Street Dogs Interview
House of Blues
Anaheim, CA March 14, 2014
“Some people say punk rock has died away, I don’t believe a word they say. Sing for tomorrow, sing for today. We all need a little punk rock and roll!” –Street Dogs
Four years after leaving Dropkick Murphy’s to become a firefighter in 2002 Mike McColgan formed Street Dogs. The band’s debut album Savin Hill released the following year and quickly gained momentum giving the band a dedicated fan base in their hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Over the next few years the Street dogs continued to increase their following by producing a steady discography full of dense lyrics, and Irish working class spirit. Several world tours later, Street Dog’s most recent EP entitled Rust Belt Nation continues the trend and prompted a scattered array of shows across the United States. Soundcheck411 writer, Eric Walden caught up with members of Street Dogs after a packed show at House of Blues Anaheim to talk about tour stories, the band’s driving force, their history, side projects, and Street Dog’s goals for the future. Full interview transcripts below:
Mike McColgan – Lead Vocals
Johnny Rioux – Bass / Backup Vocals
Matt Pruitt – Lead Guitar
Eric Walden – Soundcheck411 Writer
Eric Walden: What’s it like to have Devils Brigade fronted by Matt Freeman of Rancid open tonight’s show?
Matt: It’s an honor to be able to play alongside guys like that. They played so well, it’s just an honor. They laid such a foundation of great music
Matt: I would hope so, if I have them one of these days.
Eric: Would you guys let them crowd surf like the little kid with the green mohawk?
Mike: That was an amazing moment. You can’t script stuff like that. That’s Johnny on the spot. It is just something that you have to make happen and deal with after the heat of the moment. Kids like that, are the future of this music. He threw down pretty much like no other tonight I would say.
Matt: It trips me out to see a kid that age having such a great time and being raised on this music.
Mike: Sometimes we really take for granted what this music really means to people young and old alike so when we play live they all come together.
Eric: Tonight’s show was in Downtown Disney, since you are so close to Disneyland what is your favorite ride and why?
Mike: I’m a huge fan of roller coasters, so all of them.
Matt: Roger Rabbit’s Crazy Adventure or whatever it’s called.
Eric: Oh Cartoon Spin, I always try to hit that up when I come by.
Johnny: I took my kids here once or twice, but I have never actually been on all the rides.
Eric: What about Disney World?
Matt: In Florida?
Eric: Ya. You guys go all around the world doing shows, do you like that one better?
Matt: I haven’t really been to that one.
Eric: Well what do you guys like to do on your days off?
Johnny: If we have a day off, well… We play bars and clubs every night so usually what you want to do on a day off is stay quiet. Like go see a movie, have a nice sit down dinner; it’s really laid back. We don’t usually do anything too exciting.
Matt: Its younger here I think.
Johnny: The cool thing about California in general is it seems like there are all these new generations picking up on the music. In a lot of other places in the country it feels like punk is becoming a lost art form. That’s cool too, but it just means another generation is just going to pick it up as a cool thing again.
Eric: By “lost art form” do you mean like MTV isn’t playing it… or what exactly? I see punk rock as being stronger than ever now that there are shows and places all over, even up-and-coming bands. I think people are supporting more than ever.
Mike: From a live touring standpoint it’s still alive and kicking, but it’s certainly not a hot commodity or genre right now. It’s just not in the mainstream or anything. I suppose with all that considered it’s better now.
Johnny: If you’re a punk band now you’re doing it because you love it. You’re not doing it because you want to have a hit record, or be on MTV. When Rancid was on MTV you would see a lot of people with Mohawks because it was the next big thing that came up. Those same people with the Mohawks that were doing it for all the wrong reasons were doing whatever the next cool thing was.
Eric: Would you guys rather have one dedicated fan, or 100,000 undedicated fans?
Mike: The one dedicated fan for sure.
