Rubicon make Canadian debut in Moncton on Thursday

Fusing the traditional world of Celtic music with more moder n flourishes such as drum loops, Ireland’s Rubicon is helping bring Celtic music into the 21st Century.

With a repertoire of both original material along with some carefully selected cover songs, the band’s ability to suddenly change gears from playing a subtle traditional Irish song to something that is more modern and rock-influenced, is truly a remarkable feat.

Rubicon embrace the modern conveniences of music while never turning their backs on where they came from.

Rubicon vocalist Francine O’Regan began playing the tin whistle and singing Irish ballads at six years old. When she was 11 years old, she joined a ceili band and began playing shows in pubs and festivals throughout Ireland. After having gone on to perform with a number of groups on national and international television, Francine joined Rubicon.

Rubicon’s show at Plan B Lounge on Thursday night marks the first time that the group will perform in Canada and is actually the first of a few shows for the Irish group in the province. Following the show in Moncton, the band will be entertaining audiences on Friday and Saturday evenings at Miramichi’s 29th Annual Canada Irish Festival.

With two full-length albums to their credit, 2008’s Call Me Crazy as well as a 2010 live album, O’Regan shares that their first performances in Canada are coming their way thanks to one of the organizers of the Irish festival in the Miramichi.

‘We were playing a festival in Ireland and had the good fortune of meeting Bruce Driscoll who told us that he was involved with this festival in the Miramichi. We joked with him that we would love to come play Canada and true to his word, he got us in touch with an agent and got the ball rolling for us, allowing us such a fantastic opportunity,’ O’Regan says.

Keeping their live show almost equally divided between band-penned songs and traditional fare is something that O’Regan believes is important for the audience She believes that original material is more likely to be embraced by fans when they are hearing those songs alongside the traditional songs in their repertoire.

‘We have always felt that keeping tradition alive is very important when it comes to our live shows,’ she says. ‘People appreciate hearing the old songs and it is playing these traditional songs that date back to various points in history that help make us a Celtic rock band.

‘We have felt that if we were exclusively playing original music, it might not work as well as it does. Bands are always so interested in playing only original material but we have felt that it is important to balance out that original material with songs that people know and recognize.’ While playing live is a crucial part of the development of virtually every band, O’Regan says that many of the ideas for the band’s original material start on stage.

n Rubicon, songwriting is a collaborative effort as opposed to one member exclusively bringing their ideas forward. O’Regan says that while collaborative writing might not work for all bands, it is something that she and her bandmates in Rubicon are grateful for.

‘Hansel is the primary lyricist for the band at the moment while the rest of us handle the musical side of things. And though some might perceive this to be a division of sorts, we have always operated with the understanding that everyone is open to listening to other’s thoughts on how to possibly improve upon something that we are writing.

‘There is always a lot of arranging necessary for the songs that we write and as such, everyone remains open to other people’s ideas. No one in the band is stubborn enough to say that it is their way or the highway,’ she laughs.

O’Regan shares that the group is currently writing material for a new Rubicon release of original music. Their live schedule is rather packed between now and October and, as such, those live commitments are impeding progress towards the completion of a new record. O’Regan says it’is not a bad situation to be in, by any means, however.

‘We are hopeful that we will be able to finally get into the studio in November or December of this year and look towards 2013 for release.’ The opportunity that O’Regan and Rubicon have been given to play music is not lost on the members of the band. With the many cultural differences all over the world, O’Regan says that the one constant is the ability to appreciate music no matter what language you speak. No matter what style of music you play, she believes that you are bound to find someone in any given place in the world that will have an appreciation for what you are doing.

‘What is wonderful about playing music for people is that no matter what their culture is or where you are in the world, music is a universal language that everyone seems to understand,’ she says. ‘It is something that brings people together, sharing songs of our cultures. Even if you can’t speak the language being sung in the song, we are still united by the music that is being played.’

Article published in July 17, 2012 edition of the TImes & Transcript