Whiskey Session: Augustines at the Bowery Ballroom

We sat down with Billy McCarthy from Augustines for a quick interview and “Whiskey Session” at the Bowery Ballroom. Enjoy!


P&W: How did the band get together?

Billy: After 911 hit New York, I had just moved here and there were not any jobs available and the city was on a freeze.  My friend and I started busking in the subways and at one of our busking spots Eric happened to be walking home from work one day and we started talking with him.  I felt really moved with the guy. And were still talking about music to this day.

P&W: Rolling Stones Compared you guys to U2.

Billy: Yeah, I’ve heard of them.  What do you say to that?  That’s Crazy!

P&W: The video for Cruel City was shot in London.  Why did you shoot the video there and what is the meaning behind the song?

Billy: Well our drummer Rob Allen is from London.  It was his father in the video. The cab driver.  We’ve spent a lot of time in London.  And there’s another member of our group Al Hardiman who is our multi-instrumentalist. He’s British as well and is in London at the moment.  I think it just rounds out our half London half New York band. New York and London have a lot in common and Cruel City is a bitter love letter to the city of New York.  The city is getting harder for artists, and it’s hard when rents get the way they are.  As far as I can see, with rents escalating they will probably never go back down to a reasonable rate. Its just getting harder and harder for musicians and they end up having to find cheaper places to live.  I think the song is a little bit about me being sad about that fact.  New York and art have gone hand and hand and it’s kind of a tragedy. “Come on Cruel City with money eyes. Don’t turn away.”

P&W: How does your new album differ from your debut?

Billy: The debut was a very realistic log. Like a journal that was going on with my family, and things didn’t end so well.  It was like a bug trapped in amber.  It was more of a time piece and this record is us with all pistons fired, having an absolute say in our future rather than being defined by our past.

P&W: Augustines is a very well traveled band. What are the differences between the U.S audiences and those from overseas?

Billy: Soccer! Whenever you see big stadiums of fans singing soccer songs you get a feeling of comradery. It’s built into the culture and we’ve never heard anybody sing back to us like that.  There’s been times were its deafening and it’s actually rivaled our amplifiers.  That’s my loose guess on what the reciprocal relationship is about with the performance there.  It’s very impressive.  All those pictures you’ve ever seen at Glastonbury and the fans jumping up and down and singing, I have to think that one of the differences is that their central sport to the culture is all about singing and interacting. My theory.

P&W: What venues do you like playing in NYC and where does the Bowery rank on this list?

Billy: Bowery will always have a place in my heart. There are times when I think I would rather do a four night stay here than at Terminal 5 or something.   Once upon a time it was our dream to play Bowery Ballroom.  We kind of had to play our way out of the cafes and clubs so this is kind of a homecoming for us.  We love Webster Hall as well, but this place just has a place in our heart. It’s not so dark that we can’t see people that our part of our community smiling.  It’s also a fantastic part of  Manhattan.

P&W: You guys are on tour for the rest of summer.  What’s next for you guys?

Billy: United Kingdom and Europe.  We’ll finish up here, take a brief gulp of air, and then we’ll start UK and Europe.  Then we’ll swing back through for festival season. Ideally Australia this year will happen as well.

P&W: What else is on your bucket list as a band?

Billy: HMM, that’s a really beautiful question man.  For us I think it’s not about the size of the room, notoriety, or television. We’ve had experience with all those things, and I think our bucket list is just staying connected to all the people we are singing to.  If that should be threatened or goes, then that would be very hard on us because that’s why we are doing it.

Interview by Robert Frezza

Video by Gabello Studios

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