Not many bands can claim a twelve-year career, but Wild Colonial Bhoys are living proof that raw talent, dedication and honesty can still reap dividends in a cynical music business. The lads who started as an Irish ballad-singing acoustic guitar duo have matured into a Celtic rock tour-de-force and now have over a decade, six albums and thousands of miles behind them.
It all started in 2003—the band would go on to take over the Minneapolis/St. Paul Irish music scene, expand to national recognition and play to thousands and thousands of “fhans”. After a few pints and a few jam sessions in the pubs belting out whiskey-soaked renditions of traditional Irish laments, WCB was formed.
“At the time, we were really just looking for a way to incorporate more of an Irish flavor into our existing rock music”, says frontman Adam Coolong. “We loved the tunes and the atmosphere and wanted to emphasize our cultural heritage but I never expected that we’d still be doing it after eleven years! It was one of those situations where things just clicked and we hit the ground running.”
The Bhoys’ first album Graffiti on the Wall (2004) was met with rave reviews by the Twin Cities Irish music community. The first run of a thousand discs was quickly sold out, and the show calendar began to fill up. Their plan was simple--gig constantly. This approach was to serve the Bhoys well, and would contribute to their musicality and tightness onstage. Over the past eleven years they have logged thousands of miles and have averaged over 200 shows a year.
Graffiti on the Wall was followed by Almost Live… Seven Second Delay in 2005.
Some of the Twin Cities’ best Irish traditional players (Sean Conway, John Wright, Todd Menton and Tom Dahill among others) helped the Bhoys record their first “full band” album, Irish In America (2007).
A sold-out CD release show led to more and more opportunities. Soon WCB was on the bills of some of the biggest Irish festivals in the country, including the Milwaukee Irish Fest, Irish Fair of Minnesota and the Iowa Irish Festival. 2009’s Live…What’s It To Ya?! captured the band’s fiery live shows, and led to their next big opportunity—a tour of Ireland. “We were approached by a local tour company and asked about leading a group on a trip to Ireland,” remembers Adam. “At first the only thing I was thinking about was how to word the letter we’d have to write to the five people who signed up, when we returned their checks. We’d have to apologize and explain that we didn’t get enough people to go.” How wrong he was. Seventy-five of the band’s faithful and devoted followers came along with WCB, seeing the sites by day and watching the Bhoys rock by night. “It really was an incredible trip, and now we’ve done three, with a fourth to come in November of 2015. I’m really glad we took that step!” Adam says with a smile.
2011 saw the release of Heads or Tails, a double album featuring both the “full band” sound and the acoustic duo treatment that started it all. As the Irish American Focus newspaper said, “there is no need for a coin flip on this one. Any way it comes up, Heads or Tails is a winner.” Paddyrock.com agreed, naming it #9 on their list of the Top 20 Celtic Punk and Rock CDs of 2011.
And now it's 2015... It's been four long years since their last album, and the Bhoys are finally ready to unleash their latest effort, On Our Own. "This is an album of upbeat fun tunes, and we're really excited for it" says bassist Andy Schuster. "We've had some lineup changes and a new focus, and this album will really showcase a new and confident WCB."
The Bhoys’ sound has been honed by these past twelve years of constant road work and recording, and they have really hit their stride. As Paddyrock.com explains, “take the Young Dubliners, The Elders, Carbon Leaf, Great Big Sea and put them in a blender... you’d have a Wild Colonial Bhoys smoothie!” Their sound is guitar-driven with a strong rock foundation, underpinned by Pete James Johnson on drums and Andy Schuster on bass. Tony Comeau’s fiddle work adds the Irish lilt, guitarist Danny Schwarze provides the grit, and Adam’s vocals provide the cherry to the WCB sundae.
What’s next for the Bhoys? “We are going to keep doing what we’re doing,” says fiddle player Tony Comeau. “On Our Own is out, we are doing more touring and playing more and more with our full band, and looking forward to Ireland in the fall. WCB is a grass-roots kind of organization. We do it all ourselves, from booking the gigs to designing the merch to driving the van. To do that successfully takes hard work, and that’s what we’re all about.”
And that’s what it IS all about. Bringing the music to the people, which is what Wild Colonial Bhoys will continue to do, playing the music they love to the people who love to hear it. Here’s to a great 2015!
Celtic Rock that Rocks!