The Young Dubliners, who play a mix of Celtic music and American rock, may not have had the stratospheric success of their countrymen U2, but their shows can be just as satisfying.
The band formed in the late 1980s shortly after its founder, Keith Roberts, bought a bar in Santa Monica.
The nascent Young Dubliners played just about every Saturday night there, and over the years they’ve become known as one of the hardest working bands in rock.
The name is now a bit of a misnomer — they’re not all so young anymore, and they’re not all Dubliners. Roberts is 53, and only he and bassist Brendan Holmes are Irish.
“It’s me and Brendan and the three Americans,” Roberts said. “Or as I like to say: There’s me and Brendan and three musicians.”
The Young Dubliners are not a cover band that plays traditional Irish ballads.
Sure, they’ve done a traditional album and will cover four or five chestnuts during their set, which typically exceeds 25 songs, but most of the music is original.
Roberts, the band’s lead singer, spoke with The Press Democrat in a phone interview from his Paso Robles home in late January. The following are the highlights.
Q. What’s new with the band?
A. Back in November, we got a life-changing e-mail from our guitar player of 18 years who said he would be retiring at the end of the year. The last time I replaced a musician was 15 years ago, so that was a real shocker.
A friend suggested a kid (Justin Pecot, 34) who had taught my kid guitar. Within about two days he starts sending me videos. He was playing our stuff unbelievably well and looking relaxed as all hell. Our sound really is the fiddle and guitar playing in unison a lot of the time. It’s not something that’s in everybody’s wheelhouse. You’re playing Celtic riffs (on guitar) that are meant for a fiddle.
We really were worried that we weren’t going to find somebody quick enough to do that. We eventually auditioned him, and everybody agreed it was just a miracle that we found this guy.
He’s really phenomenal. It’s given the band a whole new lease on life. We’re all having a lot of fun up there. My horror has turned to jubilation.
Q. You’re known for your powerful vocals — how is your voice holding up?
A. Singing the wrong way was my problem. I just roared my head off for 20 years and eventually woke up one day and it wasn’t there. It was a horrendous panic.
Now I look after my voice; I treat it like a little baby all day long. It’s better to rest and do all my exercises and stay quiet. You want to keep going so you do what you have to do, and I’m quite happy to keep doing that.
Q. What led you to move to the United States?
A. Well, my sister moved here before I did. I came to visit her when I was 17 and spent a month in L.A. I came back when I was 19 — I was going to school to be a journalist and got an internship at PBS.
If You Go
Who: Young Dubliners
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22
Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma
Information: 707-765-2121, mystictheatre.com