By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
I’m really looking forward to seeing Erin’s Guild this weekend at McGrath’s Irish Pub. They play Friday and Saturday, July 29-30 from 7:30-10:30 p.m. I got to hear a sample of these guys when I was deejaying Brogan and Karen McGrath’s wedding back in May. They grabbed some instruments around the Inn and played a little session. They were awesome and it was a lot of fun. After talking to Sean Fell, the lead guitarist/vocalist of the group, it sounds like that’s what a whole show will be. Fell also plays harmonica and a percussion drum.
The band is normally a trio but this weekend will be a duo. Joining Sean is Scott Sutherland on bass/mandolin/banjo/guitar. Patrick Bowling is out on a West Coast tour with Glenville, a Celtic band. He plays Irish whistle, Irish flute, bodhrán and the uillean pipes which are the Irish bagpipes.
Fells said of the show, “We’re high energy, Irish/American covers and original music. We love interacting with the crowd and having fun. It definitely not laid-back, we don’t sit down and hardly ever take breaks. I like to call it Irish American Folk Rock. We’ll tell some jokes, do some toasts. It’s really about having fun, whether the audience is or not, we’ll be having fun. We can do everything from The Clancy Brothers to Johnny Cash to Social Distortion.”
They had an original album in the works but then Covid hit and they couldn’t get in the studio. They were excited to get the album out but it’s not high priority for them now. Sure they’re disappointed but they’re cool with it because this isn’t a full-time thing for them. They’re passionate about playing music but not looking to make a name for themselves. Fells said, “While it’s important to me, it’s low on the list to complete.”
Fells is the primary songwriter, all the songs are his, but likes the guys to write their own parts. It’s definitely a group effort. Their songs fall into the folk-rock genre. His songs aren’t about anything in particular but they tell a story.
Fell grew up in New England and spent equal amounts of time in each state but if he had to pick one to call home, it’s Connecticut. He’s been doing music his entire life. His father bought him a guitar when he was 10. Nobody knew how to direct him with it so he taught himself. He went to East Lyme High School and they had a huge music program. He said, “Five different choirs, a marching band, It was incredible for a public school to have. I took advantage of all that.” He was a vocalist/pianist in choir and in the marching band he played all the different saxophones. He also played clarinet. He got accepted to Berklee and Juilliard for music but got a full scholarship to Irish-Catholic Mercyhurst University’s D’Angelo School of Music in Erie, Pennsylvania. In college, he picked up the harpsichord since he knew how to play piano.
Erin’s Guild has been playing at McGrath’s for 12 years and this current lineup has been there for the past seven years. In 2008, a friend, Geoff Roman, asked Fells if he wanted to play music with him. Roman plays guitar, violin and fiddle with some singing. Fells said, “He’s an incredible violinist.” Roman had just lost a guy so he offered four weekend nights per month. Roman knew he could play Irish music so basically it was play music, have some drinks, have some fun. Fells accepted. Fells said, “He sent me the tunes they did which I already knew. I asked if I could put my own spin on them. He went to music school too so he could easily pick up on what I was doing. We went from playing in Hull, Massachusetts in November to playing festivals a month later. We hit the ground running, people really liked our sound and energy. We grew the band into a trio and seven years ago changed the dynamic of the band.”
The late, great Bill McElaney from Revels Glen hooked Erin’s Guild up with McGrath’s. Bill and Sean were longtime friends. Fells said, “Both Geoff and I owe Bill a lot. Revels Glen gave us our gigging start at McGrath’s. Bill was a well-loved, well-known musician and friend.”
Fells has many musical influences. His adopted father was a DJ and he would accompany him to social events, weddings, etc. Fells said, “I would watch people have so much fun.” His Irish comes from his family and the community he grew up in. His Dad turned him onto the Wolfe Tones and other Irish rebel music. Fells added, “I can remember my grandfather, smoking his pipe and playing records on his old, little record player.” He’d play The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains, all that classic Irish music. He grew up with Irish music playing in the house all the time. “There were instruments just sitting around. All of a sudden we’d have a little session going on or we’d go to the pub and have one there.”
Fells loves playing music. He said, “I love the pure enjoyment I see on people’s faces and the joy it brings me. Sometimes I’m not having a good day but the minute I’m set up, it all goes away. I just live in that moment. The more enjoyment I see in people, the more I feel. I’m playing for me but I’m also playing for them. If I have a bad show I’m not going to be mad at myself, I’m going to be disappointed for the people who came.”
The band’s website is erinsguild.com and you can find them on social media under the band’s name. Fells said they’re not the best at social media but they try.