Johnny: You can’t do it if there is no heart and soul. It has to be genuine because we can’t fake it.
Eric: A lot of bands, not necessarily punk bands but rock bands in general, are doing acoustic tours. Would Street Dogs ever do an acoustic tour?
Johnny: I don’t know if we would do a full acoustic tour especially if it is the full band, but on tour we’ve always just played a few shows where we’ll do the acoustic thing. We have always been able to do it and mix it into our set anyway. We did the FM359 project and that was acoustic. We have done a couple of shows like that.
Eric: Are there any future plans for the FM359 Project?
Johnny: Yes. I think we are going to record some more but we don’t have any show or tour plans at the moment.
Eric: Johnny you produced that album right?
And for a while you were the Guitar tech for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones right?
Eric: Has that affected the way you treat your team on tour?
Johnny: For sure, absolutely. Joe Gittman taught me a lot about playing, but he also taught me a lot about attention to detail with the band. Both Joe and Dickey of the Bosstones were pretty big on saying “we” a lot. If it was a good show he would say “we had a good show” and everybody on the team helped with that.
Eric: Some metal bands give their tour crew special custom picks. Lamb of God for example gives their crew special custom crew picks to throw off stage so they can feel more involved. Would Street Dogs do anything like that?
Johnny: Probably not. It just seems like a waste of money for where we are at. Our team would be more stoked on getting $100 rather than spending it on picks.
Johnny: Ya, I was the Guitar tech, Tour manager, and worked all over the management end of things for them.
Eric: How has that affected how Street Dogs tours today? Has it changed the way you set schedules or…
Johnny: Not really. With Dropkick Murphys it was always a kind of machine. We are a machine to some degree but I think we are more laid back. We don’t stress small things as much. There is an attention to detail for sure, but there are a lot of cogs in the wheel in the Dropkick Murphys machine, and I can’t believe the magnitude it grew.
Mike: There is a lot of history there. There are a lot of deep rooted friendships, and a lot of stories.
Johnny: Mike and I have never taken the business side of Street Dogs as seriously to our betterment or detriment. It’s a really great, but at the end of the day chasing stuff down at a show from the business prospective can do a lot to rattle your psyche.
Eric: Johnny how do you stay away from things like that on your side project Cowboi?
Johnny: I loved Oi songs, and I loved country and rockabilly. These two very working class genres were put together just for fun. I made a couple of songs just messing around in the studio, and I sent them to a couple people. I sent a track to Al from Dropkick Murphy’, and Matt Freeman. The feedback I was getting was, keep recording those tunes, they’re cool” and I kept doing it. It was all fun.
Eric: Do you guys have any “worst hotel” stories?
Johnny: Mike tell the story when the guy refused to give us keys to our hotel room. He said the promoter had already picked them up, but it was another band.
Mike: Was that Europe?
Johnny: Ya it was Europe.
Mike: Wasn’t it that Scandinavian band?
Johnny: No, it was a band that wasn’t even on our show. This was on the last tour
Mike: Ya, we weren’t having any of that. I remember we were all pretty tired and salty.
Johnny: They don’t have air conditioning in Europe either so it was a hot and sweaty night too.
Eric: What bands influenced you the most while growing up?
Johnny: The Clash.
Johnny: U2 is a big one especially for Mike.
Mike: Tons of times.
Eric: Has U2’s stage presence and antics influenced Street Dogs in any way?
Mike: Me personally, to some extent I’ve always liked how they always strive to try and be intimate at their shows. They are arguably the biggest band on the face of the earth so it is difficult when you are playing in front of 60,000 people. If you do a big tour like that, and you are playing sold out arenas you can feel really detached from the crowd. I think they have always strived to make that connection with their fans, and I felt that when I’ve gone to their shows. On some level weather conscious or unconscious I always try to make a connection with people who come to see us. There’s really nothing more important that and that’s why we do it.
Eric: How does Street Dogs formulate the dense writing process of your songs?
