When Celtic-punk band The Tossers began making music in the Tinley Park suburb of Chicago, they had no idea they were embarking on a 20-year adventure. After all, they were only in high school. “We really didn’t take it too seriously,” says frontman Tony Duggins. “We were kids, like 18 and 19, trying to get into bars and shit, that’s all.”
Taking their name after a popular Irish and British term meaning “wankers” or, essentially, “dipshits,” The Tossers grew up surrounded by Irish music. “That’s just the way it was,” Duggins says, whose family has Irish roots. But still, he didn’t really appreciate what he heard until later on.
“I was a punk,” he says. “I was into the normal stuff that kids were into, like metal, punk, or reggae, you know? That kind of stuff. But I was definitely not into country music or Irish music. I thought that was really lame, until I heard The Pogues. I just thought, ‘Wow, this stuff is really good. I could do that.’”
The Tossers’ style is very much an ode to The Pogues, the London band that gave Celtic punk rock a name 30 years ago. But Duggins’ vocal style takes after another group from across the Atlantic, The Dubliners. With an affected Irish accent, Duggins admittedly copies Ireland-born frontman Luke Kelly.
Despite The Tossers’ adoration for Ireland, their last release, 2013’s Emerald City, is an homage to the Windy City. “It’s an Irish city,” Duggins says. “It always has been.” Songs like “Here’s to a Drink With You” and “Where the Beer and Whiskey Flow” are perfect for a rowdy barroom of Guinness drinkers, which is exactly what the band will be up against this month. Not surprisingly, The Tossers are in high demand on the days surrounding St. Paddy’s Day, and it sure must feel good after those early days of roughing it.
“For our first tour, we were so broke that we just had enough toll money to get across the bridge onto Manhattan island, and we didn’t have enough money to get out — so we had to get paid that night,” Duggins says. “We were cooking burritos in tinfoil, putting them on the engine of the bus and cooking them that way. We were literally eating baked beans on bread and shit.”
The Tossers play the Tin Roof, Wed. March 11 at 9 p.m. First World Problems and Lily Slay open. Tickets are $10.