“Good music, good friends, good beer.”
Sláinte’s tin whistle and harmonica player James Harrington, A&S '15, jokingly describes the band’s mantra. In six simple words, Harrington sums up the band’s laid-back, feel good vibe.
The Irish folk band’s name roughly translates to “cheers,” a blessing of good health and happiness that resounds over the clinking pints of beer in local pubs. Sláinte plays up this idea of revelry and camaraderie among audience members, who range from older local residents to Boston College students.
“We’re probably the only people under 55 playing this kind of music,” Jon Harrington, James’s brother and the fiddler of the group, laughs. “Our Irish grandmother will be nursing a drink on one side of the bar while hooligans from the Mods heckle us from the front of the crowd.”
While Sláinte’s genre invites an eclectic local following, the band’s beginning is deeply rooted in Boston College culture. The Harrington brothers joined with Mick Perillo and Pat O’Donovan to form Sláinte and play for an infamous 2013 St. Patrick’s Day “darty” in Mod 37A.
“We ended up with a huge crowd in the Mod lot,” Jon Harrington reflects on the group’s founding performance. “When the BCPD sent us inside, we spent the day taking turns drunkenly singing ‘Shipping Out to Boston’ and that’s how it all started.”
Although the Harrington brothers had grown up with their grandfather playing Irish folk music, Perillo and O’Donovan were new to the genre. Mainly playing the local bar scene in a predominantly Irish area, the pair quickly grew to love Irish music and tradition. Perillo is now the band’s lead guitarist and O’Donovan multitasks as the group’s accordion, mandolin and banjo player.
“The only issue was that none of us can really sing,” Perillo, the band’s lead guitarist, jokes about their need to search for a vocalist following their St. Patrick’s Day performance. “So it really came down to Brady or nothing.”
The brotherly dynamic of Sláinte was not complete until the addition of lead vocalist and bassist Brady Conley, A&S '16, a fact for which he still taunts his fellow band members, “I’ve heard them attempt singing once before and that was enough.”
The front man sings the band’s entire repertoire, from Irish tunes of the 1800s to contemporary covers of groups such as The Dubliners and Flogging Molly. Self-described as a “less heavy and more acoustic” version of the Dropkick Murphys, Sláinte naturally performs in a manner that is upbeat and engaging for the audience while honoring Irish tradition.
“People think they want to hear Irish music all night,” Jon Harrington sarcastically comments. “But everyone is always glad to hear a country or pop hit thrown into the mix.”
A calming rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” or another song of the sort breaks up the band’s typically two to three hour-long sets. Although none of Sláinte’s members necessarily love it, there is always an unspoken expectation for the band to perform Frederic Weatherly’s classic “Danny Boy.”
“We embrace the timeless crowd favorites,” Conley remarks with a mischievous smile as we end our session. “We just know what brings the house down.”