In the past two weeks or so I have discovered one of my new favorite bands. With a mix of Irish folk sound, exuberant talent, high energy, and a frontman who knows how to dress to make anybody swoon, The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin are everything your Irish soul has been craving. Even if you're not Irish, SOMETHING in your soul has been itching for this vibe.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of getting to know the super talented singer/guitarist, Justin Hellman. A couple of weeks ago I saw The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin play at a local bar in my neighborhood and I couldn't stop listening once they hit the stage! I luckily got to talk to Justin a little bit in between the show I was at and he happily agreed to do an interview with me. We met at an Irish pub in Carlsbad called O'Sullivans (my favorite place too) over some drinks and had a grand ole time.
The interview was only about twenty minutes but I got to hang out with Justin for about two hours. It was awesome and I laughed a lot. But here's everything you would want to know about The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin:
Let's start off with a simple introduction for everybody; your name, age, where your from, ect:
"My name is Justin Helland. I am 27 and was born here in San Diego - I grew up here and then moved to Boston for four years and just moved back here about 3 years ago."
You went to school in Boston, right?
"I did. Berklee College of Music."
Is that why you like the East Coast so much?
(When I originally met Justin, I told him I was from Philly and he got really amped.)
"I do like the East Coast, very much. Having grown up in San Diego, I found that living in Boston was a little tough - it got very cold out there. The winters were freezing. But I like the California sunshine a bit too much, I guess."
What made you start The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin?
"The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin came about during a conversation between some friends of mine who play Irish music. There's a traditional Irish session that happens in Escondido at O'Sullivans and that's hosted by Paul Castellanos, who's our fiddle player. Paul and Ali, who is now our band manager, (Ali Gilmore) and Brad Rehn, who's our drummer. We were sitting around - I wanna say we were here in Carlsbad - at a pub and it was January so I was sort of thinking about Saint Patrick's Day coming up and I thought, 'It'd be really great to have an Irish band, collect some Saint Patrick Day gigs and play Irish music'. Of course I was there with two really amazing Irish musicians who I would have loved to play with but I wasn't really expecting that they would be so excited about the project. But it turned out they were excited about the project and the fact was they had actually played in a band with Ned Giblin at O'Sullivans. So they were so excited about the idea that we go together and rehearsed and set up a gig that was like three weeks away. We had to learn three hours of music in three weeks. I had to memorize the lyrics to twenty-four songs in three weeks and of course learn the guitar parts - it was so much fun. It happened, it worked really well. Our first show was at the Wrench and Rodent in Oceanside. It was great, we had a lot of friends stop by and a lot of people that came in that were really interested in the music. We had a blast. Then we got quite busy around Saint Patrick's Day, obviously we are an Irish band - you can pretty much play wherever you want and we just had so much fun playing that we decided to keep it going."
So, what made you land on the name then?
"Well, during a practice, we were kicking around some ideas for band names and we were trying to think, 'Well, what IS our band? What is our philosophy? What describes us?' and Paul, our fiddle player, said, 'Well, we're kind of just the bastard sons of Ned Giblin.' - and we just looked at each other and we thought, 'Perfect. That's it. That's our name.' We try to follow in Ned Giblin's both musical and philosophical footsteps. We play a lot of the same, traditional Irish music and folk music that's in that same genre."
For those that don't know, who IS Ned Giblin?
"Ah, Ned Gibiln. Ned Gibiln is a fellow from Ireland and he owned a few pubs around here in San Diego. He eventually sold his pubs and moved back to Ireland. I only met him once. It was about a week before he moved back to Ireland and it was only in passing so I'm really excited about my upcoming Ireland trip because I'm going to meet, 'Daddy, Daddy Giblin'"
Well who did you grow up listening to as a kid? What was your inspiration to enjoy the kind of music you play now?
"For folk music and Irish music, my mother played a lot of that. My mom was a huge fan of Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon & Garfunkel. She would play tons of folk music - play guitar and sing. So I think I heard a lot of this music growing up when I was young and another source that I heard it from was my grandfather. My grandfather was a first generation American. So his parents were from Ireland. He lived in New York and he had a very pleasant baritone voice; anytime he wasn't talking and telling some story that may or may not have turned out to be true - he always liked to embellish/ make up elaborate stories - he would be singing. He would sing these beautiful Irish melodies. He would sing, 'The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls' and 'The Minstrel Boy'. He would sing a lot of funny songs too like, 'Who will pay for the shingles when God comes through the roof?'".
