Come to wild and raucous life with O’Death

“I DON’T think of our band as a folk band. I think we’re a punk rock band. We know how to have a good time on stage and off,” so declares O’Death bassist Jesse Newman.

Brooklyn quintet O’Death will bring their raucous, punk fuelled, take on American folk music to the Róisín Dubh on Monday at 8pm as part of the Galway Arts Festival.

O’Death were formed in the State University New York Purchase College in 2003. Originally the line up was Greg Jamie (vocals/guitar ), Gade Darling (vocals/various instruments ), Bob Pycior (fiddle ), and David Roger-Berry (drums ). Jesse was impressed by them and once he got to know the guys, he wanted to join.

“I had seen them a few times and thought ‘I could add something to that’,” Jessie told me when I interviewed him last year. “I think everyone in the band thought that and that’s why each of us joined.”

Part of the attraction in working with each other was that the various members had wildly different tastes in music. Bill Monroe, Prince, Dock Boggs, Neil Young, and The Misfits were various favourites of each member.

“Different personalities can tend to conflict,” says Jesse. “We got lucky. It melded quite nicely. Everybody’s influences came together. I was always into rock and heavy metal. I didn’t get into folk music until high school. I had to have my eyes opened up for me.”

While O’Death would become a folk band, the influences from hard rock, punk, and funk, make their presence felt and contribute to the band’s unique take on traditional American music and song - as evidenced by the albums Carl Nemelka Family Photographs (2004 ), Head Home (2006 ), and Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin (2008 ) - and on stage, where their wild, high octane, concerts have sealed their reputation as a thrilling live act.

O’Death’s vision of folk music is similar to that of their Southern counterparts Hayseed Dixie and would not be unrelated to the approach to Irish folk of The Dubliners or The Pogues.

“Punk rock and folk are very similar,” says Jesse. “People have this image of folk as prim, cloying, and gentle but there are folk singers with huge, powerful, killer voices and raucous, wild music. That’s folk music and we try to retain that.”

Jesse and the band feel they are at their best on-stage. “When we play shows man, if I’m feeling sick before a gig with a fever, once I get on stage, I’m not sick anymore,” he says. “Music heals you. People screaming at you is good as well. It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

For tickets contact the festival box office, Merchants Road, 091 - 566577. Tickets are also available through


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