I really enjoy reconnecting with artists throughout the years as their musical journey progresses. Such was the case this week as I chatted with Dan Kirouac of the Beatles’ tribute band, Beatles For Sale, which will perform at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts on April 14. The first time we had a conversation was two years ago when the band was playing at the Moody Chapel of Kennebec Valley Community College on March 11, 2016. I reached him by phone at his Westminster, Massachusetts, home and began the interview by observing that he and the band were returning to Central Maine once more.

Q: Have you played at Unity before?

Kirouac: Yes, we did last year on April 1. We picked that day because we figured it was well beyond the snow season, and wasn’t it a blizzard (chuckle). It took us well over 5-and-a-half hours (in) what should have taken us four. It was treacherous driving, but it wasn’t a bad turnout for a bad weather day. Your area didn’t have it quite as bad as Central Mass., so we had a really good night there.

Q: Well, Dan, what has happened since last time we spoke?

Kirouac: I guess the big thing is that we’re still plugging along into our 11th year. The sad part of that is that we lost a member to cancer. We’re operating as a four-man band now. The older gentleman that was with us, Dennis (W. Cummins), in October of ’16 had a very fast-moving cancer. It was a hard time while we decided, “Can we go forward with this?” We knew he wanted us to. That was an important part of the decision, and in all our own minds we loved doing it so much, too, it would have been extra heartbreaking to not continue doing it. So we mapped it out, mapping out the parts that we needed to be covered. I absorbed a lot of the John Lennon stuff that Dennis had been doing. I picked up the electric guitar and I’m playing more guitar than I had been in the last configuration.

Q: Because you were doing keyboards, correct?

Kirouac: Mostly keyboards and I’d do acoustic on maybe four or five songs, but I had to step up and become a guitarist and some lead vocals, too. It was a bit of a learning curve. The other guitarist, Steve (Caisse), ended up having to absorb some of the secondary keyboard parts that Dennis was doing. So it was Steve and I both learning the other instrument more stronger than we had been and, of course, reassigning vocal parts. But we had a really good year and we’re doing it. On the plus side we’ve had to revisit all our songs, so we’ve brought back a bunch of numbers that we haven’t done in maybe four or five years. So from that perspective it feels fresh again, but obviously, as you might expect, there was a handful of songs that we just couldn’t do without a five-man lineup, so we did lose a few of the gems we liked to play.

Q: And that was just because of the instrumentation?

Kirouac: Yeah, and the coordination and such. There are other tribute bands that do kind of like how we’re doing it: the John and George characters are both covering keyboards and guitar while the Paul (Joe Budroe) pretty much stays on the bass all night (the Ringo is Mike Christian). So it can be done, but we just had to figure out what we could and couldn’t do anymore.

Q: And you’ve got to maintain a certain comfort level, too, for yourselves as far as what you do.

Kirouac: Right, right, there’s stuff that is better in one singer’s range than the other, but if that person has just way too much happening on the instrument, we’ve got to make adjustments or, in some cases, we leave a song behind. So we’re sticking with the main set of hits. I don’t think we’ve lost any of the main hits like “Hey, Jude,” “Yesterday,” or “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” As it turns out what we’ve done over the years is kind of highlighting 50th anniversaries — what we did for ’64 was the Ed Sullivan sets and for ’67 we were very much covering a lot of the Sgt. Pepper stuff, and this year we’re shining kind of a spotlight on the White album.

Q: Oh, cool.

Kirouac: Yeah, we’re doing a handful of songs from the White album from ’68 and one of the ones we’re working on, a little left of center, is “Savoy Truffle” by George, which a lot of people don’t think of right off the bat as a popular song, but from a musician’s standpoint, it’s a lot of fun to play. Hopefully, when we got it out there people will see that it was a cool little rocker for George.

Q: There is so much variety on their albums. You knew it was The Beatles, no question, but as far as the musical stylings go, they were so far beyond and ahead of their time that it was unreal.

Kirouac: They were always evolving and evolving quickly. They didn’t have a different sound after four or five years, they’d have a different sound after eight or nine months.

Q: ‘Tis true, for sure. Dan, is there anything you’d like to get across to the folks reading this article?

Kirouac: Yeah, (chuckle) we’re hoping for better weather, but I think they’re going to see a different show with a little more of a spotlight on the White album. We’d love to see them again and this may be our only trip to Maine this year. We’re just a channel for this great, great music — we love the music and like to meet other people who love the music, too. It’s a Beatles’ party and we’re the hosts.

Lucky Clark, a winner of the 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” award, has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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