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Changing Direction
The Punters lost some fans when they moved to a pop-rock sound. But they've gained more.
By John Mazzerolle
Times Globe

Whiplash isn't the only travelling pain bands on the road have to worry about. Once you're popular you've got to watch out for the backlash too.

Ask Larry Foley, lead singer and guitarist for the Celtic rock group The Punters, who will be performing three times during Festival by the Sea.

The St. John's-based foursome play an upbeat hybrid of East Coast-Celtic and pop-rock that is leaning more toward the pop and rock side as the band evolves.

As was the case with their fellow Newfoundland colleagues Great Big Sea, some fans consider that evolution a sell-out.

"Our first record was very 'Newfoundland-centric,' and there were people who came to out gigs then [who] didn't' come out after the second record came out," Foley said yesterday while on the road in Nova Scotia.

But those fickle fans are being left behind.

The four-year-old group was nominated for Band of the Year at last year's East Coast Music Awards, they tour the country extensively, and their second album, Said She Couldn't Dance, was re-released last year after they signed a deal with Loggerhead Records.

"For the few fans we may have lost, we gained a whole bunch of new ones," Foley said.

Besides, the fans who shunned the band wouldn't like the direction they're headed now. That two-week tour of the Maritimes is a break from the recording of their third album, which Foley said should be completed in the Fall. He said it will be more radio-friendly, with "a more rockin' kind of sound.

"We're definitely a little bit heavier now than we used to be."

He said the group is looking for the traditional tunes to become more of an influence and less a part of their repertoire.

"There are so many bands out there now that are Celtic and doing the thing.

"We want people to see with this record we're trying to do our own thing, as opposed to just [digging] up old songs and putting 'em out."

Their new sound comes partly from two new members and a new producer. Producer Gary Moffat, formerly of April Wine and the Sass Jordan band, will be replacing Dave Panting, who is known for his work with Rawlins Cross.

Also, bassist Chris Batstone replaces Brian Kenny, while drummer Adam Staple relieves Bob Hiscock. The twosome joined Foley and fiddler-guitarist-vocalist Patrick Moran in May.

For the first time, all four Punters can sing, which gives them a fuller sound, Foley said, adding that the break-up was an amicable one.

He also said that the traditional roots the group is grounded in will remain.

"It's kinda like our accent," he said. "You hear us talk and you know where we're from. You hear us play and you know where we're from too."

Since the band signed the Loggerhead deal, which covers three albums over the next six years, Foley says the band is much busier. He's still having a good time, though.

"It can be as big a grind or as much fun as you want it to be," he said. "Some days are harder than others, but it's all part of the adventure. Getting the job done is the main thing – getting to the gig and making sure people are having a good time."

Though he likes studio work, Foley said the best part of his job is playing for an audience.

"Nothing really beats getting out in front of a good crowd and having a good show," he said.

He said the festival-going crowd will experience: "high energy, good laughs, a lot of dancing, a lot of joking around and some good songs. And the record'll be the same thing."

The Punters played at Loyalist Plaza at noon today, and will be on the Boardwalk at 7:00pm tonight. They will be in Market Square at 6:00pm tomorrow.


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.


East Coast Tour Dates

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