Mike: Johnny is the primary force on setting up lyrics and things like that. We also try to make sure all the records are represented. We want to have a dense and diverse discography.
Eric: What causes influenced Street dogs the most?
Johnny: Labor causes are the chief.
Mike: I think things like Unisef are cool when they are trying to feed impoverished people and attempt to give them the means to be self-sufficient. Causes like that are commendable because they help people get out of poverty. It’s all about doing the right thing for the right reason. That has always been the right thing to do in our eyes.
Johnny: We’ve done a lot for Wounded Warriors as well.
Eric: Mike, how has your experience in the school choir effected the way you sing now?
Mike: Your really did your research.
Mike: I went to Catholic school so we didn’t have much of a choice. I sang pretty high, and I was really just worried about what my friends would think.
Johnny: They busted his butt about it.
Mike: They still do. It gave me the idea, “Oh, I guess I can sing” and carried that with me for a while. Then when I got my life together, and got out of a rut by putting my troubles behind me I took things a little simpler. It gave me the courage to be out there in front of the audience tonight. I don’t deserve it. It’s not an entitlement, and every second of it from good, bad, different, up, and down is a blessing. There have been some high moments, but you can’t put into words that bond between the audience and the band. There are moments where you just can’t even put it into words.
Eric: Street Dogs announced tonight that they are doing a split with Noise, can you tell me any more details about that?
Johnny: We have it right here actually. *Holds up a completed and packaged dist*I’m just looking at it for the first time right now. I don’t know when it’s coming out.
Mike: I think April, or May, or June. Somewhere along those lines.
Eric: There is a Street Dogs lyric “New bands might put us to shame” What bands in particular are putting you to shame?
Johnny: Well the fact is that we don’t really know any new bands.
Mike: That’s unapologetically true.
Johnny: We kind of only listen to old bands
Eric: I just formed a new website www.ByTheBarricade.com. What websites are you guys on when your board and on a computer
Mike: Every guy has been on those sites.
Johnny: www.Satalliteamps.com, Redsox.com
Eric: What city do you guys think has the dirtiest streets?
Johnny: Probably Moscow.
Mike: I think Moscow has some of the most jacked up and beat down streets. There are a lot of crazy things going on right now. Hopefully it will work itself out without any more bloodshed.
Mike: I’d say in the next two years. We strive to spend time with our loved ones and reflect on everything we have been through. We were on tour from 2003 until 2012.
Eric: Would you guys rather write songs on tour, or in studio?
Johnny: We tried to write on tour. In the early days we managed to write a few songs on tour, but on the last EP we did some writing on tour. We don’t usually do a lot of writing on tour. We have to sit down and determine, “Now we’re writing a song” and..
Mike: I agree with Johnny, I think you have to have a formal approach to writing, and a time where everybody gets together. We toss ideas around and come up with stuff. We have written some songs on the road, but when you’re on the road you get into a routine, and a regiment that can be predictable. You have to work hard to get yourself out of a bubble…
Eric: Until you have some kid come and interview you.
Mike: No, I appreciate your interview because you researched and you’re not halfcocked and asking me 40 questions about do or die. I appreciate the depth of your interview. I don’t mind talking about Dropkick Murphy’s and because I’ll talk about anything. I’m gratful to have that part of my life. I’m grateful to know Johnny, and to have experienced The Bruisers coming up. It was an amazing time. I don’t think at the time I quite grasped pivotal, powerful, and what that all meant. Now I have a lot of respect for that.
Eric: Can you guys explain the Street Dogs Experience in five words or less?
Johnny, Mike: *Laughs
Mike: I think I have it.
Johnny: You do?
Mike: Loud music in your face.
Eric: Do you guys have anything else to say to our Soundcheck411 readers?
Mike: Buy Vinyl and help Piratespress.com.
Johnny: Thank you for the support.
Mike: Ya, It means a lot.