Since navigating their way into the hearts and minds of the British public, Brooklyn’s Augustines have found a second home here in the UK. Their collection of maritime tales, energetic, rocking live shows and phenomenal back story has certainly touched a nerve with those who sail with them.
I rocked up to the Exeter Phoenix, nothing untoward there, if however you’d have told me that the night would consist of the following....
· A local Teignmouth band
· A song about Shitzu’s
· Being plied with shots in the green room
· Wandering around Exeter in search of a late Sunday night drinking hole
....I’d have told you to ‘get the fu*k outta here’ in an Eddie Murphy style voice! How could a nice easy going, laid back Sunday evening contain all these things, well folks, you’ll have to buckle up and enjoy the ride!
I was SURE that these guys used to be called ‘We Are Augustines’ and once things settled down after the show, I was able to cosy up with this plucky trio in the green room, where, in-between mouthfuls of pie n’ mash and the obligatory ‘shot’, they spoke about their love of touring, what they learned from playing alongside other bands and what Rob Allen (drummer) had to sacrifice a few years ago when in the UK….
So, back to the gig in Exeter.
I bumped into a familiar face, it was a guy called Elliott who plays bass in a band called Tiny Folds, they’re from sunny Teignmouth and we had the fortune of catching them play at a couple of local festivals (for local people) earlier this year. They had just played at The Underbelly in Hoxton, it was their first headline show in London and they were chuffed when they managed to pull in an audience of around a hundred or so punters, which for London, isn’t a bad thing at all! They were only told about the Augustines support slot on Friday (nothing like flying by the seat of your pants), being the consummate professionals, they were ready!
From the off, they were injecting their blend of synth and heavy beats into the heads of this Sunday night audience. It was fun to se Elliott’s gangly frame dancing about like a loon, legs flailing all over the stage, made me chuckle anyway!
These guys deserve to be playing bigger venues and the auditorium at The Phoenix would have been a great stage to see how they would manage with a couple of hundred people staring back at them, they nailed it and looked really comfortable up there, bring on the arena tour!
A Sunday night audience can be a fickle thing, people not so eager to let their hair down, many would have done that on Friday and Saturday so getting them to join the sing-a-long party is a tougher task than usual. There was a little resistance at first but they soon found their groove and before long they were singing along to the killer chorus of ‘Mystery/Chemistry’, “No-one Knows How it Works but it Just Does”…. Absolutely brilliant track!
The best part of their set was easily when Elliott suggested that the whole room “get drunk like a team”, Jordan responded with “you can, I’ve got to work in the morning!” Priceless….
You can check out all of Tiny Folds’ music at their website for FREE, yes folks, it’s all there, just waiting to be downloaded and enjoyed by you and your friends, just do the band a favour and Like/Follow/Worship them on social media, you’ll be so glad you did!
Augustines are one of those bands who produce good honest, uplifting blue collar rock of the highest order. They comprise guitarist Billy McCarthy, multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson and drummer Rob Allen and unsurprisingly hail from Brooklyn New York. Their music doesn't really require much analysis, it’s a blend of rock songs that hint at artists like Springsteen and Bob Seger plus bands like the Hold Steady and Gaslight Anthem, but which is distinctive enough to be able to stand in its own right. The songs are often meticulously constructed anthems infused with the conviction that rock music has a social and communal purpose beyond just entertainment.
Highlights from their setlist included a track lifted from the critically acclaimed album ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’, “Juarez” is a song written about the Mexican town that exists on the southern border of the United States that’s been destroyed by rising levels of escalating violence created by local drug wars leaving mass unemployment due to closed businesses. "Cruel City" was sublime, with the enormous chants and sheer potent force destined to storm festivals across Europe this summer. "Weary Eyes" had a strong Springsteenesque quality to it, which is no bad thing as plenty of their material is cut from their unique styling. One of their longest tracks was "Walkabout", this is to Augustines what "First Night" was to the Hold Steady, It’s their big ‘hit it for six’ ballad and an excellent standout track which built and built until it reached it’s peak, a great vocal performance by McCarthy.
Billy’s voice switched from a gentle, passionate ballad into a primal, almost guttural roar in an instant, such feeling. Eric and Rob did a grand job of providing bass/keys and drums over which Billy laid into the set with his energetic and talented guitar playing.
Midway through the set, they were teasing the guitar tech (a very helpful guy called Alex) and were debating what type of dog he’d be (if he were a dog…), Billy decided he would be a Golden Retriever, Eric made the mistake of asking what he’d be, a member of the audience shouted out ‘a Shih tzu’ and from here. Billy launched into an impromptu song all about Shih tzu’s, highly amusing, leaving Eric feeling a little unloved and dejected but only until Billy said that Shih tzu’s were the dogs that guarded the king in China!
We heard about when they played at Benicassim festival in Spain this year, they were sat, soaking up the 42 degree heat when animated frontman Flavor Flav from Public Enemy glided into the VIP area on a Segway, very surreal, I hope for their sakes that he had a clock hanging around his neck and he shouted out “Say kids, what time is it” prior to silently zooming off on his 2 wheeled mode of transport! Billy went on to tell a story about a couple who spotted them at the festival and the (very drunk) wife ended up on a fairground ride with Eric, whilst the story unfolded, Eric just stood there and looked rather sheepish, I think he loved it really!
“Book of James’ was a tremendously lively track which ended with Billy on the floor, writhing about with his guitar. They left the stage for a freshen up prior to hitting it once again for the grand finale which consisted of “Chapel”, ‘Avenue” and the aforementioned “Cruel City” which closed the set on a high note with the near capacity Sunday night audience at the Exeter Phoenix.
I hung around afterwards, waited for the ‘Selfie posse’ to do their thing, afterwards, we decamped to the green room where the band sat and ate, did shots with visiting friends and members of the crew. Eric and I had a good chat about the band name and how they came to change it from ‘We Are Augustines’ to simply ‘Augustines’, we also talked about whether a particular country welcomes them more than others and also which bands had the biggest effect on them musically. To avoid having to type for England, I’m going to wrap up the interview in a special ‘Introducing’ feature which will be available to see soon. The 'Introducing' feature will also reveal what Rob the drummer had to sacrifice in Oxford!
After the show, Billy was eager to get out and hit the city, quite a tall order at 12:30am on a Monday morning, via a bit of searching and calling around, we established that The Old Firehouse was open and serving until 1:00am, we wasted no time at all and within 10 minutes, we were sat with a few other fans outside the pub, listening to Billy’s tales until the last orders bell rang. Alex (the guitar tech) was hanging around the bar, like a member of the Military Police looking for the 2 ship mates (Eric had stayed at the venue helping to pack up) that failed to make it back onboard! Slowly, they drank up and jumped in the bus that was to transport them to their hotel for the evening prior to hitting the road again the next morning.
We had a whale of a time and despite me not having a photographer onboard to capture the gig, the memories of the show will remain with me forever. I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future, until then, go out and buy their music and if you see them playing at a festival, make EVERY effort to get along and watch them, you’ll be glad you did!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Victor Ripplinger and Oak Ayling