No beef with us

Ireland's tireless So Cow embrace Boston
By GARRETT MARTIN  |  October 4, 2010

DOMESTIC GROWTH “The ceilings are higher in bigger venues,” says Brian Kelly, “and that’s a little offputting for reasons I can’t articulate yet.”

"The United States is probably my favorite country," says Brian Kelly, the singer for Irish indie-pop band So Cow. It's nice to know somebody in the world still loves us.

"The people here are generally generous and warm, too, though maybe we just get lucky with who we meet," Kelly continues. "Also, American audiences aren't afraid to make a front row happen, as opposed to the wallflower tendencies of audiences at home."

Kelly must indeed love America, because So Cow are over here pretty much all the time. They've been touring almost constantly since February, when Chicago-based label Tic-Tac-Totally released their second album, Meaningless Friendly, and next Thursday's show at the Paradise marks their third trip to Boston this year. That's not too impressive for a band from New York or Philadelphia, but Ireland's still part of an entirely different continent, no matter how many shamrock tattoos you see in Boston.

Constant touring has led to a steady increase in the band's profile. In 2010 alone, they've graduated — in Boston rock-club terms — from O'Brien's Pub to Great Scott to the 'Dise. That's due in part to So Cow's touring with big-ticket bands like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and the Thermals, the latter of whom they'll share the stage with this time around. But Kelly's not sure how he feels about these higher-profile shows. "There are bigger crowds, but I'm still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing for us. I guess it is. More people. The ceilings are higher in bigger venues, and that's a little offputting for reasons I can't articulate yet."

It's hard not to like So Cow. They make catchy, frantic pop that's tight but ragged, and noisy when necessary without obscuring the two or three hooks embedded in every song. The band's nervous energy is offset by Kelly's humor and understated charm. They sound like a less precious Nodzzz, a more relaxed Nerves, or Boyracer with less feedback and no 8-bit asides. Map out a Venn diagram of various musical subcultures and So Cow would comfortably hug the punks, the twee kids, the surly garage dudes, and the indie-rock nerds.

Even when he's not on the road, Kelly devotes most of his time to So Cow. "When I'm not touring, I'm pretty much writing all the time." And when he's not writing, Kelly also keeps busy recording covers, just for the hell of it. He's done songs by the Go-Betweens and Del Shannon, among many others, and hopes to finish off another batch after the band's current spate of shows (which includes the Homegrown II fest at the Temple in Jamaica Plain October 17) ends in December. "I want to cover Kim Jung Mi's album Now in its entirety. Though it's a lot of Korean to memorize in one go."

After that, So Cow plan on a brief but well-deserved break. "We've had a pretty full on 2010. Batteries need to be recharged, if not entirely replaced." Kelly adds that they'll also be releasing a new album and a few singles and touring North America and the European Union countries in 2011. What's more, one of those planned 2011 singles is slated to drop on Somerville-based Ride the Snake Records. Maybe it's not really the United States Kelly loves — maybe it's just Boston.

SO COW + THE THERMALS + CYMBALS EAT GUITARS | Paradise Rock Club, 969 Comm Ave, Boston | October 14 at 9 pm | $20 | 18+ | 617.562.8800 or

Related: Scratching beneath Cuffs’ indie-pop surface, A Place to Bury Strangers | Onwards to the Wall, Review: Albert Nobbs, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Boston, Paradise Rock Club, Ireland,  More more >
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