The Petty Saints
The Petty Saints are a local rock & Americana band, well loved in the San Diego punk community. Their debut full length “Long Way Home” was released on July 30th, 2021 on Dark Horse Coffee Records. We sat down with lead-singer/guitarist Ciaran O’Reilly with a glass of our cabernet to get his insights coming into the local music scene, and to hear about his early forays into punk rock.
Photo: Michael Charlson
1. Tell us what your first musical experience was.
I’m from an Irish background; Irish family. So, it would’ve been some old Irish folk songs. My parents always used to have the Irish songs in the car. We’d be driving to my grandparents’ house, one way or the other. Then they’d have the CDs on… or tape deck back then, I guess. So, yeah. It’d be Irish music probably.
2. What made you fall in love with punk rock?
Well, again, same thing as I was saying about the Irish music. Virgin put out a CD. It was called The Greatest Punk Album Ever or something, and it had chewing gum on the front, and a safety pin and stuff. It was like a “greatest hits” with the Sex Pistols on it. It had Blondie, had The Buzzcocks, had The Clash, had all those guys. Jilted John was on there. So, lots of these guys. That was the first sort of foray into it that I ever had. And then maybe when I was 14 or 15 I went to store in England called HMV. They used to have two CDs for a tenner… £10. We were going on a Holiday the next day, and I picked up Never Mind the Bollocks, the Sex Pistols CD. I hadn’t listened to it until we got to our hotel room we were staying before we were flying out that night. We were all in one room, and I remember I put it into the personal CD player. Everyone around me is asleep, and I’m listening to the Never Mind the Bollocks album for the first time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
3. At what age did you come to the US? What are the main differences between the two scenes?
29, I think. 5 years ago now. The big difference is there is much more of a scene here in San Diego. In London it’s such a big city. There’s so much going on all the time, but there isn’t really community in the same way of music. I came here and I was really surprised. Places like the Tower Bar and stuff, where there’s just lots of bands playing and everyone knows each other. And then you have things like 91X who put local bands on the radio and stuff. I’d never experienced community or anything like it, so to me it’s a far, far better scene here than the current scene in London. There was different bands playing all the time, but no one really kept in touch. There’s a few great venues, like the Dublin Castle in Camden is brilliant. I definitely would recommend that venue to anyone cause it’s right kind of on the tourist trail, so you get all kinds of characters in there and it’s always a full house, whereas in London a lot of time I played to the barman and my wife.
4. In what ways do you challenge the norm, traditions, and people who say “you can’t” with your music?
Well, I think in the scene that we are in, we’re doing something a little bit different than I think a lot of bands are doing. And particularly the last album we put out. The first album we put out, the EP, was a bit more americana and punk rock kind of album. Then we wanted to do just like a rock n’ roll album that really was more about the songs rather than just thrashing out hard fast songs. We did that and it was kind of a big risk, cause it was a lot more higher production. Were people going to be into it? Weren’t they? We’re going kind of against the grain, in spite of ourselves sometimes, cause we could maybe be more popular if we just played to the market. But we’re trying to do what’s right within ourselves. For us, that’s against the grain.
5. How has becoming a dad influenced your music?
Being a dad has made me have to be a lot more efficient. So, when my kid goes to sleep that would be my 10 minutes a night to write. And the entire last album I wrote within 10-minute slots. My wife would be putting the kid to bed, and I’d grab the guitar very quickly, and grab my note book, and I’d just write for that 10 minutes a night. It meant I had to turn up every night to work, as it were, to get the thing written. Otherwise, it wasn’t going to get written. There’s one song on there actually that I did write to my son. I wrote it looking at him. That’s a song called That’s a Lie. We put that one out as a single. That’s my advice to him about the world. Generally, I’ve had to be a lot more efficient with my time because before I could just do whatever I wanted and take off, and do this and that. But now I have to really think about, “where can I best focus my energy?”
6. Do you have a favorite local San Diego venue?
My favorite local venues are, yeah, Tower Bar cause there’s always a great sense of community in there, and I really love the Ken Club, too. They’ve always been great to us. Always wanted us to play there again. Again, there’s a great sense of community in there, and it’s right down the street from where I live, so that’s always handy to drink and get home.
7. What is it like being signed to a local coffee shop rather than a traditional record label?
I’ve never been signed to another label or anything before, but I would’ve expected when you’re working with a label and stuff that there’s kind of a sense of “suits” there; a level of control and things they kind of want over you. “We need to sell this product, and do this and that,” whereas with Dark Horse they just sit down with you and want to work on the song, make a great record, and make sure that you’re happy.
8. What’s one song from your new records that you wish everyone reading this interview would listen to?
I would choose Anymore because that is a really different song. That one’s a slow one. It’s a slow build-up song, and it’s actually the last song we wrote and we threw it on last minute. The album was done and we said we gotta throw this on the album. We persuaded Dark Horse to put it on at the last minute.
9. What advice do you have for people coming into a new scene?
Just throw yourself into it and be willing to make lots of new friends, and be open. For me, I didn’t know anyone in San Diego at all moving from London. I was just lucky I made the friends that I did in the band, and they kind of introduced me to people. Then I got to know people as things went on. But yeah, you just have to be open to meeting new people and not too shy.