“We can speak of riots and petrol bombs and revolutions all day long, but if we fail to organize we’ll waste our life on protest songs.” – Joe Strummer
Virtually everyone in the punk rock world knows who the STREET DOGS are. Many know what they stand for, but millions of people out there have yet to find out that this is a band out there fighting for them. “Not without a purpose, not without a fight!” is the real-life battle-cry from these real-life champions of the common man & woman.
Although more than a decade has passed since this band of brothers strung together their first lineup in Boston back in 2002, it was clear from that moment that this would be more a force, and a family, than simply a band.
Mike McColgan, a veteran of the (first) Gulf War and original frontman of Boston’s infamous DROPKICK MURPHY’S, needed an outlet for his musical drive and ambition after having left DKM only a few years prior. The current Boston fireman teamed up with Rob Guidotti, Michelle Paulus, and Jeff Erna to start what would become something incredibly special, and definitely something giving McColgan that platform to explore his passions through music.
The foursome recorded a demo in Early 2002, which quickly circulated and created a heavy buzz in the punk scene. Playing live in the little spare time the group had from their jobs and lives proved to be a tough task, but they finally managed their first show in December 2002, at Abbey Lounge in Somerville MA (just outside of Boston). The momentum the band would see from this moment onward, especially in regards to the impact that their live performances have on people, would truly start to define them.
Continuing to realize that STREET DOGS had serious potential to become a full-time band, Michelle Paulus left the band to work full-time with her own band, THE DENTS. This void in early 2003 brought Johnny Rioux into the picture, which ended up solidifying the true core of what this family would eventually become. Rioux’s work in artist management and hands-on production work for countless bands, as well as his own musical tenure in the legendary American Oi! band THE BRUISERS made his attitude and contributions exactly what this band needed.
On the strength of the demo’s buzz, and an unbelievable response to what regional shows these guys could slip away from work to play, offers and recording contracts (many unsolicited) started rolling in. The music world could see that people liked being sung at from eye level, and perhaps some people really didn’t want their music and their music’s lyrics candy-coated and formulated only to sell things. Rather than cave to dollar signs and bring in “talented” (expensive) music industry gurus to help them concoct some scheme to sell a million records, they decided keeping things on their level was the smartest and most appropriate course of action. Signing to upstart indie Crosscheck Records, the band set out to release the seminal powerhouse debut album “Savin Hill”.
No gimmicks, no tweedle-dee-dee, no fluff – the music that the STREET DOGS were creating was real – it was from the heart, from the soul. Whatever emotion a situation and mood set in place, STREET DOGS fired back with the power to uplift and bring a sense of intelligent, hopeful optimism to the room. The sheer talent and unbelievable songwriting that keeps this from being just another band is brought to another level when McColgan’s powerful lyrics and stage presence are intertwined with it. Fists in the air, and choruses sung back in perfect time, its clear that people caught in this storm are changed and enlightened by the experience. They are the STREET DOGS ARMY.
This lineup, with the new album on board, take it’s legitimate maiden voyage, touring all over the US with The Briggs in 2003. Lots of other labels’ A&R people (some of whom had offered to release the new record) started coming to the shows – impressed by the strength of “Savin Hill”‘s sales, and the overall feedback and fan support was truly overwhelming. Realizing that this was definitely a worthwhile endeavor, Mike McColgan opted to take a leave of absence from Boston Fire Dept. and Johnny Rioux from his artist management position, pursuing STREET DOGS full-time. Needing a dedicated core to treat this love like the job it was becoming, Joe Sirois joined the band on drums, and Marcus Hollar came aboard as an additional lead guitarist, both bringing new life and a bit of their own style to this still-developing powerhouse.
In 2004, Street Dogs went on the “Punk Voter Tour” with Flogging Molly across the US. They not only appreciated the company of another motivated and professional group in Flogging Molly, they treasured the opportunity to be a part of something that brought their music, and “real life” closer together – as the tour focused on making sure that everyone voted in the national election (especially apathetic and cynical punks and skins, and other American kids), or at least knew why it was important to. Whether that tour made a huge difference or not on a political level is irrelevant. What those crowds saw were bands giving it their all, day-in and day-out, and in doing so, acting like real people and interacting with the fans daily, all over the country. People, general people, were starting to recognize that STREET DOGS were more than a band.
STREET DOGS also hailed the opportunity to take the show overseas, and engaged the invitation to embark on a European tour with Flogging Molly as well. Tobe Bean jumped on board as rhythm guitarist, and without question another page was turned in this exciting story. Shortly after this hugely successful tour, the band signed another recording contract, this time a two album deal, with indie DRT records. 2004 ended with the band playing the first annual “Wreck The Halls” shows, in its birthplace and home away from home, Boston MA. This holiday show has gone on to become a yearly staple in Boston for the group, and more recently also a succesful nationwide tour. This first one though, in 2004, was one of the best highlights that a band could end a year on. Hailed as a truly legendary weekend for Bostonians and STREET DOGS ARMY alike, it would truly be a sign of the great things down the road ahead of them.
