Band: Black Irish Texas, Glass War
Date: Friday, Aug. 4, 9 p.m.
Venue: Alchemy Tavern, 7 S. Joachim St., 251-441-7741
Tickets: Call for more information
The life span of a DIY band can be filled with unpredictable challenges that force members to contemplate why they initially embarked on their creative journey — sometimes leading to the band’s demise. But this has not been the case for Black Irish Texas. For 13 years, this eclectic group from Austin has been touring heavily while performing all the in-house duties of label, manager, publicist and booking agent.
When one considers the band’s longevity and its sizable nationwide fanbase, the hard work — complete with snags on the road — makes it all worthwhile. When Lagniappe made contact with Black Irish Texas, the group was facing its latest such challenge. As the band made its way across Virginia, it was dealing with the seemingly obligatory vehicle issues many touring bands face. However, frontman/guitarist James Fitzsimmons says the satisfaction of touring in support of the band’s unique sound and the love found on the road dampens any complications created by car trouble.
“We’re just a relentless group of dudes who love music,” Fitzsimmons said. “We might hate every minute of driving through Virginia, fixing a car, underpaid and underfed. That moment that you step on stage, it all goes away. The music is what we’re here for.”
In these days of music industry-generated labels, Black Irish Texas is successfully banking on its unique sound, which combines a wide array of musical influences including Celtic, classic country, folk and punk. However, this exceptional musical hybrid was not the original plan, Fitzsimmons says. In the band’s early days he was looking to start “a rock-steady band that focused on old soul music.”
Eventually, he discovered the trombone player of this project was just as proficient on the banjo. Fitzsimmons followed his love for Irish music, and Black Irish Texas began to take shape. As the band progressed, its sound evolved. Some band members had studied jazz in college, which shaped their sound. As they took to the road, Fitzsimmons said experiencing new bands that surprised or inspired them also affected their music.
These days, Fitzsimmons says he doesn’t know how to classify the band’s sound, which makes it all the more appealing. However, its Irish influences always seem to take a front seat when others describe the sound, which Fitzsimmons says has its benefits.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I think that it gets us some gigs with a great pull. I would say that I’m grateful for having Celtic influence, but we’re not stuck in anything. If people were hoping for us to stay super true to Celtic punk, then they’ve probably been disappointed over time.”
Black Irish Texas could not have picked a better town in which to nourish its sound than Austin. This epicenter for music in the Lone Star State boasts a glut of musical projects. Fitzsimmons says this “city full of musicians” created a competitive environment, which forced the members of Black Irish Texas to perfect their sound, musicianship and presentation. He also says Austin crowds mostly consist of fellow musicians at various levels, both artistically and professionally.
“Every time you play there, you’re being watched by a lot of talented musicians,” Fitzsimmons explained. “It keeps the bar high. I think it keeps people pushing to get better and more creative. Austin is a beautiful place for that.”
In recent weeks, Black Irish Texas got the chance to take its versatile sound through Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland. Muddy Roots Europe in Belgium served as the apex of this tour. With its reputation for bringing folk-based acts to the world, this festival served as the perfect venue for this DIY band. Fitzsimmons says their positive reception from the large crowds guarantee the band will return as soon as possible.
Azalea City fans will get a taste of what the Europeans loved about this band. When Black Irish Texas returns to Alchemy Tavern, it will bring the sounds of its latest album, “The Good, the Bad & the Indifferent.” For this album, the band employed the services of longtime studio collaborator Kurtis D. Machler and retreated to his Million Dollar Studio in Austin to lay down the tracks.
Fitzsimmons describes the new album as the most unique the band has created. This aspect is evident from the opening track, “G.B.U.,” an alt. rock tribute to the iconic sounds of the classic Western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” followed by a rollicking Western-influenced punk number called “Ain’t Gonna Last.” The rest of the album represents the band’s versatile music philosophy. Underground Irish ditties are matched with folk ballads and backwoods melodies, all delivered with a heavy measure of punk goodness.
“We open it up with some Spaghetti Western stuff and weird stuff,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s going further out there [musically] than the albums before it. It’s definitely the farthest out there stylistically that we’ve done, and it’s the best recording we’ve done by far. It shows where we’re going.”
While Black Irish Texas’ studio work showcases its tremendous sound, Fitzsimmons says the band’s greatest weapon is its live show. This aspect of Black Irish Texas is what made them a favorite with local crowds and a regular visitor to the Azalea City. Fitzsimmons asks listeners not to judge the band by the “single-angle, terrible-sounding” amateur videos found online.
To hear Fitzsimmons talk, the band’s electrifying live performance is almost a musical representation of its long days on the road and members’ desire to keep doing what they love best.
“We’re relentless, man,” Fitzsimmons said. “I don’t know that it’s even for some big push or waiting-for-success bullshit. We love this life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hopefully, one day, things will get more comfortable.”