So, you've always been around it?
"Always been around it, but not as much as I am now. When I went to school I studied jazz - Latin jazz and Brazilian music. I still play those too."
That's quite different from Irish music...
"It is a little different but I have a lot of fun playing it and I do love it. But I feel Irish folk music is kind of a little deeper, more in my roots."
What is your heritage, then? Are you all Irish or what?
I am about a quarter Irish, a quarter English - and that's on my mom's side. And then I'm Scandinavian on my dad's side...so viking, really, is what we are. That's actually a funny story too. My last name is Helland and the reason we have that name is when my ancestors came to the States, the community that they lived with out in New York had the last name of Larson - and there were so many Larson's in that community that we decided to change our name to the country from where we came from, which was the County of Hell. You can actually go look up and there are signs that say like, "'County of Hell' and 'Hell - Population of ___' . It gets really cold over there so you'll see icicles hanging from the sign...Hell freezing over. So, we changed our name to Helland; we are the family from Hell."
That's pretty badass.
What is your go to drink to order at a pub?
"Guinness is my standard. I definitely go for Guinness. But I'm also a big fan of whisky. So, if I can find any fancy whisky I will go for that too."
What's your favorite whisky then? (If you HAD to pick one.)
"Oooh. Well I'll give you two because I can't quit decide between the two. My favorite Irish whisky is Bushmills 16 Year. But I also am really partial to to Scotch. Laphroaig' s Quarter Cask is fantastic."
Those are definitely two of my top favorites too - if I HAD to choose.
"Really?...This answer is sponsored by Bushmills, your favorite whisky."
**as we chuckle pretty nerd-ily.** Back to business.
What is your go to song to sing during a performance?
"Hm. I just like them all so much. There are really great songs - probably my favorite song would be, 'The Foggy Dew". I like that one a lot. The way we play it is very upbeat. It's a bit sad and feels like it has a deep meaning to it. I like that in a song. So a lot of the songs are just fun, straight up silly songs or funny songs. But, 'The Foggy Dew' just has a bit of eeriness about it that I like.
Our band manager has told us to stay away from songs that have any acronyms in them. As in, no songs that talk about the IRA. There are some songs that I do like that are more of in support of the IRA and that kind of sort but..."
But you're not allowed to say you are in support of that?
(I'm a smartass.)
"Well it's not that we aren't allowed to - we try to be a little more tasteful about it and be sensitive. Some of the places we play are British pubs owned by British people so...Yeah."
So it's good you do your research then?
"We do our research and the spirit of the band is that if there is a song that we sing that has some political message - we are supporting it from a historical viewpoint. We, ourselves, are not identifying with the characters of these songs."
What has been your best show so far? If you had to pick one?
"So far... hm. Gosh. That's tough we really have a lot of fun wherever we are playing. People really respond well to the music, they really like it. One of our earlier shows, back on Saint Patrick's Day, was down at Hooley's in Rancho San Diego. I really liked that venue the people were so into it. The place was packed, of course it was Saint Patrick's Day, and we just had a blast playing music out there. People really liked it a lot. It's a bit of a drive for us so I don't know if we will be playing there anytime soon again but it was definitely one of our favorite venues. But, that being said, we love playing at the O'Sullivans here in Carlsbad - this place, and of course Wrench and Rodent. We're playing there every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month - so we will be there on the 10th of this month. That's a great place we just love the people there. Oh and of course The Pour House, where I met you. "
.. I wasn't asking so you would say that..
"The gig that I met Julie was the best gig of my life. I do like the Pour House a lot. It's a cool little stage. It's a really neat little place. When I fist walked in I thought, 'Is this gonna be a dive bar or this gonna be....?' It's a really good place though, their beer is so good."
I actually don't drink beer so I can't really chime in on that.
"You don't drink beer?! *Shocked look I always received when I say that.* I was a little suspicious when you didn't order a Guinness coming into an Irish Pub."
But I got whisky!
"Well. We will fix that when we go to Ireland. You will be drinking plenty of Guinness."
(Yeah when I hit the lottery will I be able to travel to Ireland.)
