We are delighted to announce a new signing to our label – The Black Guards!
Something of a departure for us – showing our rockier side now! Hope you love them as much as we do.
Exclusive single premiere is coming on 28th February thanks to Folk Radio UK.
Here are a couple of recent interviews lead singer Paul O’Halloran has had with local press.
After recently changing their name from the Bleedin Blaggards to The Black Guards, Paul Shepherd sat down one sixth of the band, lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Paul O’Halloran to find out what’s in store for the group in 2017.
So, you’re familiar faces with a different name. What’s the story behind the name change?
It was something we discussed about a year ago once we started incorporating more of our own material into the band. It didn’t really sit well, the name, ‘D’Bleedin Blaggards’ with what we were doing – our original stuff was a little bit more serious. So we started thinking a little bit more about the songs, which was kind of the main idea. When the band was talking with the publisher and the label, we decided to drop the “D” from the name, as it was causing some conflict with people. I just put it to the band ‘let’s just call ourselves ‘The Black Guards’, and luckily everyone agreed. It’s been great, it’s been a really good thing, and we’ve got a lot more original material coming through now as well.
For those who don’t know much about the band, what’s the best way to describe your style and sound?
As we’re going through a transition period at the minute I think the best way to describe our style is definitely alternative folk, with a kind of roots style going on. We’re moving in the direction where we’re doing a lot more of our own material, and we’ve got a few gigs lined up this year where we’ve mixed it up.
A lot of the songs are quite contrasting to the different genres we do. You can be listening to one song and thing it’s quite an Americana country song, and then you’ll hear another and think it’s an indie folk song. So we’ve got all sorts in there, ballads, folk songs, rock songs.
Your debut single is coming out next month. What’s the track about and what can fans expect to hear from it?
‘Drawn In’ is coming out on March 17. It isn’t a very traditional folk song, although it does have some elements of folk in there but it’s probably more alt-folk. I guess you could say it’s about love and being part of a relationship, platonic as much as romantic, and the trials and tribulations and being able to reflect. At the time I wrote the song I was a massive fan of poetry so I wanted to write a song where you could take away the music and the lyrical content still looks good. It’s a great song with a big chorus, lovely music going on and some nice arrangements with the band.
The single launch on the 17th March at Cleator Moor Celtic Club is now sold out. That must feel very special for you?
We couldn’t believe it; it sold out with more than six weeks to go. We’re a Cleator Moor-based band so we’ve got a great following and Cleator Moor’s always been a good home base to the band so we did expect a good number, but when we sold 120+ we couldn’t believe it. We’ve had more people looking for tickets so we could’ve got a bigger venue but, this is the best place, the Celtic Club, back on home ground.
You recently stuck a record deal with Folkstock records. How did that come about?
After hearing a couple of the songs, the label really liked what they heard so we just had a conversation about what both parties were interested in doing, so that was great, then the same thing happened with Wipeout Music [Publishing]. I think it was down to the hard work, and a bit of good luck.
What does the future have in store for you guys?
The plan is to get the single out, to get the EP out and then get the album recorded. We just want to do as much as we can, and get more songs written. Last year in Cumbria we did around 60 gigs, so we’re hoping to do that again make, new connections and get as far in the field as we can. We just want to keep moving forward, but having fun at the same time, because if you can’t do that, you’re in trouble.
Anyone who’s been to a Cumbrian festival in the past couple of years will have happened across D’Bleedin Blaggards – a rabble-rousing folk act, playing through the traditional tunes that are guaranteed to get people on their feet.
Their subtle name change coincides with their first headline show of 2017, when the West Cumbrian six-piece take to the stage at The Kirkgate, in Cockermouth, on Friday February 17, and also their signing to the renowned Folkstock Records.
“We’d discussed changing the name to reflect the fact that we’re doing more original material,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Paul O’Halloran.
“The plan was always to move towards doing our own stuff, a more modern folk sound, and the name just feels more reflective of that, but we didn’t want to lose our traditional side either.
“A lot of people didn’t realise when they saw it written down, but Black Guards and Blaggards is pretty much the same, and to an Irish person it’s still pronounced Blaggards anyway.
“We’ve signed with Folkstock Records and also a publishing deal with Wipeout Music, so we’re ready to get some music out.
“Folkstock is an independent label who do all the plugging and promoting in house, and are known for getting lots of national radio airtime and press, so we are really pleased that we are now working with them.”
Mother and daughter team Helen Meissner and producer Lauren Deakin Davies run Folkstock, and have managed to secure multiple plays on BBC Radio 2 and 6Music, guest spots on Radio 2, 3 and 4, as well as reviews in many national newspapers and music magazines.
If The Black Guards can capitalise on their expertise to get such widespread recognition, then it will be everything that Paul has worked for – and then some.
The Dublin native moved to the area after a stint gigging in New York, and quickly set about putting a band together.
In no time at all they became local favourites, playing traditional Irish folk numbers to rapt pub crowds.
Paul adds: “My wife is from this part of the world, but there is a strong Irish presence around here. Cleator Moor is known as ‘Little Ireland’, so I think our band was what the town was crying out for.”
But now despite being established as a great live band with appearances at many of Cumbria’s biggest events, the band is keen to also get recognition for being accomplished songwriters too.
Paul and his bandmates – violinist Anne Marie McStraw, banjo player Paul McGhee, accordionist Owen Evans, drummer Andrew Bates, and Ben Sloan on double bass – have spent much of the past few months in the studio working on The Black Guards’ first releases.
“We’re in the process of releasing a single on March 17 – a better date than any really – called Drawn In,” says Paul.
“It’s been quite popular with people that have been to our shows, so we think it’s the best one to put out first, and then an EP in around May or June.
“At Solfest last year we did all our own material bar one song, and it went really well, so that’s what we’ve been moving towards.
“This one is going to be a big gig for us, and it’s our first show of the year because we’ve mainly been in the studio working on our new material.
“It’ll be our first chance for most people to come and see where we’re going – Solfest was us saying ‘hi’, but this is us telling everyone what we’re really about.”
The Black Guards appear live at The Kirkgate on Friday February 17, from 8pm, and tickets are available from the venue’s box office.
The debut single, Drawn In, will be launched at a live show at Cleator Moor Celtic FC, on Friday March 17.