A performance by the Brooklyn trio, We Are Augustines, is really fun to look at, the music is uplifting, foot-tapping in a grandiose kind of way, with soaring emotion-driving choruses sang by raw-raucous vocals, the three guys are just playful, and the very talkative Billy McCarthy and his strong personality, alcohol helping, will certainly entertain you.
They were coming back from their Coachella performance over the weekend, and, among other stories, talked about their misadventure during Jeff Magnum’s set at the festival. They really wanted to see Magnum, and McCarthy took a picture which caused him to be escorted out by a security guard,… have you heard about the strict no-photo policy reinforced during Magnum’s concerts? ‘You have to be kidding! It’s fucking 2012!’ was screaming McCarthy, 'He is our hero!'…‘No longer our hero’ added Eric Sanderson. ‘But you can take as many pictures of us you want!’
This was basically the tone of the night, three down-to earth guys, not taking themselves seriously, having fun despite, as I discovered later, the gravity of the lyrics of their songs.
There was a little bit of Arcade Fire in some of these songs, think ‘Rebellion’ or ‘Windowstill’, but executed in a more muscular manner, may be more like Bruce Springsteen, which would make sense since Springsteen joined Arcade Fire on stage a few times, and with a definitive indie side, a nervous fast-tapping tempo, propulsive drumming, pulsing bass and guitar, and Billy Mc Carthy’s powerful but heartbreaking vocals.
As the crowd was receiving their performance very positively, McCarthy exclaimed: ’There are a few things New-York can learn from you!’
It’s impossible to read anything about them and ignore McCarthy’s terrible story: He grew up without his biological father and was put in foster care as his mother was diagnosed as schizophrenic. His brother James, who was also diagnosed with schizophrenia, eventually took his own life while institutionalized. Ouch! Who would I think about so much misery when looking at him making fun of Magnum’s stupid caprice, or jumping on the seats while playing his anthemic rock numbers?
But again this could explain lyrics like ‘Lord I see red and it's storming in my head/I got cathedrals in my ears and I think my Daddy's dead/Lord I see red and I'm prayin on my bed/I got a drunk for a mother/Got a saint for a brother’ in 'Juarez' as well as many other.
It is as if there was a constant play of words with religious references, intentional or not, as Augustines made me think about Saint Augustine, as they played songs entitled ‘Chapel Song’ and ‘Book of James’, an evangelical disguise for a song obviously about McCarthy’s brother with the heartbreaking lines:
‘I guess your either headin' somewhere or endin up somewhere.. /cause I tried the bible, tried the bottle, tried the needle, tried to love people/And in the end there aint much to say/And in the end there aint much to say anyway/And I stand here in my shoes, unable to move/my hat in my hands, at the bottom of the ocean’.
But I guess the title of their debut album, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’, says it all, We Are Augustines’ music is a triumphant self-made redemption from life tragedies.