No one does proverbs like the Irish: “Better good manners than good looks.” “Only a fool judges an Irish musician’s heart by his passport.” Well, the second one isn’t authentic, but O.C.’s 26-year-old group, The Fenians, is proof that it’s true. Here’s what guitarist and band leader Terry Casey (center) says about his SoCal Irish band.
I’m the only one in my Irish immigrant family born in the United States. When I was in my early 20s, my father passed away, and it left a hole in my life. He was an Irish musician who played fiddle and tin whistle and sang. At an Irish party, a friend of his sang a song of Irish immigration, and it was like a light bulb in my head. I realized that (music about Ireland) was what was missing in my life and in my music.
I think Irish music is the history of Ireland … the struggle of the common man. I think that’s a universal theme. Let’s face it, for 800 years, it was not a very pleasant experience for the peasantry of Ireland. Their culture had to reflect (what) they needed to survive, which is happiness. That’s why when you hear an Irish melody, it’s (mostly) a happy melody.
The audiences, yes, are different in Ireland. We get what I call the quizzical monkey look from the native Irish when they hear about this band from California. They look at us with that scrunched up look—“What’s this, now?” And one or two songs in, they have a blank expression. And three songs in, they’re up, they’re dancing, and say, “You boys got it, you got it.”
We try to switch it up all the time, but we also don’t want to be those guys where you go to hear them and they don’t play that song. We try to do all the popular songs, whether we’re tired of them or not. I’m sure you’ll always hear our drummer Chris Pierce’s rendition of “Danny Boy.” You’ll usually hear us play “Take Me Home,” “Show Me the Way,” “You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time,” and “The Galway Girl.”
Writing Irish music can be a rather daunting task for a younger Irish band, which precluded us from being more prolific early on. You’re in a genre where songs have been around for hundreds of years, and the topics aren’t teenage love. It’s rebellion and war and civil rights, forced immigration. It’s daunting to want to add to that catalog. But I think we’ve gotten over that as time has gone by.
SEE THEM PLAY at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
HOME OF THE WHODUNIT
In this young adult novel by former Orange County Register reporter Carol Masciola,
a girl is transported back to The Roaring Twenties through a yearbook.
When my grandmother Elizabeth Fisher Slater died, I ended up with her 1924 yearbook from Charleston, W.Va. I liked paging through it and looking at the extremely chic and snazzy student body with their flapper hairdos and wool swimsuits. Finally, I conceived the idea of diving into the yearbook and entering that lost world.
Any tidbits you learned during your research?
My modern-day heroine goes to 1923 and keeps looking for things that don’t exist: the heater in the car, plastic wrap, seat belts, duct tape. Her 1920s friends don’t know what pizza is, and they believe in moon men.
How’d you pick the title?
I think yearbooks stir up a lot of emotion because they’re a record of life’s starting line. The yearbook freezes us forever at the moment before we step across the threshold into adulthood and start making our own decisions.