Kenny Irwin: A Rock And Roll Fables Conversation

“The most important part of Motherboar, in my opinion, is that we don’t take ourselves or our music too seriously. We just want to go out, melt faces and have a blast in the process….oh, and spit beer on people sometimes.”

And that, kiddies, is the spirit of rawk and/or roll in a nutshell, innit?

But I digress.

Kenny Irwin, vocalist for one of our most favorite local heavy bands (The aforementioned Motherboar) recently agreed to chat with us about the genesis of the band, what the future holds, and more importantly: their upcoming show with Hey Zeus!

Like the mythical Croctosquatch, Motherboar is a rare beast to see in the wild especially since their untimely demise a few years back. That said, when the band do regroup you’d best get your ass to whatever venue they’re planning to sonically destroy like the one this week at Once in Somerville as they reunite alongside Cocked ‘N’ Loaded and Labor Hex and open for Hey Zeus who will be celebrating a new record (X, out now via Argonauta Records).

Irwin elaborated more on why this latest reunion came about:

“We’re doing this one for the ladies! Just kidding. Zak Kolpan (CnL guitarist) got married last year and Kyle Neeson (CnL singer) came back talking about how they played CnL songs at the wedding and how much fun it was. He said Zak was coming back to visit Boston and they both talked about playing a show and if I thought Motherboar would play it if so. I said yes without asking the other guys because I’m an asshole. I knew they’d want to do it, it’s  fucking Cocked n Loaded! I told Kyle that they have to play a couple AC/DC covers too or else we wouldn’t do it. And then I asked the other guys.

In the meantime, one of our (Motherboar) old guitarists Pete Knipfing was talking about his band Hey Zeus having a big party/show for their CD release and if Motherboar and Cocked ‘N’ Loaded would play. It was perfect timing, so Kyle and I of course said yes….and then we asked the other guys. Singers are such dicks.”

When I reviewed their last album, The Beast Becomes the Servant, for another site almost eight years ago I likened their sound to old school Clutch (Transnational Speedway League/Impetus era) and Mastodon (Leviathan or Remission) with this expert foundation of sludge rawk. But ultimately, the band were really fucking fun!

Beyond his opening statement, Irwin explained their sound a little more in depth and delved into the beginnings of the band:

“It’s a combination of the violence and fantasy of Game of Thrones mixed with an outside bbq and getting trashed and having the best time ever with your friends…or maybe that’s what I hear. I’d say we’re a metal band but as most metal bands with a bunch of punk and especially hardcore in there as well. We’re all big music heads with different favorite bands/genres which I think is awesome for a band to have.” 

“Benny (Grotto, drummer) and the first guitarist Ryan were friends at Berklee and wanted to start a band. Benny’s brother, Joe, played bass and they both worked at Liquor World with Brian (Connor) who said he played guitar in a shitty punk band in high school – how could you say no to that, right?”

“Those guys started hanging out/writing stuff but needed a singer. I remember my buddy Iyad asking me “Hey man, you hear the Grotto brothers started a band and are looking for a singer?” I had no idea who these Brother Grotto’s were but was so intrigued. Again – how could you say no to that? So Iyad made the connection and I met Joe and Brian at the Middle East at a Hot Snakes concert (Great show, btw). They gave me a blank CD with 3 songs on it, told me to write some stuff and come to their practice the next week. I had never been in a band before, but did backup vocals for a couple of friends bands and sang at shows etc. so I was psyched/nervous as shit. I went home and played those three songs a million times, then wrote a pretty simple/funny/tough guy hardcore type song “Put Your Knife Where Your Mouth Is.”

“I remember walking in to the space meeting Benny and Ryan for the first time, going into a corner where the mic was set up, and being so nervous to sing this one song in front of 4 guys I didn’t know. I went for it and probably blew my voice on the first try (Ha!) but it went well, they liked it and were psyched to have a singer as they had a bunch of ideas and then it went from there….2 guitar changes and 8 years or so later, Motherboar.”

