If you take some Irish crème in your coffee and some banjo with your punk rock, then Black Irish Texas may be the band for you. Since 2004 Black Irish Texas has toured the country spreading their Irish punk sound. The group is currently working on a new album, which will be released this spring.
Story by Sarah Bloodworth
Photos by Kristin Evans
The band consists of James Fitzsimmons on vocals and guitar, Mark Maughmer II on fiddle, Austin "Scooby" Davidson on drums Shannon McMillan on upright bass and both Bill David Zarate and Chad Fitzsimmons on banjo. Their energetic live performances swell with punk rock spirit and Irish pride as they often perform in suits matched with a green mohawk or two.
The Fitzsimmon brothers moved here from New York in the early ‘90s. After experimenting with some tunes reminiscent of ‘60s ska, they eventually founded their Irish sound. The brothers were raised on traditional Irish music. James Fitzsimmons says they have been "listening to Irish music since they were in diapers," particularly folk bands like The Clancy Brothers.
Black Irish Texas’ full album release "To Hell With the King" remixes traditional Irish rhymes with lyrics that will make you laugh with one track and throw your middle finger up the next. James Fitzsimmons wrote most of the songs on the record when he was around 17 years old and says, "I think the music we're writing now may be more clever or more stupid. I don't know." One of the later tracks on the album, "Get Em' Off," greets the listeners with "forget your Catholic morals girl, you and I belong in Hell."
The band has had great success in Austin, citing classic venues like Room 710 and Stubb’s as their favorite performance spots. Chad Fitzsimmons says he likes the Austin music scene because "It's more saturated. There aren't a whole lot of [other] places where every night you can find a live band to see, and of all genres." Outside of Texas, the group has played alongside mainstream Irish staple bands like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and the Dicks.
But Black Irish Texas makes it a point to distinguish their "punk Texan attitude" sound from others with a robust, clashing use of instrumentals. Putting together seemingly unlikely instruments like fiddle, banjo and electric guitar is a challenge, but Black Irish Texas embraces it. Of the genre-straddling project, Chad Fitzsimmons says, "It's natural to mix Irish and rock." McMillan, who initially faced some challenges merging the group’s punk rock sound with the upright bass, has since become an essential part of the Black Irish Texas sound. "It was difficult to keep the sound under control,”McMillan says. He has since developed musical techniques and manipulated his bass “to finally get it under control" and thrive within the group.
Aside from their upcoming album release, Black Irish Texas most recently put out a few songs on a compilation. The group says their sound is moving away from the rebellious rage of “To Hell With The King” in a slightly different direction. The Fitzsimmon brothers agree that, in terms of sound, production and lyrics, the album will the best they have released so far. "It might be darker in some places and lighter in others,” James Fitzsimmons says.”We tried to sprinkle a little more Satan and a little more love."