Chicago, Illinois’ long-running Irish Folk/Punk sextet THE TOSSERS are about to hit a benchmark of musical creation. With an incredible 20 years of recording and touring experience under their belt, no one can argue the staying power and dedication to their craft that The Tossers put on display every time they release a record and perform in concert. I’d bet some of their biggest fans weren’t even born yet when they got started.
With 12 releases currently in their catalogue, The Tossers are gearing up to release another full-length titled The Emerald City, on Victory Records, which is certain to quench the thirst of everyone anxiously awaiting a follow-up to their last recording, On A Fine Spring Evening, back in 2008.
Lucky for Upstate New Yorkers, The Tossers celebrated the release of their new album right here in Ithaca, NY courtesy of Dan Smalls Presents, followed by a solid East Coast run that’ll line the pockets of every bar owner who was smart enough to book the tour. I got in touch with the band in Ithaca to talk about the group’s lengthy career and history, the new album and working with Victory Records, and what it took the keep their dream going.
G- Hi there, everybody! Welcome to Ithaca, NY and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Shall we get some introductions going?
MW- Sure. I’m Mike and I play the guitar.
AD- I’m Aaron Duggins and I play the whistles.
Bones- I’m Bones and I play the drums.
R- I’m Rebecca and I play the fiddle.
P- I’m Peter and I play the bass.
T- And I’m Tony, the singer, and I’m the mandolin player.
G- Alright! So, first I’d like to say that The Tossers are going on their 20th year as a band, if I’m not mistaken… Congratulations on such an achievement! Additionally, you literally just released your 13th release today…
M- Not full-length, but…
R- Including everything off of Wikipedia?
R- Than that’s right.
T- Everything we’ve released? Yes, this is our 13th piece of music. And some of them are REAL pieces.
(band laughs loudly)
A couple of them. Most of them are phenomenal!
G Well, after 20 years, how does all this success feel when looking back at how/when you started?
T- I’m happy where we are now, and I’m happy coming and seeing the people, you know what I mean? It’s always harder for bands when they start, you know? You’re touring all over the place and it’s gas money, and not so many show up to the show when you’re just starting out. We’re lucky to be where we are now.
G- Right on. Now, given that The Tossers are about to hit this impressive and important milestone in any musician’s career, can we delve into your history and reminisce about what was it like when you first got started and when everyone met?
(more band laughter)
M- Have another drink.
T- Well, you know, me and Bones were mostly friends from school and, of course, my brother is my brother. I’ve know him all my life.
G- Makes sense.
T- But that’s what it was. It was a band that we put together. We were into Irish folk tunes, you know? It wasn’t the only thing we were into…
A- It helped us get into bars.
T- It helped us get into bars when I was 18, because that’s when we started. I’m 38 years old now, so that’s what it was… Just a bunch of kids trying to have a good time.
And then, you know, started writing songs, and people started showing up to the gigs, and it ended up, like, ‘Hey man, we can do something like this!’
G- Dig it. So, today begins your tour in support of The Emerald City… Can you tell us about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, who was behind the boards, and how long did the record take to get ready for release?
P- It was recorded at Million Yen Studios in Chicago, and Andy Gerber produced and engineered the album. It tooks, ehh, a few months.
T- Ken Sluder out of LA mixed it.
M- From the first tracks to the last tracks, it was approximately a year. We started off by doing 3 tracks, and then we had a lot of stuff we had to get in order as a band, and we put it aside for a little bit, and then we came back.
T- Like I said, Andy Gerber, our producer, produced the last 4 records, and even I did a record and he produced that one, too. I did one by myself and he did it. Not by my own volition, either… I was asked to do it.
But that’s the thing, though. Andy, ever since I worked with him on that first record, and he worked on the first Tossers record, we became friends and built a hell of a relationship. This project, any time we do a record, it’s as much his project as it is ours because he’s pretty much just part of the family now. And that’s how he sees it, too.
G- It’s good to have somebody that you can connect with on that level in the studio after so long. Someone who knows the intricacies of the band…
T- Right. So, we got to spend a lot of time on it, and we got to go… He just lets us rehearse in the studio, you know, whenever, because he owns the studio and he wants us to take the time to work it out and get everything right, you know?
M- That’s where we rehearsed. Rehearsal spaces are expensive!
T- Andy wants the recording to be good. He cares. He cracks the fucking whip on us, that’s for sure.
G- And for this batch of songs, was there a particular member that brought a bulk of the songs to the table?
T- I always do. I pretty much write most of the lyrics and melody lines, but you know, every so often I’ll get stuck, and we’ll work it out.
G- Would you say there is a favorite song, collectively or individually, on the new album? One that you’re most looking forward to playing or one that you’re most amped about?
T- Well I tell you what… Kind of along the lines of that question, there was actually a song that I cut off the record at one point, and everybody told me, at least Mikey told me, ‘You gotta bring it back. That’s an awesome fuckin’ song! And I guess everyone agreed. It was “Southside of Town.” I wasn’t gonna put it on there because I was going to space it out… You want an even sided album. And, actually, that’s probably damn near one of my favorite songs on the record right about now.
A- I like “Johnny McGuire’s Wake” personally.
R- We like “Jamming Wherever You Go,” too. It’s long and complicated, but perfect!
M- It doesn’t have a stinker on it, does it?
T- Well, we put a lot of work into it, especially learning… A lot of times, we went for the balls of the music and thundering through shit and fairly simple melody lines and shit. But, we worked on this one a little more and got a little bit more intricate with the music and the melodies. I spent more time on the lyrics on this fucking thing than I have ever in my life. I probably should’ve spent less time on them.
I put some serious work into them.
