January 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 31°F


Irish rock band returns to jam at Castaways

Toronto-based band Enter The Haggis integrates traditional Celtic bagpipes and the fiddle into a diverse combination of rock beats. This ever-evolving fusion of sound is the product of the five-man group’s musical training and unabashedly underground roots. Enter The Haggis will be performing at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Castaways on Inlet Island.

Contributing Writer Jessie Yuhaniak spoke with Brian Buchanan, who sings and plays the fiddle, keyboards and guitar for the band, about its distinct approach to the music scene.

Jessie Yuhaniak: You guys are classified as “Celtic rock” right?

Brian Buchanan: Yeah, if there is such a thing. When people ask me what kind of music my band plays, I usually just give them a CD because I really can’t describe it. It’s a blessing and a curse because our albums sound like you put your iPod on shuffle. That works for a lot of people who get bored listening to a band that has one sound. But the curse is that it’s really hard to market yourself, get industry attention, or get on the radio or convince bands to let you tour together because it’s so hard to describe what we sound like. But it also means that people who find our music are generally people who are genuinely looking for something good, different, outside the mainstream. That way, when people come across our music and they like it, they’re fans for life.

JY: What inspired the band name?

BB: We like the idea of what haggis is — the fact that it’s a whole bunch of elements that aren’t necessarily complementary, but they get mashed up into one concoction and boiled together and made into an allegedly delicious feast. It’s kind of like what our music is — we take things from all over the world and all sorts of musical traditions and blend them together and hopefully wind up with something that’s at least as palatable as the sum of its parts — hopefully more so.

JY: What makes Ithaca a regular stop on your tours?

BB: The first time we played at Castaways there were a bunch of kids from Ithaca College that came out and it just opened up, which is nice for us because a lot of times at rock clubs they take a long time to gradually build. The first time there’s 20 people, then there’s 30 people, then there’s 50 people, and it takes a long time to build up, but it was pretty big the first time. We’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. If people are into the music and people are going to come out and support us, we’re going to come back as often as possible.

JY: Your use of social media is pretty extensive, even for today’s standards. Do you see it as a way to connect with current fans or to build your potential fan base?

BB: The strength of social media for a band is that it’s like a conversation that takes place in public. So if, for example, we manage to reach somebody and they like our music and become a fan, it shows up on their Facebook page. It’s a way to build the name recognition in a way that’s never been available before. It’s fun to get to know people a little bit and have that personal connection with your fan base. Fans get to interact with band members, and it tears down the level of separation that’s always been there in the past. We show up at venues all across the country and know half the people there by first name because we’ve been interacting with them online or they’ve been on our chats. It helps to build more of a community feeling instead of the bands up on a pedestal and the lowly fans down below groveling for some of their attention.

JY: Is your continuous communication with fans the reason you decided not to sign with a “major” label?

BB: I don’t know if I can honestly say that was a reason, but it’s a nice side-effect. For us, the major label thing is that we just don’t fit into that world. We’re not going to have a top-10 country radio single and tour with Taylor Swift. We’re not going to be the next Jonas Brothers or anything like that. The part of the music industry that’s owned by the major labels these days is increasingly commercialized pop music, sort of mass-appeal, easy-to-swallow, not very challenging.