The Killigans aren't an Irish band, they're a Lincoln band playing Irish-ish music. They fuse traditional irish-folk with some punk, some country, and a lot of fun! Mix in a little alcohol, and that's a recipe for a great show! I caught up with Chris and Brad to talk about the band.
SCS: Why don’t we start out by having you give us a brief history of The Killigans, and its birth out of the previous incarnation of the band, Settle For Less.
Chris: SFL had been around for a good 3-4 years....seen around 15 members or so, the ska craze had died down (actually before we even started the band in most of the US) but around Lincoln/Omaha it was starting to finally wind down for good. We have been playing in our current style around 9-10 months, current lineup played its first show on October 20th at Knickerbockers.
Jeff: I’m still the new guy in the band. Although I still have good memories of seeing those guys when they were playing ska-core at the Cog factory.
SCS: What made you make the change from what was kind of a ska-core band to being an Irish band, or rather not an Irish band, but a band playing Irish music? We don’t want people to mistake your for U2 or Thin Lizzy.
Chris: Yeah, its funny how often people come up to us and say "Hey which one of you guys is Irish?" "we're like "Um.....none of us......." Actually the 3 Nebesniak brothers are half Irish half Ukranian....a deadly combination when it comes to drinking...our mom's family hails from Sligo, Ireland and immigrated to the US in the 1850s or so. Our dads from the Ukraine in the 1950s. So piss off. This of course has nothing to do with our music....if you've heard it, its not totally or completely Irish....or Ikranian, ha ha. Back to the point....basically our "ska-core" music was heavily influenced by bands such as Link80/Slapstick and bands like Rise Against or Strike Anywhere (at least towards the end anyways)....A couple years back when Flogging Molly blew onto the scene our bass player at the time really got us into them and a band from Chicago called The Tossers. We took these bands to heart and wrote a couple Irishy sounding songs based on horns. We still play them. We actually did end up playing with The Tossers back at The Cog..funny...anyways....our trombone player had to leave to Chicago and left us scrambling to fill in spots in the band to keep it going....later Brad left to San Diego for a year, and kind of killed everything. He came back, we kicked some people out, and here we are today....
Brad: By the time I moved to California, I was starting to get sick of the ska/punk scene in general. Most of the bands that I had listened to for years and who had inspired me the most were either broken up or had totally changed their style (for the worse) in the face of the pop punk/indy craze that was sweeping the country. Living in San Diego, the epicenter of all of this (where three out of five kids you talked to claimed to be best friends with Blink 182) only solidified feelings. I started hanging out at this irish pub in Carlsbad called Tom Giblin's. Every wednesday and Saturday night the owner and his son played traditional irish music on a little stage in the front. This really caught my interest, as I was already a big fan of Flogging Molly. I had always stayed in good touch with Chris, and he and I
started writing music together again. Only this time we were separated by a couple of time zones. It was really high tech: Chris came up with a guitar line, recorded it to a cd, mailed the cd to me, and I wrote a song to fit it. That's basically how the song Nardo was written. Eventually I decided that moving back to Nebraska was the right thing to do and it was kind of nice that I had a ready made band waiting for me when I got back. I got here, Chris fired some people, and here we are.
Jeff: I think Chris and Brad just wanted to get in touch with their softer side. They’re getting older, losing some hair. “Rocking Out”, as the kids say, isn’t too easy when you’re bald.
SCS: How would you describe a Killigans show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?
Brad: I don't really want people to expect much of anything when they come see us play. If people have low expectations they won't be as dissapointed when (not if) we screw up. We pretty much just want people to have a good time, drink some beer with us, and get rowdy. The wilder and louder the crowd is, the better. Oh yeah, and if they want to buy drinks for us, or our merchandise, that would be nice to. I like Newcastle. Trevor likes Vodka pumped through a tube directly into his vein. Chris likes anything with an umbrella and a slice of fruit as a garnish. Preferably some sort of melon.