M- The lyrics are beautiful, man.
P- “The Emerald City,” too.
R- Goosebumps, every single time!
P- That song moves me every time.
G- Right on. So, since everybody is here, you’ll probably have different answers for this, but maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll be a collective response… But, either off of this album or out of all of your collective output, is there a favorite song to perform or one that you are most proud of and think best represents the band the best? Or, if you were to give one song to someone who’d never heard of The Tossers before, which should be fucking impossible after 20 years but it could happen…
R- You’d be surprised.
G-… If you could only offer them one song from your entire catalogue, to try and make a new fan, what song would you offer them?
T- “The Emerald City.”
P- Yeah… That’s a good jam.
T- Hands down. “The Emerald City” is historical, and it is very personal.
P- I like “Be” a lot, too.
T- “Be” is a good one.
P- We never play that and I really like that song.
M- Someday, we should just trudge that one up.
A- “Be” is one of my top favorites of our catalogue.
T- I think we’ve got our set list now where we’ve got a solid list, and now we can just pick and choose them where we’re just gonna put a couple of new songs in from the past.
P- “Katie At The Races” is my daughter’s favorite song.
R- That’s a fun one!
P- She loves it.
G- Alright. Now, given that you’ve already played a lot of shows and shared stages with a lot of people, at this point, if you could select a feasible 3-band dream bill for The Tossers to be a part of, who would you want to go on tour with?
R- I’ll tell you what, we already did one dream lineup!
T- It would be The Pogues, The Dubliners, and The Clancy Brothers. Or like, The fuckin’ Dead Kennedys.
G- That’s just alcohol poisoning waiting to happen!
A- I’d like to play with The Dubliners. That’s the one show I’d like to see.
R- The Dubliners and The Pogues and The Tossers would be the coolest thing we could ever do! We did do The Tossers and The Pogues before.
A- I’d like to do The Dead Milkmen and The Tossers. That’d be fun. I know that’s one of Bones’ ones… The Dead Milkmen from Philadelphia.
p- Or Megadeth.
G- Megadeth would be very good!
M- I’d like to play with Megadeth, but I don’t want to hear his fucking yap.
G- Well, we’ve got The Dubliners, The Pogues, and Megadeth, and The Tossers.
M- That sounds like a pretty good lineup to me!
G- I’m with that 100%!!!
A- We can throw Tom Waits in there, right?
M- We’ve toured with so many odd combinations and bands that I’d say the one with The Pogues was probably the greatest. For me, that was a highlight of my career.
G- Well, I think you may have just answered my next question for me already, which is what is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
M- Pogues at Roseland Ballroom.
T- Yeah, and that was because we wanted to do a really good job. It’s a huge place!
G- Big room, yeah.
R- There was like 3 or 4 continuous mosh pits. It was amazing!
T- And I’m sure a decent percentage of those people never heard of us before. We felt like we really did a good show.
P- Playing with Reverend Horton Heat was fun.
T- That was a great tour!
R- We did King’s Ballroom. Is that what it’s called? It was awesome!
M- That was really memorable. Elvis played that stage!
T- And then we did a straight up punk rock tour with Murphy’s Law where we played in bars…
G- That must’ve been great!
T- Made great friends with those guys because we were just stuck together the whole time.
R- That reminds me of Citizen Fish, which was awesome!
T- Yeah. Subhumans and Citizen Fish.
M- Change one guy out, and they become 2 different bands.
A- 2… COMPLETELY different bands! That was always good times… Touring with The Subhumans and Citizen Fish.
T- We’re just like-minded bands, you know?
G- Well, let me ask this question because it’s very fitting… Irish band… What’s everybody’s favorite drink when you’re on the road? What do you want people bringing up to you on the stage?
R- Oh that is a perfect question to ask, because we don’t all like whiskey. I do not like whiskey. I will do a shot of vodka anyday, or a shot of tequila. But a shot of whiskey makes me die.
T- Now see, a shot of tequila makes me wanna die. And they just wanted me to take a shot of tequila with them.
P- For the record, I’ll take ANY of those drinks.
M- I nice big Guinness puts a smile on my face!
A- Or a glass of gin and lime juice.
T- I do like a glass of Jameson. I like whiskey.
G- So, when I asked The Tossers what they like to drink, the answer is EVERYTHING, so if you get to check these guys out on this tour, just bring them anything and they’re gonna get down! They’ll have a drink with you!
G-It’s party music!
So, to finish up today, as a band that has been doing this for two fucking decades, you’ve unquestionably paid your dues, you’ve seen the music biz for what it is, labels, tours, everything else.
A lot of kids are trying to do exactly the same thing, and the music dream will never die. They want to go record, tour, and want to be professional musicians…What advice can you give some of the young, up and comers…
T- This is easy… First thing is don’t sign away your fucking publishing, but you’re probably not gonna get a record contract. Either way, keep your yes open for that. If there is any way you can get some kind of percentage of your publishing, fucking keep it before you sign. But you’re probably not gonna get it.
The other thing is don’t buy a fucking tour bus. It’s gonna seem like a great idea. You’re gonna get your advance from the label, and you’re all gonna have your own separate rooms, but in the end it’s just as cheap to take 2 vans, and you’ll save a lot of cash.
M- Buy Clorox wipes for the microphone. That’ll keep you from getting sick.
P- If you want to go through all the advice we have for young bands just starting out, we’re gonna be here for another hour.
G- Well, we can always do a part 2. I don’t want to take up too much time.
T- Then we will!
G- Well, the new album is out, it’s time to play some shows, and we’re ready for you! Thank you guys so much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today and coming to Ithaca for the release, and it’s time for me to have a drink!