The release of the highly vaunted and fan beloved album “Back To The World” kicked off 2005 in style, as did a 9 week tour of the US with So. Cal punk icons SOCIAL DISTORTION. Touring at a frenetic pace for 8 months, STREET DOGS became closer than ever; a true band of brothers, and met up with everyone – embracing fantastic and truly memorable shows (and parties) with THE BRIEFS, TIGER ARMY, MILLENCOLIN, THE LAWRENCE ARMS, the BOUNCING SOULS, and of course and their first stint on the Vans Warped Tour. Not giving it time to let off steam, the year closed by beginning work on the followup to “Back To The World,” enlisting arguably (and certainly in their eyes) the best and most valuable producer in the music industry, Ted Hutt.
Carrying on that tradition of racking up the miles, much of 2006 including continuous touring alongside the likes of luminaries RANCID, BAD RELIGION and the iconic Oi!/Streetpunk legends COCK SPARRER. The critically acclaimed “before its time” album entitled “Fading American Dream” was released in September, and had the band taking to task the death of the American Dream, war profiteering, corporate greed and the downward spiral of the labor movement. Moreso than ever, the band was making sure that everyone knew they wore their integrity, their ideals, and their credibility on their sleeves.
Paul Rucker soon joined up as the drummer, and the band undertook an 8 week tour with the legendary BOUNCING SOULS. Various headlining tours throughout the remainder of the year kept the band busy in America, Canada, Europe, and for the first time STREET DOGS ARMY went recruiting in Japan. To make things even more exciting, 2007 rolled out with a supporting slot for the indomitable, groundbreaking and legendary celtic punk forefathers, THE POGUES. On top of their musical achievements and opportunities, this band of brothers was beginning to see how STREET DOGS would open up other ways for them to achieve goals outside of music. The band itself began engaging in activism, becoming involved with advocacy for international relief agency Oxfam as well as other noble and charitable efforts.
Amidst all of this, and somehow staying on the road virtually non-stop in ’06-’07, the group also decided to sign a two-record deal with Hellcat Records. McColgan’s relationship with Tim Armstrong (Hellcat/RANCID) dated back to Hellcat’s release of DROPKICK MURPHY’S “Do or Die” album in 1998, produced by Armstrong’s bandmate Lars Frederiksen. The mutual respect between Armstrong and McColgan that made that album so successful back in ’98, and the continued camaraderie between Armstrong and McColgan having toured alongside each other the year before, made this move an obvious one. It brought the music business part of being in a full-time band back to the personal side of things – knowing that they can say what they want, do what they want, and be comfortable expressing each of their views and making music without outside (purely-corporate) pressures taking over. Sure, Hellcat is a business, but STREET DOGS knew that Armstrong believed in the fight, and his goal was the same as their own: to make music that makes a difference, and get it out to people in a way that makes a difference…
At this point, some of the band had been living in Los Angeles, and McColgan especially became directly involved with organized labor. The band did so as well, playing labor conventions all over the US and Canada, and also joining job actions, picket lines, etc. Their fight has always been more than just that of a band, but the band as their platform was clearly allowing their voices to be magnified in a way that certainly started making differences. 2008 began with work on the Hellcat debut, being undertaken in Los Angeles, again with the most important producer in music, Ted Hutt, at the helm. With the Hellcat debut, the band sought out to challenge their core fan base with an electric, forward-thinking album that once again unapologetically says its magnificent piece, intertwined in a new spin on that one-of-a-kind STREET DOGS brand of punk and roll. The album clearly demonstrates that they are not looking to find a cookie cutter formula, or play it safe and be a one-trick pony. McColgan, Rioux, Holler, Bean, and Rucker are “real artists”, not shy or deterred by the prospect of risk taking – and it pays off. More real music, for real people.
Coined “State of Grace”, the album contains arguably the two most popular STREET DOGS songs, “Free” and “2 Angry Kids”. The album’s achievements only reaffirmed their continued success plotting their own course – more and more people (not entrenched in the punk rock scene) were starting to open their eyes (and ears!) to what this group was singing & screaming about. STREET DOGS embarked on the entire Vans Warped Tour in 2008, with a much coveted main stage spot, only taking that further. “2 Angry Kids” saw huge amounts of radio play, and the video got played on Fuse TV and got incredible responses from many premier video platforms online. STREET DOGS also received two Boston Phoenix Reader Poll Awards; winning an award for best local punk act, and lead singer Mike McColgan won the best male vocalist award.
Not content sitting still, STREET DOGS stayed on the road, touring alongside ANTI-FLAG, THE TOSSERS and even met up again with Oi!/Streetpunk kings COCK SPARRER at Riot Fest in Chicago. The group also played its first shows with another Boston legend and a group they look up to and respect, THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES. Reflecting on all of this travel, all of the opportunities to meet and play alongside longtime friends and others driven and impassioned by their own love of music, McColgan and the band realize fully what the band can accomplish with enough focus and their already proven work ethic and drive.
