“Augustines” a Fresh Start for the Alternative Rockers

13 Mar

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In 2011, when his band We Are Augustines released its first CD, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, Billy McCarthy’s life had been turned upside down. His brother, James, who had been homeless for some time, was involved in an altercation that got him sent to prison, and then put into solitary confinement. He died before he could be transferred to a hospital for the care he needed.

McCarthy’s mother — also a diagnosed schizophrenic — committed suicide when Billy was in his teens. “Book of James,” “Patton State Hospital” and other songs on the first album were influenced by these tragic events.

With the debut album complete, McCarthy moved from Brooklyn, New York — where the band had been based — back to California’s Sierra foothills where he grew up. He decided it was time for a “walkabout” — a break from the routine that offers a chance to wander a bit and rediscover one’s identity and purpose in life. In McCarthy’s case, this involved reconnecting with a favorite schoolteacher and returning to the school where he got the original inspiration to become a musician.

Augustines is indie alternative rock, with high-energy, soulful, emotion-fueled arrangements and vocals that really pack a punch and at times sound like a 2010s version of Bruce Springsteen.

The first single release, “Cruel City,” features rapid-fire drums and roaring guitars. Growling lead vocals and a full chorus — paired with twinkling electric piano — result in an anthem that pays homage to Springsteen’s classics of a previous generation.

The next track, “Nothing to Lose but your Head,” is even bigger — with thundering drums, a breakneck pace and U2-style guitars.

“Walkabout” is the first change of pace on the album.  It’s a piano ballad with a driving middle that showcases what McCarthy can do when he’s not belting out the vocals all the way through. There are nice transitions from slow to fast and back to slow again. “Walkabout” really captures the heart and soul of the set.

Two other songs worth mentioning include “This Ain’t Me,” which features a nice interplay of synths and bass at the start, with more layering and dynamics as the song progresses; and “Now You Are Free,” a mid-tempo rocker that concludes with the aching line, “What am I running from/Myself and everyone.”

For this album, the group decided to drop the “We Are” and just go by Augustines. It also relocated to Seattle, Washington. Augustines marks the next step on the journey to a bright future for the band.

 

Want to hear more from Augustines? Their new self-titled album will be featured on my radio show on Friday March 14th from 9 a.m. until 12 noon Pacific on KZSU. Find more information about the band on their Facebook page.

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