Ken's neighbor stops by on his way out to shake his hand and ask if he's coming by the house tonight. He says he saw that they did their new video in his old apartment upstairs from a funeral parlor in Dorchester's Lower Mills. "You lived up there? That place was always haunted!" says Kenny. "Hey, it's a small world. You know, my father was waked in there, and then I'm doing a video there. And you lived upstairs? Hey, wait a second, we went up in the attic and found some porno mags up there!"
When his neighbor leaves, Ken tells me the story of making the video for their Christmas song, "The Season's Upon Us." He didn't know until he arrived at the former funeral parlor in Dorchester that it was the very one where his own father was waked, when Kenny was eight years old. "Walking in that room was like, 'Whoa.' It all came back." The subject then turns to my own return to Old Colony Housing Project in recent weeks, as demolition turns my old neighborhood to bricks, scraggly steel wires, broken pipes, and concrete. We imagine the things found in the rubble, the spirits still not at rest.
When we return to our interview I bring up the flipside of community and connectedness, what the Irish call "begrudgery": resentment of success, resulting in gossip or accusations of getting too big for one's own good. But Ken sees it as just as much of a punk tendency as an Irish trait.
From where do you get begrudgery coming at you?
KC: You can't be a punk band and get popular. People just have that, "I knew 'em when." They'd rather have you to themselves.
JL: I was gonna say, I just saw gripes online today, like, "What are they doing a Christmas song for?!"
MK: I'm actually surprised, though, about the amount of support we get to this day from old-time punks. You'd think they'd be resentful.
KC: When we got more popularity, we didn't change. I recently read a quote that said, "You wanna hate them so bad, but you can't." Because we don't give them a reason, that smoking gun. Like, when every hardcore or punk band tried to become metal or [put] synthesizers in their music, or whatever it is; or being caught with a stripper or whatever, you know what I mean?
MK: We're the same assholes we were when we started playing in [founding member] Rick Barton's garage or the barbershop basement.
KC: If we ever wrote a book, or made a movie, it would be like the Bad News Bears of music. Like, "How the fuck did these bumbling idiots make it, that weren't even trying to get out of the barbershop basement?" Our first two fans: we were playing in the basement of this girl Karen Kelly's barbershop in Wollaston, at the corner of Beale Street and Hancock [in Quincy] — a little free-standing building across from Papa Gino's. To use it, we'd have to sweep up all the hair every night, because you couldn't get down there unless you swept it up. So anyway, we're playing down there, and the basement windows were all boarded up. And it was on Hancock Street, so it was good for muffling the sound a little bit. But some 15-year-old kids eventually started hearing it. All of a sudden one night, this fucking foot comes through the plywood, and they stick their heads in and go, "You guys rule!" That's what gave us the confidence to come out of the fucking basement, you know?
Dicky Barrett of the Bosstones has been a long-time supporter, hasn't he?
KC: What I respect so much about [the Bosstones] is that when they were on a major label, when they blew up, when everything was big — and they took us on their tour with them. I'm sure their record company probably had bands they wanted to take. We only had singles on our own label, and our biggest release was an EP we did on the almighty Cyclone Records in New Hampshire. I would say they set a good example of what you do. When you get a leg up, you pull the next band up. They do Christmas shows every year, and they have a white Santa and a black Santa. And every year I steal one of the plastic Santas. I kidnap him and take videos of me around town with him. And in our Christmas video, the Santa's in the video. The minute it hit the airwaves, [Bosstones bassist Joe] Gittleman is like, "You fuckin' bastard!" We still have a great rapport with them.
MK: Yeah, they showed just by example. They showed us so many things. I mean, I was homeless, living in the practice space, and Tim ["Johnny Vegas" Burton] and Dicky let me move in with them. I'll never forget that.