On that note, what is your dream venue that you want to play at someday?
"Gosh. That's a tough question with the Irish band. Hm. Just because , well I guess this is my answer. We have so much fun playing at bigger venues or tiny little pubs, anywhere where the Guinness is flowing, the people are singing along/clapping along with us; really we have such a good time wherever we play that it's hard to think of anywhere better then local pubs we play at. Maybe local pubs across the country? Internationally too, that would be fun."
That's a very Miss America answer of you. "I can't pick just one..they're ALL awesome..."
*chuckles loudly* (Wow I told a joke right? Me?)
"Thank you to all of our supporters. I would make a good Miss America."
With the beard and everything.
(Justin has a large man beard - yes as opposed to a woman beard.)
"Yes with the beard. Times are changing"
Will your band be going on tour anytime soon? Or are you just sticking to local gigs?
"We are just sticking to local gigs in Southern California right now. I would love to go on tour. That would be fun. It's not being planned or anything but it's definitely not out of the question either."
Earlier you said that there may be a CD? Is there a CD for us to buy or be on the look out for? What's going on with that?
"There are recordings happening. I'm in the middle of another recording project that's going to finish on Tuesday."
So you're not even loyal to one band....
(My smartass responses are really NICE aren't they?)
"It's for a separate like, musician thing, ....
I'm just kidding, calm down.
"But anyway, I do make a little bit of my living with engineering with like recoding audio and music studio stuff."
Oh, I didn't know that. That's NOT on the internet about you so I wasn't prepared for this answer.
(I had done all of my research prior and thought I knew most of his answers.)
"I should put that on the internet, huh? That's a smart idea. The problem with that is that I'm doing most of my recording out of my house, which, the things is - where I live, I kind of set it up for music. It's like a music lair but it's still where I live. So, broadcasting that on the internet and having random people come in..."
(and yes I interrupt the people I interview.)
"Yeah..exactly. 2015. It's a scary year."
It's the year you make that a YouTube Channel. 'The Music Lair' Your music lair for the public eye.
"Yeah that would be a good YouTube Channel, I'd watch that. "The Music Lair"
That name is probably already existent though, not to burst your bubble.
"Well, 'The Music LairXXX"
Or you could just incorporate your band, "The Bastard Son's of Ned Giblin Music Lair", I'm pretty sure that's not taken.
(I should be a promoter or marketing person, seriously. )
"Hey, we might need you to do our YouTube Channel for us....We'll talk. We'll talk."
So to wrap all this up, what is the quirkiest thing about you or something you want everybody to know that they can't look up on the internet?
"Playing in an Irish band isn't quirky enough? "
"This is tough."
That's why it's the last one!
"I feel like people know everything about me."
I definitely don't know EVERYTHING about you.
"I"m sure you do. Come on, we've been talking for an hour now - you know my life story."
You're not that boring.
*laughs* (Wow I said multiple, improv jokes that were funny?)
Okay time to tie in my blog. What's the nerdiest thing about you then?
"Again, we could bring up the Irish band I'm in."
BESIDES THE IRISH THING!!!!
Do you play tabletop games? Video games? Reading?
"I really really like to listen to / watch YouTube play-throughs of games. There is a certain channel of British folks that I watch and they're very funny. I enjoy watching it mostly because I can't justify spending a lot of money on video games as much as I love them."
So you'd rather waste your valuable time watching it?
"My valuable FREE time. Notice. "free" time. It's not "paying" time.
"You know I feel like a fifteen minute YouTube video is slightly less commitment then a $60 game. And the consoles too are pricy."
I'm sure you can afford it though, I mean your band is everywhere now.
"True. We are and we are watching you."
Well, that's it! I just want to thank Justin again for wasting 2 1/2 hours of his life with me and for my whiskey ginger. (My favorite drink - hint hint - if you are ever a bar with me in the future) I had a blast! I'll definitely be at The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin's shows in the future. What are some of your favorite folk bands? WHO is your favorite member of TBSONG? Comment below and as always, remember to stay #nerdy!
Disclaimer: These are my opinions on what I think I can recall of certain events in my life. I am in no way accusing anyone of any crimes and will never provide personal information such as names, addresses, and things of that nature. This is all being used to tell a story to help others out who may be in a similar situation.