Chris: Trevor drinking vodka...Brad drinking newcastle...Pat and me drinking stout, Ben drinking Old Style or PBR, and the other guys drinking whatever the hell they can find. We try to play some music too. No, actually we havent got to drink a whole lot at our shows yet. I'm still pretty concerned with showing up to work the next morning sober, so it kind of kills me wanting to get piss drunk on stage the night before. If we play a Friday or Saturday night though...look out. We try to pull the crowd into the songs a lot. So far it hasnt worked. We are still new, I keep telling myself. They will catch on. We'll see. Yeah....we try to lay down this really driving beat that makes you want to just tap your foot or pound it. Raise a glass to the sky, and yell real loud. Thats what we try to do. I even caught myself onetime pounding on my guitar to the beat.....then it cracked.
Jeff: I don’t know what this “not drinking a lot” business is about. I pack away my Rolling Rocks rather nicely. Usually it’s me throwing myself around stage, lots of raised glasses and gang vocals.
SCS: At the Zoo show that Suzy Dreamer played with you guys, I noticed some guy in the back yelling, faux-jigging, and raising his glass in the air, he was really getting into it, but then the bouncer threw him out cause he could barely stand without help, i guess that's a start. So you mentioned Flogging Molly, what types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members, and especially in the directon you’re taking with The Killigans?
Chris: For me obviously...Pogues, Tossers....As well as the old ones like SocialD, Mike Ness, and some classic country (Hank Sr. Cash....etc.) When you attempt to write this kind of music you also need some good old folk music.....also a big favorite of some of the band is the Dubliners from the '60's.
Brad: I grew up listening to country, thanks to my parents who still have an 8 track player. But not the crap that's on the radio now. I like Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard. I'm not into that Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy garbage by Big N' Tasty or whoever the hell that is. Like Chris said, we're not a strictly Irish band, so once in a while I throw in a little bit of a country-western feel.
Jeff: Personally I cut my teeth with guitar on stuff like the Ramones and The Clash, and I try to bring that to the table. The Replacements have been a recent favorite too…just trying to incorporate some basic rock with some of the folk elements that the other guys bring to practice.
SCS: Where did the band's name come from? I know Ben said he wanted it to be The Kill Agains, but were you just looking for something Irish sounding?
Chris: No, I just thought "The Kill Agains" looked wrong for us. The fact that it sounded and looked remarkably similar to "Killians Irish Red" was just a bonus. We definately weren't going for something necessarily "Irish" sounding, but something that had a little of that feel.
Jeff: I wanted us to be called something else, but it’s such an awesome name I really can’t talk about it here.
SCS: How have you grown, musically and creatively, since the band first started?
Brad: Well, I used to be able to sing when we first started. And wasn't hard of hearing. And I didn't drink as much. So, I guess I haven't so much grown as destroyed my body beyond repair.
Chris: I've grown out at the waistline. Most of my pants dont fit anymore. I've started wearing sweatpants to shows.
Jeff: When you’re working with traditional songs, there is a totally different style, new time signatures, etc…I think I’ve picked up some of that. Being in a band with so many instruments also was a complete change for me, everything else I’ve done was really guitar-oriented. You have to learn to play not what just sounds good to you, but what will fit when everyone – fiddle, accordion, etc, - comes together.
SCS: Tell me about it. Who'd have thought there could be a downside to the free or cheap drinks you get by being in a band? So who writes the songs, and how does the band work them out?
Brad: Chris and I write all of the songs. I am a terrible guitar player. That's not just being modest or self-depricating either. I suck ass at guitar. So usually Chris comes up with the guitar parts and I write lyrics and a melody to that. Most of the time I change Chris' guitar part a little to make it fit my melody because it sounds better, and he throws a big fit and tells me that I ruined it, or that my melody sucks or that I've "de-irished the irish song". But we've been doing this long enough to work together well. It's give and take and in the end, the songs are better for it.
Chris: Usually, I write the music, and Brad writes the lyrics to fit. Then I tell the band what the hell they are supposed to do. If they dont do it, I kick them out, or make comments that will make them want to quit (laughs). No....thats about right, sometimes I write lyrics and music, sometimes brad writes music. He sucks worse at guitar than me though, so most his songs are pretty lame. I try to be nice to him about it, but damn....he sucks at guitar. Really though, most our effort is spent on lyrics, which is unfortunate because we have no music out for people to hear them. its hard to pick it up at a show, but he writes some really good stuff as far as I'm concerned. Hes a good kid, but sometimes he gets a bad rap. All of our teachers in high school hated him.
