It’s always fun discovering a new band and such is the case this week as I bring to you Steve Benson, founder and frontman for the Rebels of the Sacred Heart. If you happen to be a fan of Irish music, especially the type found at a pub, then this seven-piece group is your cup of tea (as it were). Made up of Benson (guitar, mandolin, Irish banjo and lead vocals), Courtney Parker and Kat Alexander (co-lead singers), Anna Sobel (on percussion), Brian Bender (on accordion and keyboards), Alex Korolov (on violin), and Dan Grip (on bass), the Massachusetts-based band has been entertaining crowds with a rousing repertoire of all things Irish. Reached at his Leominster, Massachusetts, home, Benson was happy to fill me in on the group. I asked him to give me the low-down on the band.

Benson: Well, I think the core of the band is humor and getting people involved in humor. The band doesn’t play that much but it’s more a niche thing and then the humor element sort of ties it all together. I get offers for the band to play more often but I tend to want to only play in places where people are really looking for Irish music.

Q: How did the group come to be?

Benson: Well, I met this guy from Ireland and the two of us had a gig for years together and people back then didn’t know that I was not Irish.

Q: Oh! What?

Benson: I have not one drop of Irish blood in me. I’m 100 percent Eastern European Jewish — but anyway, our gig went on for years and finally he went back to Ireland, I did a few gigs after that but it wasn’t something I pursued. But what it really boiled down to was that I was sitting around with my wife and I started to pull out some of these songs, she had never heard me do this before, and she flipped out: “You really sound like you’re from Ireland!” What it boils down to is because of my background in classical music and jazz and also a little bit of theater, I was able to amalgamate a character that is something like an Americanized, funny version of what you’d want if you were looking for a frontman for an Irish drinking pub group, which is a little bit of arrogance and boisterousness. What happens with Rebels of the Sacred Heart is that I take all these songs from back then and stuff that I’ve been doing recently and my experience with working with world-class tribute bands, I just created a band based off that experience and the response has been great. Mostly what happens is that I get everyone to sing and it’s family friendly.

Q: For you, what’s an important part of the band?

Benson: The reason I do Rebels is really to get inside another person’s experience as if I were Irish and then find a way to emotionally translate that to an audience. It’s been a whirlwind, we don’t play a ton but the folks involved are just wonderful people and professionals, everybody does their homework. Frankly, I don’t think we could play more than six or maybe seven times a year, at this point.

Q: Will you be bringing the whole band with you to Madison?

Benson: That’s a good question. At least four are definitely planning on coming. And I have two more that are ‘maybes,’ because of family arrangements, so they’re not sure if the timing is going to work. So, I may try to bring with me the six but it’s likely to be four or five.

Q: Do you have a goal for this group?

Benson: I really want to find a way to bring people in and make them feel like they’re part of the show. I turn the audience into the show and that’s really the ultimate goal of the band.

Q: Is there anything readers should know about that upcoming show at Somerset Abbey?

Benson: If there are people who play traditional instruments like fiddle or whistle or Irish drum or anything like that, we’re trying to avoid people showing up with a guitar, so if anybody plays traditional Irish melody instruments or percussion they would be welcome to join us if it’s something they’re comfortable doing.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Benson: I just want people to feel very, very welcome and to bring their families, bring everybody. We’ll be doing stuff for young people that they’ll like and stuff the folks 75 or 80 years old will recognize.

Lucky Clark, winner of a 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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