A Celtic Connection to South Pas

From left to right: Lenny Citrano, John Forest,
Shaun Duke, Dave “Chooch” Chuchian and Steve Hurley. Courtesy Photo

Griffins of Kinsale in South Pasadena has become a regular touring stop for the L.A.-based band The Howling Wake, and they will be bringing their repertoire — ranging from traditional Irish songs to Celtic interpretations of classic rock hits — back to the Mission Street venue once again on Sept. 7 at 9 p.m.

There seems to be a special connection between this band and this bar, a connection that produces a synergy leaving both the musicians and their fans energized.

“Griffins has a great atmosphere and reminds me of the places I used to frequent in Boston,” said Steve Hurley, the band’s bassist and vocalist.

“When we played there on St. Patrick’s Day last year, just before our set we heard a commotion — in walked a group of people that were playing bagpipes and drums. They came in, got up on stage and gave an impromptu performance for a few minutes. It was awesome.”

While the word “unique” is tossed around loosely these days, The Howling Wake’s sound is, indeed, unique.

“In a traditional Celtic band there is typically an accordion, fiddle or a penny whistle,” said Hurley. “Our harmonica player, Lenny Citrano, tries to approximate all of those sounds, so that’s one thing that makes us unique — we’re using the harmonica in the way that those other instruments are being used. Our influences include Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues.”

Besides Hurley and Citrano, the band includes lead vocalist Shaun Duke, who also plays the guitar and keyboard; drummer Dave “Chooch” Chuchian; and John Forest, who in addition to vocals plays the mandolin, banjo and bouzouki.

The band’s name was inspired by the Irish wake tradition, in which friends and family gather to pay their respects to the deceased one last time.

The Howling Wake band members gather around a casket. Courtesy Photo

“In Ireland, a wake is held when someone dies and it turns into a festive occasion with lots of drinking and singing,” said Hurley.

“It’s a combination of somber and celebratory, which is similar to our sound that ranges from melancholy ballads to upbeat sing-along tunes that you can rock out to.”

Hurley spent many years as the bassist for the mainstream pop rock band Gigolo Aunts before moving to California to pursue a career as a professional songwriter. He later became a high-school English teacher and happened to attend a school function where The Howling Wake was performing.

One thing led to another, and he ultimately joined the band.

“Going back to my early days when I played in bands during high school, I loved performing in little bars,” said Hurley. “I enjoyed watching the night develop. It would start out quiet, and over the course of the evening, it became a riot. That’s the experience that I had back then and it’s fun to be doing it again.”

Since joining The Howling Wake three years ago, Hurley and his bandmates have enjoyed playing gigs throughout Los Angeles.

Members of The Howling Wake are united by their shared love for music and desire for new creative outlets. Hurley said he looks forward to performing at more venues with his band mates and entertaining audiences with their signature sound and style.

“Being in a band is similar to playing on a really good sports team,” he said. “When everyone clicks and starts making amazing things happen together, it becomes this other-worldly experience and is such a great feeling. We’re constantly evolving — the sky is the limit.”

For more information, visit thehowlingwake.com.