SCS: When and where was your first local show, and how did it go?
Chris: With current lineup....at Knickerbockers back in October....I think it went real good. SFLs first show...The superbowl in GI for a battle of the bands. We won. We sucked very bad. I think I had been playing guitar for a year, and our bass player a month. Our drummer had a JC penny drum set....I played on a Hondo guitar Brad bought for like 45 dollars. We played all covers. Woo.
Jeff: Our first show with this lineup at Knickerbockers was a bit sloppy, but the crowd got into it and I had a ton of fun.
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Jeff: Out of the few shows we’ve done, probably my amp blowing out at the Zoo. Basically every guitarist’s worst nightmare.
Chris: Probably Day Old Brutus's CD release up in Sioux City....It was at the VFW hall, we played on the floor even with the crowd. They loved us up there, we had around 150 kids crammed in this tiny room, and rocked the shit out of them. People were crazy the whole show. It got so hot in there that there was this haze in the room choking us all. It was a pretty awesome feeling. You didnt see that much around here back then. We played our funnest shows with DOB. We loved those guys. Loved em. That was like 3 years ago dude.
SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Chris: I personally dislike playing for kids. I hate em. no...no I dont. Our guitar and fiddle players are kids for God's sake. I really like the support I see here in Lincoln. It's all about the brotherhood.
Jeff: I really like the sense of community, it’s small but with a really loyal fanbase. I used to live/gig up in Omaha, and not to downtalk the scene, but once it grows to a certain size it gets really impersonal. Keeping it smaller means you see the same faces at shows, makes you feel at home at any venue. I love the variety of good bands too…Good With Guns, Ideal Cleaners, Sad Old Lady…they are all pretty different, but just great at what they do. I don’t like the lack of a dedicated all-ages venue, but I don’t know if there is enough interest to support it as things stand now. Knickerbocker’s does a good job of making sure the kids still have shows and a scene to call their own.
SCS: Have you learned anything in your experiences in a band that you feel newer local bands could learn from, or made any mistakes they should avoid?
Chris: I havent learned anything.
Jeff: If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.
Brad: Don't play music for anybody but yourself. That seems like kind of a popular thing for people to say, but I don't think people always really do it. For me, I'm in this band because making music with my friends is one of my favorite things to do. The only original members still in this band are Pat, Chris, and myself. The day that either of those guys says that they're done, that's the day I quit too.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Chris: Got to give a shout to Westside Proletariat...longtime friends of ours. Tony Robertson from the Darlings blows me away everytime I see them play. That guy is freaking awesome....he's the best stage presence, the best sideburns and is one of the nicest guys Ive met. The rest of the bands pretty damn good too.
SCS: Yeah I remember being blown out of the water the first time I saw The Darlings down at Bob's Tavern, they kicked ass!
Chris: I like Chris' answer to this question, but I'd also like to add a traditional Irish band in the area called Ellis Island. They're really talented guys and put on an awesome show.
Jeff: I still geek out any time I see the Ideal Cleaners. The guitarist for the Guapotones just shredded the last time I saw him play, fun as hell to watch, too.
SCS: Do you guys have a favorite local band to play with?
Chris: We havent really played with the same band twice, so thats tough.
SCS: Was there one defining moment which led you to a life of rock and roll?
Jeff: Probably when I first started getting into punk rock when I was 13 or 14…those years aren’t an easy time for the fat kid, and I found something that really made me feel passionate and gave me a voice. So, probably the first time I watched Star Wars.
SCS: What's your take on the current state of modern rock music?
Chris: I really cant get into the current rock scene. Im pretty lazy...I think if I really tried, I would like the bands that everyone says are real good.
Jeff: Hah, most radio music is mostly fluff entertainment and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. There is some really exciting stuff going on in the underground, but sometimes it seems like it has been co-opted. When you have bands that spend more time combing their hair into that “messy” look than practicing, you know you are in trouble.
