. It is kind of ramp up to St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Eddie: So, what exactly do you have planned for St. Patrick’s Day?
Robert: On St. Patrick’s Day, we will be at Gallagher’s Long Beach all day on St. Paddy’s which is starting at noon, and what we normally do is an hour on, an hour off, until midnight so it’s good times.
Eddie: More than a few times I’ve seen The Wake play a street fair out in Orange; can you tell our readers a little bit about that?
Robert: Yeah, It’s always Labor Day weekend. So, the first weekend in September. It’s a 3 day thing. It’s free to get in and all that. You do have to pay for a wristband if you want to drink which usually runs you about 2 or 3 dollars. The cool thing about where we’re playing is we play on Irish street, which is the first thing that you come to. If you take the Glassell exit off the 22 and you head north you run right into it.
We usually do 2 sets on Friday, and 3 sets Saturday and Sunday. Then everybody’s got Monday off for Labor Day. So it is a whole weekend of partying outdoors and having a good time with everybody.
Eddie: What is the street fair about?
Robert: Well, it is an international street fair. They hold it in old town Orange so it’s all full of antique shops and it’s like you’re walking into a 1950’s Mayberry kind of thing. But, there are booths of just about everything you can think of from Chinese and Japanese food, to Mexican food, to Greek food. and each individual street that intersects with the main circle there in downtown is themed every half block or so. There is even a Norwegian street which is cool because Eric and Frank are both of Norwegian descent and they used to be part of The Sons of Norway which has a booth down there. So, we’ll go down there and get some Norwegian beer that you can’t get out here in the states. There is all types of different foods, stuff for the kids. They have petting zoos, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting. and all the antique shops are open. It’s just a good place to go and hang out and you don’t have to spend a ton of money because it’s free to get in, you can walk around, maybe grab a bite to eat or something like that. Try something you’ve never had before, and then come down and hang out with us on Irish street. We’re the first thing you see when you walk in and we’re the last thing you see when you walk out.
Eddie: So, you can experience different beers from different cultures and walk around the street with beer in your hand?
Robert: Yes, as long as you’re within the confines of the street fair and they’ve got sign posted and security everywhere so yeah. Even on Mexican street you can even get Margarita’s and things like that. Japanese street will have like Sapporo. There is a Thai place that has a few great beers. You can get anything from a standard American lager too the stuff on Irish street where we have Guinness of course, Harp of course, and Smithwicks, and/or something else.
Eddie: In closure rob, do you know around when we can expect The American Wake to drop that new album?
Robert: We’re in rehearsals right now trying to work out as many bugs as we can, but we need to be in the studio by the end of May, beginning of June. We’re hoping to have a new product out by Street Fair which again would be the first weekend in September. We’re looking forward to having something fresh to sell to the public as soon as possible.
Eddie: What is the website so our readers can check you guys out?
Robert: www.theamericanwake.com and you can find us on facebook as well & get tickets to The Big Red Bus Tour for this Saturday March 10th at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-American-Wake/31606193979
Eddie: Thanks so much for your time Rob. Have a great night brother.
Robert: You too bro.