Interview/Song Premier: The Welch Boys – “Hand Grenade”

Fans of traditional Boston street punk may want to pay attention here. The Welch Boys are set to release a brand new album, “Bring Back The Fight,” next Tuesday (June 11th) via Sailor’s Grave Records. To mark the occasion, we caught up with guitarist (and band namesake) TJ Welch for a chat about the new album, working with Sailor’s Grave, and life as a working class member of the Boston punk scene.

Additionally, we’re stoked to premier a track from the album. The song, entitled “Hand Grenade,” was inspired by MMA fighter Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis. Check it out by clicking here. Also, check out the story behind the song in our interview at the same spot. Two for the price of one!

The Welch Boys’ last album, “Drinking Angry,” was released by I Scream Records.

[Audio:handgrenade.mp3|titles=Hand Grenade|artists=The Welch Boys]

Dying Scene (Jay): Congratulations on Bring Back The Fight.

TJ Welch (The Welch Boys): Thanks

How’d the name come about, because I feel like you really hit the nail on the head.

We named the cd after the song.. Mark Powers ( bass) wrote the tune after the Bruins / Penguins game . It is about the need to stand up and fight… A few years ago, there was a game with a nasty illegal hit from the Penguins. The Penguin’s Matt Cooke threw a vicious cheap hit on the Bruin’s Mark Savard… ending Savard’s career with a concussion. The next game between the two teams was a few weeks later… Bruins fans were expecting someone on the Bruins to retaliate…we wanted Penguins blood… and nothing happened. Mark was upset with the Bruins lack of response to the Penguins aggression. He was urging the Bruins to “Bring back the fight” with the lyrics of the song. The song could be about any situation where you need to stand up and fight…. You need to say “ Fuck the rules “ , and just kick ass. Regain that fighting spirit.

The album seems to inject a little piss and vinegar to a scene that can grow a little stale at times. Was that sort of the goal this time around?

Yes…. Exactly. Punk has been around for 35 years…. with ups and downs…. but it stays around. The scene grows and fades…. There could be a drought of good new punk music.. then a band like OFF! Comes along and reminds us of how great the music can be. Maybe OFF! Is a bad example.. because they are veterans….. Perhaps I should use Yellow Stitches from New Hampshire as an example… that’s a young new ,band that kicks ass.
I would say that sometimes… punk grows stale a bit…. but the basic foundation of the music, the integrity and purity, keeps punk alive . We want to “Inject a little piss and vinegar” into punk music again. We want to make a cd that will rally the punk world .. a pissed off call to arms for punks,and skins. Other forms of music come and go. Punk’s not dead and I’d like to think it will be around for another 35 years… at least. That’s why we keep playing the music. We all love punk rock music, and we want to feed the fire.

I’m a few listens deep into Bring Back The Fight as I write this, and I enjoy the hell out of it. There are a couple songs I wanted to get some insight on. First off, “Hand Grenade” was written in honor of MMA fighter (and fellow New Englander) Marcus Davis, right? How’d that relationship come about, and have you heard his feedback on the song?
Some of The Welch Boys are fans of MMA fighting. Mark Powers , our bassist, has a friend who was involved with Marcus’ management. Marcus is a New Englander.. from Maine. He gave us some of his “Irish Hand Grenade” shirts a few years ago. I wore one on our video for “Head in the Sand” .. a song on our previous cd . Marcus noticed the shirt in the video, and he contacted us to say he liked our music. We did a benefit concert shortly after, and Marcus donated a pair of fight worn gloves and some other things to auction for money. I called him to thank him. Then we met him at an MMA fight. I was inspired to write some lyrics about him. Then the band and I worked out some music for the words. We wanted something anthemic and inspirational. Also, we worked out a harmony guitar part inspired by Thin Lizzy…. and a “gung-ho” chorus like Slade or Cock Sparrer. PJ also got a few measures for a killer solo.
Marcus got an advanced copy, and he liked it enough to use it as his fight entrance song. So far .. the feedback has been real good.. It’s a challenge to write a song like that, and not come off as contrived. I’m glad people like the song.

There’s obviously a lot of Boston punk history inside The Welch Boys. There are a fair amount of guys from the late 80s/early 90s scene that are still making noise (The Welch Boys, Street Dogs, the Dropkicks, Rick Barton and Continental, etc). What are your thoughts on the current Boston scene, though? Seems like “Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?” is sort of a commentary on that, no?
I’d like to take credit for writing it… but “Boot Boys” is a cover song. It was originally done more than ten years ago by Malaysian Oi band ACAB. Check them out on Youtube. They wrote a bunch of great songs, then they disappeared. Our singer Ed discovered the band. Ed’s got great musical taste. We covered the song because we liked the melody and sentiment. We tried to do it our own way… a little faster, with a gang chorus. We didn’t want to cover the song verbatim.
The song reminisces about glory days gone by.

I grew up in the age of 80’s Boston hardcore,..I was a pimply kid in the pit at the SSD shows at the Channel. Looking back at those days…I could identify with the lyrics of “Boot Boys.”  It is sometimes sad to remember the old days, the innocent days, but it’s also a testament to the scene that punk veterans can still make music that is appreciated. People in Boston still come out to see us play. We are in our 40’s and 50’s now. The scene here is still alive. The fans are very supportive of the music. Boston bands Jerry’s Kids, DYS, The FU’s, The Freeze, Psycho, and Gang Green, have all gotten back together recently. There is a great deal of respect for the bands that are still making noise. We all wish for the return of the glory days… but things aren’t to shabby right now either.

