Continental family: Rick Barton to put Tralf under ‘Curious Spell’ - INTERVIEW
blog by Nick Mendola • August 08, 2013 @ 11:36am
Rick Barton’s given up a lot to keep music in his life. That includes the unflinching admiration of his youngest son and bassist, Stephen, who will be on The Tralf’s stage with his father when their band Continental opens an international tour Friday that’ll take them across the world and well into December.
“He’s my third son and the youngest and he kind of idolized me for many years,” said Rick Barton, 52, a founding member of the Dropkick Murphys and mainstay in the Boston music scene. “As soon as we started playing in a touring band, he suddenly didn’t like me anymore. He started calling me on everything and challenging me. We ended up really disliking each other. It was awful.”
Concert-goers heading to the Tralf Music Hall at 7 p.m. Friday (purchase tickets here) won’t have to sweat a Gallagher Brothers family brawl. Three years on the road has turned the unit into a bunch of musicians on the road, save for the occasional father-son moment.
“Occasionally, and I should do it more often, I give him a hug and I tell him I love him,” Rick Barton said. “We are definitely now just two band guys. In a way it’s sad but that’s the price we pay to make music.”
The music’s pretty good. If Mick Jagger took it down a notch and had a couple pops at a garage rock show in New England, there’d be a decent chance it’d come out sounding like Continental, which also includes drummer Derek Louis and guitarist Dave DePrest. Rick Barton writes songs like he’s trying to harvest the products of his day-to-day, to get at the crux of whatever life’s supposed to be about.
What works in the songs is he doesn’t lay claim to the answers or preach a life-changing philosophy. He’s in the muck searching along everyone else and the mystery hangs in vocals that oscillate between the rockabilly ethos that used to hang at the Mohawk Place and Murphys-esque yell-along choruses. Take the bridge of “All A Man Can Do’s” album-opening track, “Curious Spell”:
We all need some time to return what we owe // No one’s keeping track of all the s—- you borrowed // So don’t harbor the pain cause one day it’s all gonna stop // We had the night all to ourselves // We fell under its curious spell.
The questioning philosophy means the Bartons continue to decipher together, like any other father/son… only on stage. Sure, Dad has his touring wisdom but Stephen and Rick are in the same sweaty van eating the same quick-fixed food and following the same GPS.
Did Dad have concerns about his son joining the relentless touring musician life cycle?
“I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m an absentee parent, but I don’t care what my kids do,” Barton said. “I’m of the firm belief that parents need to let go as soon as possible. All I do is hope my kids are happy or can find some kind of happiness. It’s a (expletive) society and whether my kids are working behind the register at 7-Eleven or [as] executives at a big corporation, I just hope they can find a small level of happiness or peace. Because it’s crazy out there.”
Oddly enough, Rick and Stephen’s day jobs in Massachusetts are painting houses alongside Rick’s two other sons, Derek and Rick.
“Unfortunately we work together, too,” Rick Barton said. “They are always with me. I have to eventually figure out a way to get separation from them. In a way we’re too close.
“I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but that’s just the way it is for us. It’s probably better than not knowing your family, but everything’s way out in the open.”
So Friday in Buffalo brings Rick Barton back to his comfort zone, on stage with a guitar in what’s become one of his favorite cities. (Fun fact: despite growing up a Bruins fan, Barton considered the Sabres his “second favorite team” thanks to “The French Connection and maybe the logo”).
He’ll be playing “straight-ahead” rock and roll with no plan other than the music and other tour stops, because from Dropkick Murphys to Everybody Out! to this little family band, Rick Barton only wants music.
“I write hundreds and hundreds of songs,” he said. “I just write and write. That’s how I get my thrills. I’m a total sober guy. I don’t take drugs. Music’s kinda my thing.”