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Meet the Press

Punters strive to make musical waves across country
By Michelle MacAfee
The Canadian Press

Their new CD is called Said She Couldn't Dance, but The Punters can't play anywhere in St. John's without leaving audiences exhausted, sweaty and nursing trampled toes.

Now the Celtic-rock band is hoping their lively blend of original songs and traditional instrumentals will catch on in the rest of the country.

"We're very much a get-up-and-dance band," says lead singer and guitarist Larry Foley.

"But we want to prove ourselves as a band to be taken seriously so we need to be recognized for putting our musical foot forward and the dancer's foot behind."

Their timing appears to be bang on.

The Celtic sound continues to ride a harmonious wave on the Canadian music scene, soaking up listeners partial to pop, folk or country.

Everything from Ashley MacIsaac's frenetic fiddle-playing to Great Big Sea and the Irish Descendants has helped open doors to newcomers like The Punters.

But that's where the band would like the inevitable comparisons to end.

"The first thing people who don't know us usually ask is that we play either Great Big Sea or the Irish Descendants," says bass guitarist Brian Kenny.

"We just tell them that we don't play their stuff and by the end of the set, they usually say we were different, but they enjoyed it."

Given that The Punters' audiences have ranged in age from early 20s to mid-40s, Foley says there's plenty of room for each band to carve its own niche both in Newfoundland and away.

"No matter where you're from, when there's someone more successful ahead of you it always casts a shadow.

"But the fan base has the ability to cross over, and if we build it they will come."

Finding their own direction to take Celtic music has been a priority for the Punters, who first got together on a whim at a benefit concert in 1995. That's why they chose to record seven songs written by Foley on Said She Couldn't Dance, the band's second CD but its first full-throttle marketing effort. "Celtic music of late has a reputation of being party music,' says Foley.

"And we're not taking away from that, but we want to create as much as build on that style - to look to it for inspiration rather than exaggerate the point."

The band hopes the CD's first single, Reena, will get radio play across Canada on either country or pop stations.

Negotiations are under way for a video to accompany the second release, and a deal with a national distributor is close to completion.

In a sense, The Punters have spent the last six months catching up to the somewhat unexpected success they achieved when they first entered the music scene as underdogs.

An impressive showcase before industry executives at the 1996 East Coast Music Awards led to bookings at an Irish music concert in New York City and numerous gigs on the Atlantic university circuit.

But in the end, they knew their first self-titled album wasn't strong enough to take them where they wanted to go. So they've thrown all their weight, and money, behind this recording.

"It's a leap of faith," says Foley.

"We think this has got the quality and calibre to go the distance, but it really has to be the calling card we need to establish ourselves across the country."

New CD Ready
Fisherman's Blues, the 4th CD from The Punters, is now available. On this CD the band celebrates their traditional roots and we finally hear a song from Pat.


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