Going into concerts blind, tends to vary from being a bad idea, to a horrible idea, at least in my experience. I like to know what I’m getting myself into and I can’t count how many times I’ve tagged along to shows, knowing less than zero about the band, and by the time song three rolls around I was ready to call it a night and get a sandwich. The first time I saw We Are Augustines, I was half expecting exactly that. It was at the Roxy in Hollywood, Augustines didn’t even have an album out, and they were opening for Boxcar Rebellion, who are not exactly my cup of tea. Yet when the curtain lifted that night, my negative assumptions were over taken. These were not the mod/ emo guys I had pictured in mind. Instead I saw three men on stage, all looking weathered and worn down, carrying an attitude that made a statement. As the opening chords were played, I was all in.
We Are Augustines are a Brooklyn based trio made up of front man/ guitarist Billy McCarthy, guitarist Eric Sanderson, and drummer Rob Allen. McCarthy and Sanderson had previously worked together in the band Pela. After the band folded in 2009, there was long hiatus, McCarty’s brother had recently committed suicide and it was unclear whether McCarthy would return to music. We are lucky he did.
While they may be considered an indie band, don’t let the “indie” moniker fool you. Their sound is explosive. These guys can play anywhere; from the small 60 person clubs, to a packed 30,000 seat arena. Billy leads the band with an energy that I haven’t seen in years. During an exceptionally rowdy show two years ago, Billy even broke his foot after thinking it a good idea to jump off of an amp. The guys go hard, every second, every night, making the tickets to their shows worth every penny.
With the big sound and energetic stage presence, one might overlook the fact that the songs on their debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, We Are Augustines’ lyrics hit deep. Songs like Book of James and Chapel Song are ferociously powerful, while tracks like Juarez and Philadelphia are true heartbreakers. On Juarez, Billy sets the scene of a desolate, scorched earth, where all that’s left is his faulted family. After laying out this tortured world he inhabits, Billy solemnly sings,
“But hey, it’s alright, I’ve got jukebox tears and stones for eyes. Hey, it’s alright I got jukebox tears under turquoise skies….”.
It’s seems on the album, Billy has reached a moment of clarity. He’s been granted that epiphany I feel we’re all constantly searching for. Lord knows every now and again, we all seek a moment that will remind us, once we sift through the garbage that life throws at us, eventually there’s something worthwhile, even if it is as simple as the blue sky that hangs above us. Rise Ye Sunken Ships is full of these moments.
As we were leaving the venue, we saw the Augustine boys packing up their van. Our crew, unencumbered by fear thanks to the flask of bourbon we smuggled in, decided to approach them. Sure enough, these fellas were true road dogs, happy to shake a hand, and talk with the fans. I can’t respect that enough. These dudes play shows all over the globe, for months on end. Night after night, day after day, they are out there running themselves raged to entertain all us sinners, and yet they still find the time to hang with a couple of jerks from Hollywood. Keep rocking guys, and I’ll keep listening.