Flatfoot 56 is an Irish punk band that hails from Chicago’s Irish south side. Their live show message is simple: Forget your pain and live like you haven’t lived before. They base their music on Gaelic folk songs and encourage the audience to release all of their negative energy at the door. Their fans are loyal and their sense of modesty always instilled. They’re extremely proud Chicagoans and never afraid to show that pride. Flatfoot 56 was able to take some time out of their busy Warped Tour schedule to have a chat about their videos, Irish heritage and Chicago.
Buzz: I first heard of your music from MTV 2. Where was that video shot for the song “Brotherhood”?
Tobin Bawinkel: That video was shot in a pub in Orland Park called Sam McGuire’s. It’s an Irish Pub that was built on the south side, built by Irish craftsman who came over. The place has a whole history. We shot that video the year that the Bears were headed toward the Super Bowl. It would have been the Sunday after they lost. We booked it and tons of kids came in and destroyed the place for the afternoon. It was awesome.
Buzz: What is the one thing that you miss most from Chicago every time you go on tour?
Brandon Good: The food. There’s so much to eat and it’s all good. The cultural differences in this city are extremely diverse. You can go anywhere and get great Italian, Chinese, Mexican or whatever.
Tobin: We are big fan’s of the Nicky’s pizza puff—it’s on Menard and Archer. It’s deep fried, it’s huge; definitely check it out.
Buzz: To go along with your diverse enjoyment of food, what was the main reason to take punk and hardcore music and blend them with the influences of Irish Gaelic music?
Tobin: We originally started out as a three-piece punk band, and, with the intention of wanting to be different, we had a friend who played bag pipes. We then decided to show the pipes in a song. He then came up to us and told us that he played guitar. We then decided that he could play bagpipes whenever he wanted and play the guitar on the other songs. Then throughout time we just got more and more influenced by bands that were playing at the pubs. Bands like the Chieftans, the Dubliners and others that we got into. We then got really into the street punk scene of Chicago. That kind of influenced everything.
Buzz: Gentlemen, let’s talk about your new album. I’ve read interviews that say your album is mainly about going through rough times. Why did you decide to write about hard times?
Kyle Bawinkel: Because we’re in a band. [Band chuckles]
Tobin: We are on tour with the Street Dogs when the recession hit. There was a lot of inspiration on that tour … opened up our eyes. … A lot of the lyrics were written as we started feeling a lot of struggles, and other stress from other things. … We all go through tough times and that is the history of Celtic music in general. All of it was written on a trial and that is the strength of it and where the Irish Celtic music comes from. I think it’s a resounding theme that everybody can appreciate. Right now, seems to be hard times all over the place. It definitely feels good to be putting something out that just being positive and working through what you are going through.
Buzz: That’s the kind of attitude you guys try to promote at your shows right?
Buzz: No matter how bad life may be, you want people to come to your show and let it all out and have the time of your life. My last question for you guys is about something I saw on your website that states: “When you have a reason to sing, you sing louder.” What is your reason for singing?
Tobin: I think each of us individually has different things and reasons. I think that as a band, we are big fans of being grateful for the talents God gives us with the intention that we are here to make music that matters. We are the kind of guys that were raised on music that matters. And I think that encouraging people and challenging people to think outside the box, and move away from what TV tells you to do. Live a life that is yours and not something that is a stamp of the outside world. Our faith has a lot to do with where we all stand. But in the same time, there’s people that aren’t of the same faith and believe in the same stuff. We’ve had people say to us, “I don’t understand how you guys can believe what you believe and still be encouraging to me.” We kind of look at them and say, “Maybe you should think about it.” We feel like we’ve been given talents and gifts to play and do what we do, and people appreciate it. If people are willing to like it, then we are willing to do it with our whole heart, and we are good at it, too. There’s a reason it’s there, it was put there for a reason. We’re here to have a good time and show some appreciation to the kids.
*Photos by Carl Burke