Upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of modern Irish Folk, Punk and Psychobilly which makes 1916’s sound both highly original and at the same time traditional! A band that truly stands apart from other bands in the Celtic-Punk genre.
Our man Raymond Lloyd Ball caught up with lead singer and songwriter Bill Herring to talk about the band’s origins and their highly rated latest album Revolutions.
So here’s the story. 1916 is a band from Rochester, NY, about 45 minutes from where I am in Buffalo. We’ll touch on it, but this region of New York State was a place where, in the 1850s-1860s many Irish immigrants made their way from New York City or Boston. Obviously, the name “1916” needs no explanation. I was able to get an interview with Bill Herring, singer and guitarist in the band about the latest album “Revolutions” and the general gist of the scene as is.
Ray: First of all, we get the prominence of the name 1916, but what in the community in Rochester gave you guys both the incentive and the ability to put together the group and really make it work?
Bill: Well the “working” of 1916 is always something I consider to be a work in progress. Always evolving, changing with the times.
The name came about as a result of a healthy respect for Irish history and as a desire to get Americans interested in their own shared past. When we first started the group there were many many people who had no idea what “1916” stood for or what the significance of the name was. We always try to respect that history in our songs whenever we can-with undertones of revolution and forging your own path throughout the vibe of the music. That being said we do try to have some fun with it as well, with a songs like Ordinary Man and Khaleesi.
Ray: Awesome answer, I’m AOH Myself.
Bill: As am I…
Ray: So, given that history, how do you feel it’s important to incorporate modern music in a way that’s different then the traditional sessions you here at every other pub? I know you incorporate modern instrumentation while still harkening to topics that are either old in premise, modern, or similar (I’m thinking of a man you don’t meet everyday) and make it fresh?
Ray: Lastly, in terms of Revolutions, that came out just at the end of last year if I’m not mistaken. How on earth did you cut a record, and a good one at that, during the pandemic? How how did that effect the process 1916 has either writing or recording? Obviously “When We Reopen” is directly about it, but did anything else about the pandemic change the record?
Ray: That said, “Revolutions” is a solid record. I’ve been listening to it on and off for some time now. It’s got the classic 1916 vibe, upright bass, classic (though I’m definitely biased) Gretsch guitars, and a handful of traditional instruments with a solid kit. Is it reinventing the wheel? No. And better for it. We’ve all come a long way since The Pogues and earlier, more brash bagpipes-over-Minor Threat-style Celtic Punk. And there have been a number of bigger and smaller acts that have definitely left their mark upon the scene. They take some rockabilly, some punk, and a lot of Celt to make a fine Irish/American blend. Cheers to the guy from down the I-90.
Thanks to Raymond Lloyd Ball. He has already featured on these pages as the driving force behind The Fighting 69th from Buffalo. The review of his 2-volume set of Dropkick Murphys covers was one of the most viewed of that year. One of the most prolific and diverse artists in the Celtic-Punk scene we are proud to have Raymond on board the London Celtic Punks team. Writer, artist, musician he is a credit to the American-Irish community and you can find a wealth of his material available at his Bandcamp site.
During the lockdown 1916 played several full concert live streams, as well as some great solo performances from Bill himself. Here’s just under two hours of 1916 from this years St. Patrick’s Day live stream performance. I can barely remember it through a fog of stouts and ales though I know I must have woke the neighbours! The music starts at nineteen minutes.