You’re back with Sailor’s Grave exclusively for Bring Back The Fight, correct? They seem to be pretty supportive of their artists and seem to be moving in a good direction again.
Yes… Our debut came out on Sailor’s Grave…. then we went away from them for our second cd…. This decision was influenced by the fact that when our 2nd cd came out….. Sailor’s Grave was temporarily not releasing music. …but now we are glad to be back with them again, and we are glad that they are healthy again. Music is a tough business nowadays. They are survivors.  They are great guys… and they are very supportive of us. They also have a bunch of other great bands like The Koffin Kats , the Brains, Burning Streets, The Business, and Kings of Nuthin’. We are in good company. Also, we know that they will be fair to us. And they will support our music and spread it around the world.

What was the songwriting process for Bring Back The Fight? You guys have obviously gone through a few member changes over the years and you’re all working-class guys too. Does that make it tough to write or get together, or are you pretty much used to the routine by now?
Our time is limited because we all have jobs that eat up most of our time. We also have young kids, mortgages, and more bills than income. It’s a bigger struggle now to keep a band going than it was before this responsibility. We have learned to do what we can. The band core has remained constant for almost ten years. Drummers have come and gone…. but our current drummer, Sam Jodrey , is such a good fit that we feel like he’s been in the band forever. He kicks ass.

We have a jam spot, with a small demo recording setup. We like to work out songs as a demo first. We often record several versions of a song before it is a complete demo. We re arrange parts, change lyrics, and usually try to economize, edit , or shorten a song. When we have enough material, … perhaps fourteen or fifteen songs, we go into a studio to record basic tracks….then back to our demo studio to record additional tracks.. then back to the studio to mix the CD. This method saves us money, gives us unlimited time for overdubs, and ultimately gives us more control and creativity.
Songwriting is interesting. Songs come from all directions. A lot of them start out as riffs recorded on pocket recorders or phones. Lyrics come from notebooks or phone notes. The phones are always there … in our pockets…. If we have a flash of an idea…. while driving to work , or sitting on the hopper, it’s captured before it disappears. We take our phones to practice. The entire band adds to the songs. Often, we record demo material in splinter groups. If all band members can not be there… we work with whoever is present.. and other guys overdub parts later. It’s tough to get together as a full band every practice, but we work around that. The process is not tough, because we enjoy it a lot. We don’t seem to have a shortage of ideas, and we seem to have the ability to make an entire song out of a small guitar part, or a lyric.

Keeping with that theme for a minute, The Welch Boys’ sound is obviously classic Boston street punk, but it’s also very tight. Your live show is also notoriously tight and high-energy. How do you think you are you able to accomplish that without the ‘benefit’ of polishing your act on the road 200 nights a year?
We try to make every show count. Since we don’t play out frequently, when we get the chance to get on stage, we really try hard to play as best as we can, and we try to appreciate and enjoy the experience. We practice the set list the week before before the show… and we try to save the heavy drinking for after the show. Also, we feed off of the audience’s energy. The fans feed us inspiration. It’s great to see them singing along for every song. We channel their energy, we jump around, but we also try to stay tight , and control the chaos.

As a local guy (who also happens to work in the counseling/social work field by day), I’ve long admired The Welch Boys commitment to supporting causes like the Pine Street Inn and the memory of your late drummer, Ron (Holbrook, for the readers’ benefit). Is it important to you guys, collectively, to stay socially conscious?
Yes. I think all band members recognize the responsibility to be Socially conscious. I think it is an admirable and unselfish to help those that are less fortunate than ourselves. The annual Pine Street Inn benefit is our way of doing this.
Regarding Ron, it is important for us to keep the memory of Ron alive. He was a founding member. He was PJ and my friend for ten years before the band. He fell into a dark place …. we tried to help him….It was tough to lose him. It is important to us to always have a presence in the band for Ron. He is still a part of everything we do. He’s in the jam room, and on stage with us.

While you don’t make your living on the road (the difficulty of which goes without saying in the 2013 music world), you’ve played a fair amount of higher-profile shows here in the New England area, opening for bands like Dead Kennedys and Swingin’ Utters. Any plans to take The Welch Boys and Bring Back The Fight on the road to the masses this summer/fall?
We are fortunate to be invited to play with some great bands. It’s a privilege to open for a band that has inspired us, and can also fill a room.
Regarding touring…I am not ruling anything out…. perhaps we can all synch up for a week and play a bunch of shows down the coast later this year. It’s not easy to do for us… because we don’t have much vacation time… but we did a week with the DK’s in February, and we had a blast. We will see. We have a cd release show planned for August 24th at the Middle East Club. There will surely be good things happening after that.

If you were to hit the road and it were up to you to put the bill together for a US or European tour (that started with at least a warm-up date in Boston), who would The Welch Boys most want to tour with?
We all like Cock Sparrer and Bonecrusher.. That would be two great bands… and, perhaps we could convince Lenny Lashley to reunite Darkbuster for this tour. I would also bring the Bluebloods and The Red Line Rebels… It’d be like the Warped tour…. only better.

Anything else you’d like Dying Scene readers to know? Any parting words?
Dying Scene is awesome…. Contrary to your name…you guys help to keep the scene alive. The Welch Boys are glad to have the opportunity to appear on your site. We are excited to release our third cd. We appreciate all the people that buy our cd’s , come out to see the band play, and support us.

Thanks again for taking the time. Best of luck with Bring Back The Fight. I’m not just saying this, but I think you’ve got a winner on your hands.

Thanks for the compliment. We are proud of the disc.

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