SCS: If you could tour with any band in history, who would be your dream band to tour with?
Jeff: The Clash, hands down. No huge drug issues, and Joe Strummer would just be an awesome guy to meet.
SCS: Well, maybe not so much anymore. If I’m not mistaken, you guys are working on a CD, who’s recording it and where is it being done?
Chris: Its just a 4 song promo EP done with Calvin at Heart Throb Studios. We did it in one day. Im pretty proud of that considering it sounds pretty damn good for a one day recording session.
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Jeff: I bought Green Day’s “Dookie” on tape.
Chris: I think it was some RHCPs cd. Dont remember.
Brad: Well, I didn't even get a cd player until like 1997, but I think it was either Mathew Sweet or Weezer or the Offspring. I can't remember.
SCS: The most recent?
Chris: It's been awhile...maybe the latest antiflag album. I'm lame.
Jeff: The Architect’s “Keys To The Building”, the guys from the Gadjit’s new band. Doesn’t hold a candle to them live though
Brad: Um, I don't really buy cd's, but I stole the new Green Day cd from a friend of mine. It's pretty good.
SCS: What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Brad: There's a band out of Boulder called New Comer's Home. They're my wife's favorite band. They're really good.
Jeff: Shit, I get to name drop my ass off here. The Kinison is a great band, kind of like a more rock version of Hot Hot Heat. Verbena is completely underrated. Motel Blonde is the new band from guys in the GC5 and an old Dropkick Murphys drummer.
SCS: What are your top records of all time?
Chris: albums I still listen too and havent thrown away from being sick of:
Social D - Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell
Rancids - Out Come The Wolves
NOFX - Decline
Flogging Molly - Swagger.....and.....
Home, by The Dixie Chicks! Thought Id throw that one in there for good measure.
Brad: Oh man, um, this is gonna show just what a dork I am.
NOFX - Punk In Drublic
Flogging Molly - Swagger
Jack johnson - Bruchfire Fairytails
Voodoo Glow Skulls - Band Geek Mafia
Jerry Reed - Greatest hits
The Clash – London Calling
Nirvana – Nevermind
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
The Ramones – S/T
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Streetcore
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Chris: A full lenth...more shows.... more drunkeness....more songs...longer sideburns...less hair.
Jeff: St Patrick’s Day at Knickerbockers will be a night of drunken debauchery. We’re going to be tighter as a band, and hopefully have a full new set of songs written fairly soon.
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Chris: The reason Brad wears the hat, is because he is going bald....Patty wears it because he looks badass. He is not going bald. He has great hair.
Brad: I really want to get Pat in a fight with sombody. Other than that, Chris and his wife are having a baby and I'm hoping that if it's a boy they'll name it after me. If it's a girl...I like Cheetara. Oh yeah, and a full length cd.
Chris: I almost forgot.....this might be a little confusing but I need to acknowledge some other people that were very important in shaping this band. I have to give a lot of credit to our old bass player and good friend Brant Vanboening for helping us be where we are right now. He sparked our interest in the music, and made me want to pursue more of the folk edge we have. It was me and him that originally decided to scrap the old stuff and start anew. We had tried to do it with our current drummer lilttle Brad (brants brother), but things didnt quite work out that way, so we hired ben, and pissed of Brad. Hes slowly getting over it. Joy Hansen (original fiddle player) and Elliott Wegner (science ninja team) were also original members of the Killigans, and helped us get moving. We worked hard with these guys, but some drama happened and kind of broke us up for awhile...some desicions were made that didnt quite sit too well with them so they left. .we all wish them the best and loved being in the band with them, but we (or I) did what I thought was necessary to keep this thing moving forward...So yeah, Brant, brad elliott and joy...thanks for the good times!
Jeff: Be very wary of anyone who owns more than one white belt.
SCS: Cool. Thanks so much for letting us know what's going on with you guys. You can catch The Killigans on Feb ??th at ??? on February ???th at ???, and of course on St Patty's day at Knickerbockers. Check out their website at The Killigans
- Tery Daly