With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, Local Spins chats with band member Trevor Lewington about the Celtic rock group’s ‘high-energy’ tour that boasts three Michigan stops this week.
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE BAND’S BRAND NEW VIDEO, A TICKET GIVEAWAY AND MORE
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What would you call a band that features a bagpipes player who doubles on trumpet, Irish whistles and harmonica, fronted by a couple guitarists/singer/songwriters, and backed by a decidedly rock-influenced rhythm section?
Well, many things probably, but founder Craig Downie opted for Enter the Haggis, meant to conjure his and the band’s Scottish heritage.
Unwieldy? Perhaps, but that hasn’t stopped the band from gaining a enthusiastic following during the group’s two-plus decades delighting audiences with its mixture of tunes, tales, talks and instrumental and vocal harmonies.
Downie – the bagpipes-and-more player – founded the group nearly 30 years ago, with an eye to fusing his pipes with the rhythms and accoutrements of a rock and roll outfit. “A rock band with bagpipes,” as guitarist and vocalist Trevor Lewington puts it.
“Riverdance was big then,” he adds.
Over the years, personnel came and went, as is often the case. Lewington joined at 19 while studying music at university in Toronto, and remains one of the two main songwriters and lead vocalists for the band. And ETH is still going strong despite the fact the individuals are widely dispersed from their original hometown of Toronto.
“I live two hours from the drummer – we’re the closest. Three are in Canada, two in Portland, Maine, one in Asheville, North Carolina, and one in Philly.”
VIDEO: Enter the Haggis, “Swallowed by a Whale”
Today. the band is comprised of Downie on the aforementioned bagpipes, whistles, trumpet and guitar; Brian Buchanan on vocals, fiddle, guitars and keyboards; his wife Rose Baldino on fiddle and vocals; Bruce McCarthy on drums and percussion; Lewington on vocals and guitars; and the newest recruit, Caroline Browning on bass, as well as mandolin, keyboards and vocals.
Given today’s technology, they can record music without leaving home. But when they do get together — as they will Thursday (Feb. 23) at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, on Friday (Feb. 24) at Midtown in Grand Rapids and Sunday (Feb. 26) at The Ark in Ann Arbor, it’s a party. (Click on the links for tickets.)
TICKET GIVEAWAY: The first person to email firstname.lastname@example.org with “HAGGIS” in the message field will win a pair of tickets to Friday’s show at Midtown in Grand Rapids.
“It’s a high-energy, fun show. We write story songs, a lot about hard-working, blue-collar folks,” Lewington says. “We sound like Enter the Haggis.”
SIX DIFFERENT AESTHETICS WITH TRADITIONAL CELTIC FLAIR
Lewington admits it can be hard to pigeonhole the group. He says the sound can differ from show to show, particularly given the different venues, whether a performance hall or festival. The approach and audience energy will differ, plus there are the varied backgrounds of the bandmembers.
“We have six different aesthetics,” he says, though one thing remains constant: “There’s a traditional Celtic element there.”
He says the band has performed in various settings, including a number of festivals and cruises. He credits the last with helping them steer their music in a more rootsy direction. “Most of us went to college for music, studying jazz. We were on a cruise with a bunch of folkish (artists) – Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Steve Earle, Indigo Girls. We were hanging out with them and they influenced us. We love the hybrid fusion of different sounds.”
Oh, and that name? It is, of course, derived from the traditional Scottish dish haggis. Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, defines it as “a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.” Yum.
Of course, fans have loved the name, right up until Downie decided to instead call it Jubilee Riots a decade ago, before returning it to its original name, much to fans’ delight.
The band’s hectic current tour finds them crisscrossing the Midwest and East Coast, with three stops in Michigan this coming week: Thursday at Dennos Museum Center’s Milliken Auditorium in Traverse City, Friday at the Midtown in Grand Rapids and Sunday at the Ark in Ann Arbor, with additional stops in Chicago and Milwaukee.
VIDEO: Enter the Haggis, “Bound for America”
VIDEO: Enter the Haggis, “Whippoorwill”
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