As the band recover from an emotional and energetic set at Kendal Calling, Augustines frontman Billy McCarthy talks about their humanitarian work and gets us ready for their Leeds Festival appearance.
Your first album dealt with issues around mental health and prisons, are they areas you are involved with outside of your music?
Thanks for asking. To be honest for personal reasons I have taken a step back this album. Our band worked with and supported the ACLU, Project Paz, Prison Voices and Amnesty International throughout the last record. And to remain present I truly needed a break due to these themes having great personal weight and a lot to do with my families struggles. It frankly hurt at times to speak out about these topics but we did anyway and felt after the completion of our sophomore release, we needed to make the album solely about the record and our live show which has always been our passion. I feel we handled the topics gracefully.
Do you ever have reservations about sharing such personal issues through your music?
Absolutely but if you were on our side of it, seeing the good it has done for people beginning a dialogue about their struggle, or the comfort they’ve felt through music, it certainly was worth the discomfort of our own tribulations. And as I said before, we always have expressed we are not tragic people, we are positive people that went through some hard times and chose music to stand back up again.
You are noted for the emotional intensity of your performances and crowd interaction – you must win over a lot of new fans at festivals?
That’s a lot of our message. We would not exist without our fans. We will never stand there and be fawned over or fussed about and go through the motions. We are interested
We are not tragic people, we are positive people that went through some hard times and chose music to stand back up again
in celebrating being alive and getting rid of the pedestal that pop culture erects for artists. Don’t get me wrong, the world needs their pop stars, but we are far more similar to the people that get in their car, queue for a show, have a beer with friends and enjoy music. And we know the economy isn’t great, and venues can be far away and pricey, and also that there are a multitude of bands to go see in the world. If you go see us, you will be made to feel welcome, valued and that you got and honest show. That’s our commitment to this. It’s a dance at the end of the day, no fans, no band.
How has bringing English musician, Al Hardiman, into the band influenced you as an American band?
Al represents a lot of what Europe and Britain have to offer the world. Wit, humor, eloquence and talent. We Americans admire you greatly. Al Hardiman is all of those things as Rob Allen (our British drummer) is as well. I’m sure you can imagine the humor that goes on. I’m particularly teased for my quest for English mustard everywhere we go, Rob likes funny 80’s movies like Top Gun. See inter cultural relations through music!! Ha!
The track Walkabout is about travel and returning home, how have these themes influenced your music as a whole?
I think there are combinations throughout the history of music that ring true. Uilleann pipes and green hills, accordions and cobblestone, marimbas and islands and saxaphone and city landscapes. Rock and roll, folk, country and blues rhythms get in your bones. They shuffle and charge ahead, sad or happy, lost or found. This kind of music is all about travelling, the great walkabout of our life’s arc and journey.
Isn’t that one of the things that we all love about it? Isn’t that what happens when we are stuck in rush hour traffic? We turn the radio up let our eyes drift off and let it take us away out of our lives a little and dream.