After three different writing and demoing sessions for the next album, the group went into the Blasting Room (Ft. Collins, CO) to record what many of it’s fans and critics cite as their defining moment; their self-titled album. Johnny Rioux and Rick Barton (like McColgan, also a founding [former] member of DROPKICK MURPHY’S) produce the song-rich effort, working with legendary engineer Jason Livermore manning the console. The unveiling of 2010 with more non-stop touring and the subsequent release of the record was a given. Their successes musically were leading to real opportunities to make a difference, and help achieve individual and mutual goals larger than a song, a band or a scene – really helping the average person open their eyes to the problems around them and explore ways of improving those situations.
The self-titled album was critically acclaimed and exponentially increased their exposure, especially on a more mainstream level. The real feat however is having done so without ever sacrificing their musical desires and drive, or changing what they’re doing as a band to help them reach these new fans. Being themselves, and writing, recording, and especially playing these songs they love live (so consistently, and with such passion) have earned them the trust of music lovers worldwide, and the moniker “the people’s champ of punk rock.”
Alongside their continued (if not heightened) activism for organized labor and the support of Oxfam, STREET DOGS also released the stand alone single entitled “War After The War” via iTunes, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity Homes For Our Troops. Following another Vans Warped Tour slot in 2011, STREET DOGS embarked on a tour of the US with lead singer Mike McColgan’s old group DROPKICK MURPHY’S, culminating with TWO dream-like sold-out shows at Boston Red Sox stadium Fenway Park, in Boston. For anyone who grew up in New England, this was not a dream come true – this was a dream no child could ever have conceived of.
With some serious momentum and vigor behind them, STREET DOGS traveled to Madison Wisconsin with Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer and Tim McIllrath to join protests against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his efforts to eliminate collective bargaining for city and state employees. They travelled to Ohio and played on the state house steps to protest SB5 anti-union legislation, and amidst getting their political digs in, had time to motor around the states a few more times – and in 2012 they jetted off to Europe, Japan, Australia and even Russia to check more things off that proverbial list. Through this, Pete Sosa joined the group as the band’s drummer and unquestioningly brought new life to the rhythm section, and an upbeat and progressive attitude backstage, and offstage. Road testing him across the states, and especially introducing him to the STREET DOGS ARMY worldwide was the real test – one that he passed with flying colors.
STREET DOGS continue to grow, impressing new people all over the world, and never have to sacrifice their ideals, their politics, or their music because of pressures by a corporate world pulling the strings. They are DIY, with help from friends & family. Embroiled in this ethic, STREET DOGS opted to begin working with the forward-thinking and exceptional independent label Pirates Press Records. They release the inflammatory “GOP” seven inch single, on the US presidential election day. Although the song itself is a cover, originally “GLC” by legendary UK punk band Menace, these updated lyrics are seen as a (timeless) outright middle finger in the air at people trying to politically turn back the clock by 50 years. The cover, released online before the actual release date, is widely acclaimed and hailed as one of the best satirical musical contributions to the 2012 election. Pirates Press Records and the STREET DOGS ARMY handed out 20,000 flexi postcard records of the song (at right wing political events) nationwide too. The band relished in this opportunity to turn heads, stir shit up, and cause people to at least have a discussion – and hopefully challenge and strengthen their own beliefs in some way – all alongside what they felt strongly to be a VERY important election and turning point in American (and world) history.
After the election, another quick jaunt over to Europe found them playing the Rebellion X-Mas Festival, alongside now label-mates COCK SPARRER & RANCID, as well as another handful of shows across Europe with label-mates DOWNTOWN STRUTS. Coming home to another series of Wreck The Halls shows up and down the Eastern seaboard with FLATFOOT56 and other friends, the holidays found STREET DOGS just plain exhausted! Singer Mike McColgan announced that STREET DOGS would take a brief break from touring after all of these gigs, and in January 2103, rhythm guitar player Tobe Bean decided to amicably step away from the group to pursue production work ventures. Neither of those things have seemingly slowed this band down in any way – on the contrary. The end of 2012 and the start of 2013 ushered in a flurry of unprecedented prolific song-writing escapades, to be released as a slew of brand new singles by Pirates Press Records throughout 2013. The excitement in the STREET DOGS camp is immense!
Look for the group to also release a live album & DVD in 2013, as well as a new studio album later in the year. McColgan’s call for a break from touring will albeit be a short lived one as well, as STREET DOGS have just announced tour dates, including European festivals this summer, and a subsequent fall/winter Wreck The Halls headlining tour of the US, starting in November. Singing and screaming, and generally kicking up a fuss about all the problems thrown at the common man & woman is what they know and love, and what they’re going to continue to do until a force greater than them dares intervene. It’s pretty clear that the “people’s champ of punk rock” has never been more ready and eager to take on the world – they don’t even know how to take a break!
Be sure to check out all the new tunes as they surface, and go out and catch them live, on the front lines of music. That’s where you see the real deal in action. No gimmicks, no tweedle-dee-dee, no fluff – this is real people music.