A Boston Punk’s Journey Towards Americana

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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Mike’s old stomping grounds is Adam’s Corner, Dorchester; predominantly Irish and resilient, home to some of Beantown’s greatest boxing legends. I meet him there the following Friday at a restaurant — Gerard’s — that’s located inside an old, corner convenience store. There is only one way to reach the dining area, and that’s through the store, to the right of the cash registers, and finally through big wooden doors that seem out of place. Mike’s standing outside near the entrance to the store smoking a cigarette. He shakes my hand and takes one last drag and extinguishes the butt on the edge of a garbage can, flicking it away. There was something different about him this time around, electing to wear a black fitted Boston Bruins hat and going clean shaven. The razor did more than just get rid of his stubble, also shaving off years. He’s a regular patron here and unlike at McGreevy’s, has no problems getting the attention of the wait staff after we take our seat in a corner booth. He prefers breakfast for lunch and promptly puts in his order of coffee and french toast. With the pressure of his band’s first performance gone, he’s laid-back and eager to talk more about his journey to Texas to record the album, but not before he excuses himself as he waves to old friends as they walk past the window.

“I feel that by being in the middle of the road—studied, but not too studied—we’re going to be a little bit more laid back in our approach to making music. It’s a different feel and process when we do things like this,” he says. “It just works.”

They were simply doing something different, and having fun.

“We didn’t have time to really pull anything back. it just came from our heart and soul and it just found its way out there. In the past we’d probably review things a little bit more closely, but this time we didn’t. It was like, lets just make a bunch of songs and put them all out there.”

Mike has earned his folk credibility. His relevance now position him among other singers whom have left punk, to create music in a genre that shares common roots. While there weren’t any serious expectations set upon his band, there was precedence set forth by some of his punk-turned-folk compatriots. After all, his friend Chuck Ragan, the frontman for seminal punk band Hot Water Music had released 8 highly successful solo albums in 6 years, in addition to the discography his main band had chronicled throughout 20 years. Dr. Greg Graffin, frontman for the band Bad Religion, also putting out a critically acclaimed Americana album called Cold As The Clay. In interviews, he said “honor the legacy of American music…[by playing] traditional songs that helped form the 18th and 19th century American cultural landscape.” They were Mike’s peers. If they could do it, why not him?

Jason Stone, senior editor of Dying Scene, a website that exhaustively and extensively covers bands such as Street Dogs, Hot Water Music, and Bad Religion, agrees that it’s those common roots that allow two entirely different bands to coexist. He’s been a fan of the Boston punk scene for years, and has known Mike professionally and personally for a while. Jason says, “They share a grassroots, working-class background that favors the working man and a distrust of the government and large corporate interests.”

And what about the sound? “They also share a lot of song-structure similarities,” he says. “There is a reason that folk and punk bands have both released albums called Three Chords and the Truth.”

The new Mike channels Neil Young’s Harvest Moon more than Joe Strummer’s The Clash self-titled debut album, the definitive album young punks ground their influence in. He has traded in his spikes and leather jacket for a barrage of acoustic guitars. Mike acknowledges, “Now we’re finding that a lot of doors that might have been closed to us with Street Dogs are suddenly opening up again.”

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