Along that journey, the band had a fair amount of highlights which Irwin touched upon:

“For me, that Times of Grace (Jesse Leach and Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage’s side project together) show was cool as it was the only time my Mom could see us because we played before 8pm. The Rumble shows were so much fun and playing/meeting with so many different bands is the coolest part of it – it makes me miss TT’s so much! The Sword shows here and in NYC were great because we love those guys and it’s always a party. The Baroness show was a big one for us and our mini East Coast tour was insane and I’m pretty sure it took years off our lives or at least our livers…Pittsburgh girls know how to puke and rally (respect!). The million Cocked N’ Loaded/Mellow Bravo shows as well especially our “final show”, but my all time favorites were playing one of the Only Living Witness Reunion shows and then one of the Sam Black Church Reunion shows with Cast Iron Hike. Those are some of the bands that I saw a million times and dreamed about playing with growing up.”

Which brings up the question of why they ultimately packed it in:

“As far as packing it in – there wasn’t any one thing or moment, I think we all just got older….got married, houses, kids, etc. and our practices went from twice a week, to once a week, to once a month and I think we all knew that we as a group didn’t all have the time to do what we wanted to do anymore. Before it became dramatic and arguing about shit, we just talked about it and decided to do our own thing for a while, and like this show if shows come along and we want to play we’ll do it and if not, that’s ok too. It’s been great hanging out and practicing again though, after a little bit it’s just like it used to be…lots of joking around and a lot of farts…a lot of farts!”

As for what the boys of the ‘Boar are up to now:

“We’re all old men, some married and with kids so mainly resting and trying not to break our brittle bodies. Joe plays in Gozu who have been killing it lately signing to Metal Blade Records subsidiary Blacklight Media, playing all over, and he also works for Lord Hobo Brewing. Benny is a partner at Mad Oak Studio and continues doing audio production work, working with A LOT of bands in the area and more. Andy (Doherty, guitars) likes to spread himself thin so he’s playing in two bands (Bird Language and Real Beaut), and also puts together Safaris. Brian is still a wino working for a wine distribution company, and also helps run Hummingbird Bridal and Events with his wife, Mandy, and I’m still planning events at MIT and trying to go to as many shows as possible”

Irwin also revealed what’s involved in their rigorous training regimen to prepare him and the band for those sporadic Motherboar reunion events:

“Mainly stretching and getting our livers ready. Most of our songs have sections in them dedicated to drinking, taking time to reflect about how fun rock and roll is while pounding some alcohol….and then back to the song. Again, more bands need to stop taking themselves so seriously and remember about rock and roll and fun!” 

“Besides stretching I also have to work on my stage moves. Last time we played I made a sweet move right off the stage and broke my wrist. The show was actually also on my 40th birthday: great way to really feel old..and stupid!”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing Motherboar live, you may have seen Irwin cradling his signature PBR microphone which may or may not make an appearance this Friday:

“HA, people love that fucking thing! Even people who had never seen us before would always ask me if I was going to be singing in the PBR or Beer Mic. Benny made that for me for my birthday years ago and I still can’t believe I never got any diseases from it. It’s got cuts all along it and I’d slice my hands on it all the time. The things we do for rock and roll. Well, you’ll just have to come to the show to see if it makes an appearance….cause that’s the thing about life man, ya never know…ya never know.”

As for what the future holds, Irwin had some thoughts on who could rally the troops for another go round on stage as Motherboar:

“Maybe Stompbox and/or Overcast will do a reunion show and want us to be one of the local openers! Those are some of my other favorite local bands growing up and a kid can still dream even if he’s now 42 years old, right?”

But before closing, he offered up this exciting and exclusive announcement:

“We’re actually playing Fyre Festvial next year.”

Before you catch Motherboar backing Ja Rule at FF 2020 you can catch them on February 8th, 2019 at Once in Somerville supporting Hey Zeus. Tickets are available here! And for the latest and greatest on Motherboar, head on over here and then click below to hear the legendary tunes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *