bill bodkin interviews Paul “Jameson,” drummer for the white-hot Celtic tribute band The Fighting Jamesons, and the band’s lead singer Mike “Jameson” who’ll perform live tonight at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., and in New York this weekend …
Pop-Break: What was the inspiration to form The Fighting Jamesons, a traditional and non-traditional Celtic rock tribute band?
The Fighting Jamesons: Lots of us grew up with the music. Mike (guitar, banjo, vocals) visited Ireland and played in pubs with lots of great musicians and wanted to recreate that feel of here. Its always a good time.
Right now, with the current line-up, things are happening. We never thought it would get this far. Our grandparents would be proud.
PB: What is it about Celtic music that has inspired the members of the band to make it its life work?
FJs: The fun, musicality and energy. It’s tough to find all that with other types of music. Another really fun part of Irish music is listening to, so many interpretations of songs over the years, and to have our own. It really is some of the most honoring and inspiring music in the world today.
PB: How has the reception been to the band? It seems that you guys have garnered quite a following in a short period of time.
FJs: Yes we have. The reception has been unbelievable. We love going to the shows and seeing a diverse crowd loving the music, dancing and singing along. From older folks to little kids, and everyone in between. From to 8 to 80.
PB: Can you describe the music scene in your homestate Virginia for us? To be honest, it doesn’t seem like a hotbed for Celtic music. Then again, coming from a predominantly Irish-American region of the country, I might be biased.
FJs: We don’t really feel like we’re in the music scene, but the few that are playing Irish music, we do our best to support on many levels. We try to make it feel like one big Irish community, from the people who love the music to the people who play it. The regular music scene is not for us.
PB: What do you think it is about The Fighting Jamesons that has allowed you not only to become a successful band in Virginia, but allow you tour and perform in a legendary venue like the famed Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J.?
FJs: First, because the band spends a lot of time together. We are all are all like family. We include our families and each other in our everyday lives. We had the opportunity to open up for Dropkick Murphys in Richmond, Va., last year and that really opened up a lot of doors for us to tour around, and the response has been phenomenal.
PB: Are there some nerves going into a new part of the country (New York/New Jersey) to perform?
FJs: No, just an excited energy. When The Stone Pony invited us to play, it was probably the biggest thing to happen to the band. We are honored to play and things have been happening so fast, its been hard to sit back and enjoy the ride. But the last few months, we’ve really been able to take a step back and appreciate what is happening. Playing at The Stone Pony will forever be cherished by us.
PB: For those who’ve never seen a Fighting Jamesons show, what can they expect in terms of a setlist and performance?
FJs: We’ve been describing it as “100 years of Irish music.” We incorporate all the styles, from traditional sing-alongs to modern-day music. Its a living history of Irish music. No matter the size of the room, we make it feel like we’re at the pub. We love interacting with the crowd, making them laugh, but more importantly, making them drink. We supply drinks and good times.
PB: Are there any plans to record original songs?
FJs: Yes, we have an array of stuff written, but we are waiting ’till after St. Patty’s Day to record. Things are hectic, and we just want to give them the greatest Irish songs around this holiday.
PB: You’ve also recorded a number of live songs from your show at The National in Virginia. Any plans to release these tracks as a live album?
FJs: Yes. But we’re also recording various other shows and waiting to put them together. We like recording live cause it really captures the energy of the band.
PB: Who’s your favorite Irish band?
Mike: The Pogues and The Dubliners
Terry: Shane MacGowan and The Popes
Geo: The Pogues
Jeff: The Pogues
Jon: Thin Lizzy
Paul: The Young Dubliners
PB: John Jameson and Arthur Guinness are alive and are pitted in a classic Irish bare knuckle boxing match — who wins?
FJs: That’s a win-win situation. They should form an ultimate tag team — they do great things together. Come to the show and see how well they do in action.
PB: Who in The Fighting Jamesons can drink the most Jameson?
FJs: Come to the show and find out who will be “MVP.” We all train, but usually one member per show takes the cake. Hope to see you out there!