The musical history and the landscape of Clare have long appealed to The Yellers who have been regular visitors to these shores in recent years. The band return to the Banner County this week where music fans can get a taste of their classic blend of Americana. Ronan Judge spoke to front man Michael Berly about the band’s history, politically charged new album and their respect for Clare music.
THE thrill of Clare’s stunning All-Ireland victory was felt around the globe last September. Parties broke out in Perth, Hong Kong and Paris. A few banner roars also echoed across the Pacific Northwest of America as Clare captain Patrick Donnellan lifted the Liam McCarthy cup.
The Irish community in the city of Portland drank deep and savoured the moment. Providing the soundtrack to that raucous day of celebration were local band ‘The Yellers’. They watched from the stage in Kell’s pub, spellbound by the fireworks from Croke Park.
The band have been frequent visitors to Clare over the past decade so know a little something about hurling and it’s importance to the county.
“Portland has a huge Irish community. We’re kind of tapped into that,” explains lead singer Michael Berly, “My family is from Ireland. My great grandparents are from Donegal and Fermanagh. I’m half Irish on my mother’s side. I’m half Irish and half Croatian. I love Ireland. The hurling was on and we were watching it in Kell’s Irish pub. They put it on the big screen. It was a pretty big day.”
Clare is a place the band have a certain affinity with. They have played in Ennis and Sixmilebridge and this week will bring their classic blend of rootsy Americana to Kilkee and Lahinch.
The prospect of playing in a county with a rich musical tradition and history is one that appeals to Berly and the rest of the band.
“Clare is great. It’s the heart of country music in Ireland in some ways. We’re very much looking forward to coming over there,” he says.
“We’ve played in Ennis and Galway many times but we’ve never been out to the coast. Everything I’ve heard about the places we’re going is really great. They sound like great music towns where people really love their music. We love that more than anything, playing for people who love music.”
He continues, “It’s really exciting. It makes it so valuable and worthwhile and that’s one of the great things about coming to Ireland. The people really appreciate music because they know you’re putting your heart into it and they recognise that.
“Sixmilebridge was great. We’ve played in Ennis. The people were great. Clare and the musical history there and the appreciation of music is something else. We’re hoping to bring back something that the people will really appreciate.”
The Yellers have been playing together and making music for over 10 years.
Or in the words of Berly, “forever”.
Their story began in Portland where the band’s core membership, Berly, Matty Voth and Darin Joye first met.
“Everybody kind of accumulated in Portland. The Portland music scene is really great,” Berly explains.
“It was just a lot of chance meetings and friendships through the music scene in Portland. The triad of the band, myself, Matt and Darin, formed the band together with the idea of focusing on songwriting and it grew out of that.”
Their music is a continuation of that long stream of classic Americana pioneered by acts like The Band and Canned Heat.
It’s a little bit country and little bit rock and roll, as Berly explains.
“It’s probably the closest to The Band. It has this country feel to it but it also has a rock feel to it. One of our best press write ups we had was someone saying that we had the boogie of Canned Heat and the melodicism of The Band and I think that is the way we look at it. It definitely has that bit of a country influence to it. We all grew up with Waylon Jennnings, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, that sort of stuff. My first record was Johnny Cash. I think there is a definite vibe of that too,” he says.
The Yellers recently released their new album ‘House Band for the Revolution’. It’s songs are a clarion call for revolution and change at a time of uncertainly and hostility both in America and around the globe.
It’s the band’s attempt, Berly says, to find “a hotline to heart of the common person”.
“We wanted to pull that idea back to the forefront again at a time in the world when I feel like we need to have another revolution of consciousness and change where we can start focusing on people and what’s important in life,” Berly says.
He continues, “People having healthcare, food and water and a place to be. And not being bombed, like what it going in Gaza, crazy stuff. Trying to start a revolution of the heart and mind and move the world forward a little bit. And trying to put songs in it that talk about it a little bit.
“Music can really bring people together and really can change peoplse’s minds and mindsets. You can be on completely different sides of the aisle poltically and monetarily and class wise and yet music can bring everybody to a place where they are together and they can relate to each other. That was the genesis of what this album is about,” he says.
Music fans in Clare can find out for themselves when the Yellers come rolling into town this week.
The Yellers perform at Kenny’s Bar, Lahinch, tonight, and The Greyhound Bar, Kilkee, tomorrow night.