How many bands can boast the fact that both frontmen have played bagpipes for royalty? Given the Millenium Pipes March in Edinburgh for Prince Charles' Marie Curie Cancer Fund, Barleyjuice, the group with a penchant for all that is "trad-rock" can, and are presently garnering affection and respect in the New World. Formed by Staten Islander Keith "Swanny" Swanson after a memorable stint with New York's now legendary Flailin' Shilaleghs, the 'Juice have brought traditional sounds a long way from their Ellis Island predecessors.
"Why wouldn't people love Barleyjuice?" muses frequent frontman Kyf Brewer, "We can dance with your daughter, mosh with your son, sing with your grandmother, and toast your dad under the table. And we're so handsome and humble your mum'll be cookin' for us by night's end.."
Humble, indeed. Within one performance, the individual members of the demonstrative sextet - Brewer, Swanny, Billy Dominick, Jimmy Carbomb, Eric Worthington and Greg Schroeder pilot a barrage of instruments encompassing guitar, mandolin, fiddle, accordion, bouzouki, tinwhistle, bass, drums, and pipes in addition to physical antics, gruff and tumble vocals, and instrumental jawdroppers, all for seemingly as much their own amusement as any audience member. The bagpipes close one set with a high energy two-piper duel. Brewer even executes a decent highland fling. This is a Concord across the pond for any zealot of the dog-eared celtic-classic songbook.
Their sound having once been described as "the Rolling Pogues", Barleyjuice is more inclined to dub themselves "a Lovely Little Drinking Band with a Serious Ceilidh Problem" - the word, "ceilidh", a gaelic term for "house party", fitting them as aptly as their kilts - suitable swatches of toggery that their rapidly widening fanbase has grown to expect, as well the subject of much curiosity and repartee along with knee-high hose, waist pouches called sporrans, and t-shirts bearing images of rockstars and beer. "People are endlessly fascinated with the age-old mystery of what's worn under the kilt," says Brewer, "so we play it up a bit. During the shows we've had women who'll just wander up and boldly look for themselves.." "I feel so cheap," quips Swanson, "at least they could buy me a drink first.."
So why do their accents seem to meander from Irish to Scottish to British cockney? Where are these guys from anyway? "We're all yanks," confesses Kyf. "That's just the sound of tongue in cheek. But we love this music - it's got such heart and wit that we can't help but mock it and rock it up."