Street Dogs, who perform tonight at the House of Blues, are as Boston as the Red Sox, clam chowdah and irritating accents. The band was started by former Dropkick Murphys singer Mike McColgan, who left his former Celt-punk band to be a Boston firefighter but eventually decided to return to music.
It may come as a surprise, then, that two members hail from Texas, including one from North Texas. Guitar duties are handled by Tobe Bean III of Houston and Marcus Hollar of Pilot Point, a town of about 4,000 northeast of Denton. Hollar, a fan of the band, sent a demo CD which so impressed the guys that they decided to let him audition.
I wrote a profile of Hollar for his hometown paper, the Pilot Point Post-Signal, right before he moved to Boston (he has since moved back). Some five years later, his enthusiasm doesn't seem to have waned at all.
The band really seemed to expand its sound from straightforward punk to include classic rock and Celtic music influences on State of Grace. What led you guys to do so? Did moving to a new label [Hellcat] have anything to do with it?
I think we expanded our sound because we didn't want to corner ourselves into one thing. It's very easy for bands to stick to what they do and always play the same kind of music. With this new release, we wanted to keep our punk influences that we've always known and love and at the same time develop a new sound. What we came up with is what you hear on "State of Grace." We found a new home at Hellcat Records and we didn't want to hand them just another punk record, so in a way, moving to a new label had something to do with it.
The album seems to be really well-received by critics, but have you caught any flak from fans for changing up the sound? Was that a concern when you were making it?
I remember when we started working on State of Grace, reading online the fans comments and concerns. A lot of them were anxious and skeptical at the same time. Since the release of the record, I haven't heard any one of our fans cry in disappointment. It has been well received everywhere we've played so far.
What was your favorite moment on the Warped Tour? Least favorite?
My favorite moment on Warped Tour was when we played in Boston. Even though it rained and delayed us from playing, when it stopped, all of the kids came back and there was just a certain aroma in the air for a great show. Our bass player Johnny Rioux even threw out his bass guitar for some lucky fan as a souvenir. My least favorite moments were the drives and since the tour is routed for buses, it made it hard for us because we drove ourselves.
What kind of impact did playing in front of so many new listeners have? Have you seen a spike in merch and ticket sales since then?
It's always good to play festivals like that because you play in front of people who wouldn't normally be into you or listen to a certain type of music. I think we converted a lot of new faces out there which I know we are anxious to see back on this headlining tour. We just went out there and did what we do and people seem to enjoy it and have a good time.
McColgan's lyrics frequently address social justice issues and politics. Are you guys all on the same page politically, or do you sometimes debate and challenge each other's views?
We are all on the same page when it comes to politics. There's always a lot of talk about that stuff when we are driving down the road. Sometimes there will be consultations but for the most part we are all reading and taking notes from the same book.
How has the adjustment been moving from Texas to Boston? What are some of the biggest differences between the DFW and Boston?
Well the band was started in Boston, Go RED SOX!!! I have lived in Texas my whole life and moved up there when I joined the band. Shortly after we finished work on or second record, I moved back. What I brought back with me was a significant mentality that nowhere else had to offer. There's a certain camaraderie in Boston that I could never find in Dallas. I remember when I moved there, it was the first time I had ever seen a subway system and I was infatuated with riding that damn train everywhere.
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Do you have any solo projects going on or planned?
Actually, our bass player Johnny Rioux and I started a bluegrass/country side project band with our old stage manager Chris Ross. We call ourselves The Compound Family, and with good reasoning behind the name, it fits us perfectly.
Marcus, what are some of the bands you played with when you were in the Dallas-area music scene, and what are some of the clubs you played?
Wow, just call me out here and now. The first band I was ever a part of, I helped start with my cousin. Based out of Denton, TX and influenced by a Canadian Thrash/Punk band we called ourselves The Classics. We were around for about five years and played a couple Fry Street Fairs, back when it was in Denton, and then pretty much Deep Ellum became my new home. We played the clubs that allowed punk music, places like Red Blood Club, Theater Gallery, Spider Babies, Curtain Club and a few others that were only around for a handful of days. After The Classics split up, a friend of mine from The Visitors called me up and asked if I wanted to come play with them. I was only in that band for about five months before they decided to split up. Nonetheless, it was good experience for me and it helped me get to where I'm at today.--Jesse Hughey