The Dreadnoughts: Punk and Polka Party Round The World

Mixing up both punk rock and polka to a dazzling effect, The Dreadnoughts from Canada has been bringing the party to the far reaches of the world.  Whether it’s the dark Ukraine, the dangerous Autobahn, or sunny Los Angeles, The Dreadnoughts have definitely been there, leaving drunkened devastation and happy people along the way.   Fans of Flogging Molly and The Real McKenzies should really enjoy the mayhem and good time music The Dreadnoughts offer.  Their recent release Polka’s Not Dead is out via Stomp Records and the band may very well be on the road as you read this.  We caught up with one of The Dreadnought members to find our more about their punk and polka party round the world…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in The Dreadnoughts, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Seamus and I play the fiddle and accordion with The Dreadnoughts; we’ve been playing together since a shady meeting at the Ivanhoe Pub in 2006.

Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We hail from dirty, rainy Vancouver, Canada, and I love playing for the people that live here. Vancouverites get fired up about good new music and they’ll let you know one way or another – usually it involves bruising – and you.

What initially made the made decide to incorporate polka and folk into your music?
Polka, folk, and punk are made for each other, clear and simple; musicians would have been doing what we do 100 years ago if the electric guitar had been around. There has always been an element of the punk movement that was about community, DIY, rebellion, story-telling, and having too good a time dancing and getting drunk – I think most descriptions of folk and polka would use those same terms. They’re serving the same purpose generations apart; we’re just showing people that.

One of your first shows was with The Real McKenzies. What was it like opening for them and have you kept in touch with the band?
It was actually our very first show ever. I was digging around my old room the other day and found one of the old tickets. It was really exciting to get to play with them when we were just starting out. We’ve since had the opportunity to tour with them in Canada and Europe and have become great friends. Playing with guys like that really makes you appreciate that you’re part of great local tradition of making music, from the McKenzies, to the Subhumans, SNFU, and NoMeansNo.

What could one expect from a live The Dreadnoughts show?
We’re going to light our mandolin player on fire. We’re going to insult your dad. We’re going to throw our drummer in the crowd to surf during a song. I’m going to sing an ode to cyder while standing on our bass player’s shoulders. There’s going to be a 300 person circle pit, and you’re going to get pulled into it, get a free beer, and have a great time. Then you’re going to buy a white t-shirt that was already dirty when we sold it to you but you won’t care because “that’s part of our charm”.

You have truly played all over the world! How easy or difficult has it been to book European Tours?
We’ve put a lot of effort into what we do and it has worked out for us. These days we are lucky to have a whole team of friends that know what they’re doing and make booking Europe as easy as it can be. Having a bass player that’s willing to turn a few tricks to butter up agents and press doesn’t hurt either. Speaking of which…

Where is the most exotic or unusual place you have ever played?
During one of our sets in Portugal, the show was raided by police and shut down. Not to be deterred, we moved the show out into a city square and all the crowd followed – we found an acoustic guitar, we shouted, and our drummer played a garbage can with some tree branches. That was probably one of the most unusual show we ever played.

Tell me about your van crash on Germany’s notorious Autobahn and what exactly happened?
We were sitting in the van, going about 75 mph, which is just about the unspoken MINIMUM on the autobahn, and I remember we had just been discussing what a better van we had this time around in Europe. It was about that instant that one of the rear tires blew for no apparent reason, and we had a good four or five seconds to realize that we were going to hit the barrier and there wasn’t much we could do about it, and we were probably going to die on this highway just like we always joked about. It’s lucky for us that our drummer is really good at driving in the snow. And it’s lucky for us that driving a van with three tires at 75 mph on bare cement is really SIMILAR to driving in the snow. The van was destroyed, but, here we are. This has, of course, only further inflated our juvenile belief that we are a team of invincible superheroes.

Is there any place in the world you haven’t played yet that you’d like to go to?
Ukraine was a big one for us, but this next tour includes Russia, which has always been a dream for us to visit. After that, the only dim lights on the horizon of this sea of monotony is the Principality of Liechtenstein and Brody Dalle’s annual Christmas party.

Have you ever played out here in the Los Angeles area or maybe plan to do so in the future?
We played in LA last year with X. Where were you?!

You have done a lot of touring over the last two years. What is the very best and worst part about touring and being on the road?
The best part about touring is getting to connect with real local people that love music . When you visit as a tourist, you get to see the architecture; we miss all that. But we get to create lasting friendships and be part of unbelievable stories with real people that live in these places. And have people throw pierogi at your van when you show up late.
For the worst part… wait …you read the part about the van right?

When coming up with the lyrics on Polka’s Not Dead, where did get your inspirations from?
The stories in our songs come from actual places we’ve been, and the unlikely stories we find ourselves a part of when we’re on the way there. From our bass player drinking 24 ounces of gin in 2 hours (see Youtube video, unbelievers), to sleeping less than 12 hours and driving more than 2000 miles in a week with 8 shows, to a lost week on the cyder road (a real place)… to put it simply: we write about ourselves and how awesome we are.

What is your favorite beer of all time and why?
Good, hard, unsweetened, scrumpy cider. We drink our very own locally-brewed, 12% alcohol hard cider instead of buying watered-down beer from Belgians (see “Anheuser-Busch InBev”).

Any final words of wisdom?
Let it ride.

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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