Despite nearly two decades as a band (save for one hiatus), Montreal Celtic punk band The Peelers have never taken part in the age-old tradition of cramming into a van and touring across the country—until now.
On Sept. 13, they bid farewell to their home city and have been travelling non-stop since. "It's a whirlwind tour. It's not for the faint of heart," says Dave Barton, lead vocalist and electric guitarist for the band, with a laugh. "This is all new territory for us. We've played in Alberta before, but we've always flown in. We've neglected our own country."
When the band first formed in 1999, they discovered their relatively niche genre (dominated by acts like the Dropkick Murphys), had a bigger audience south of the border, particularly on the east coast of the U.S. where there were large Irish diasporas. "The genre we play in—technically we call it Celtic punk or folk punk—the market was just there in the U.S. for us—especially the festival scene," Barton says. "We've played most of the big (festivals) in the northeast ... They're huge. They attract a massive amount of people and the money is good as well."
Then, before they started to break into Western Canada, The Peelers went on hiatus for various reasons. "In 2006 or 2007 or so we took a break. Some of us finished school, some of us had kids or other stuff like that," Barton says. "I had gone back to school. I was trying to manage travelling and coming back to finish my university degree. I had to buckle down—I'm only speaking for myself—to concentrate on my studies, much to the delight of my parents as well."
But eventually "you kind of miss it," he adds.
So, Barton and Eric Diamond, who plays tin whistle and sings in the band, started to talk about getting The Peelers back together. "We said to each other one day, 'If we don't record another album right now, we'll probably never do it,'" Barton says. "We got back into it and it's been an incredible experience. It took two years to record the album."
Palace of the Fiend was released in 2017 to critical acclaim from publications that cover the genre. "That keeps us going," Barton says. "They're not Grammys, but (it meant something) just to get that sort of respect from people that listen to music all the time."
With around 11 new songs written and another album underway, the band decided it was time to head west. Pairing traditional Celtic instruments with "loud electric guitars," the group includes six musicians—three of the original members—which makes for an energetic live show. "It seems to get people going," Barton adds.
Whistlerites will have a chance to experience that for themselves with the group set to make a stop at the Dubh Linn Gate on Thursday, Sept. 27—Barton's first time in the resort. "Some of us have been there before and we have lots of friends up there as well," he says. "From what I've heard, it's a pretty happening spot in town."
The West Coast dates mark the end of the cross-country tour, which has been challenging, but fun. Case-in-point—a week and a half before they hit the road their guitarist quit. Luckily, they managed to snag Vancouver's Dan Garrison, fresh off of a tour with the Real McKenzies.
"He was available and so we flew him out and it's been great," Barton says. "He's a fantastic guy and he fit right in."
But, overall, "touring is not easy," he adds. "It's six different personalities stuffed into a van for hours upon hours in close quarters for accommodations as well ... We're having a good time, but it's definitely a trip."
Catch The Peelers at the Dubh Linn Gate on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m.