California Celts

This weekend Celtic ska-punk pioneers — the California Celts — will parade through the doors of Fibber Magees Irish Pub in Chandler fully clad in kilts and playing bagpipes to put on a show that is sure to get the whole crowd dancing. Presenting a fusion of traditional Celtic-style, upbeat ska and smooth reggae, the California Celts are a one-of-a-kind act revolutionizing the conventional Saturday night bar scene.

Frontman Chris Poland has been deeply ingrained in the ska-punk scene for decades. Since he was a teenager, Poland has been inspired by the sound and movement of traditional ska-punk that was brought over from Britain to America. This weekend, Poland and the other talented members of the California Celts are bringing that sound to Fibber Magees in Chandler.

Q: Where do the California Celts draw inspiration from for their unique style of music?

CP: A little bit was through the radio stations that we were able to get from Los Angeles and San Diego. There was a two-tone ska movement in Britain, and I was 18 when that was happening, so that to me was so cool. You know, we were all trapped in that adolescent mind. My brother (Aaron) and I enjoyed the English ska movement — the Specials, Madness, and the English Beat— and when we first started playing guitar that was an easy style you could pick up on quick. We were good at funk, so we naturally went to that upbeat style of ska. It made people dance instantly. We saw it at our first shows. People danced to the ska beat. We’d play a beat and it’s guaranteed that they’re gonna dance.

Q: Where do you think your particular style of music fits into the modern music scene?

CP: It’s definitely a subgenre of rock ‘n’ roll. Not only is it ska. We’re fusing two genres together. We like to consider ourselves pioneers. Twenty-plus years ago, the band the Trojans from England recorded [the song] “Gaelic Ska.” It’s a variation on an Irish tune, and they were playing it in the traditional ska beat. [They] invented it, made one song in that genre and then left it alone, so we kind of took the ball. Some people don’t get it, and we’ve been told we’re terrible by one of the very nice clubs that we’ve played at. There’s always going to be purists out there, and I enjoy traditional forms of art, too. I like traditional ska, I like traditional versions of things, but there’s some good mash-ups out there.

Q: Your recent album “Take Me Away” earned a Grammy nomination last year. What did this mean to you, your band and your music?

CP: To be honest I never really looked at awards or artistic award ceremonies. It’s fine to be competitive, and I am very competitive. I have healthy competitive relationships with other musicians that push us to practice more. But as far as the Grammy nomination, it is a feather in our cap — something I can put on our resume now. And it’s honestly about the ego a little bit. It makes you feel good!

Q: You have a show in Chandler next Saturday, and you guys definitely have a unique stage presence. What would you like your audience to take away?

CP: But I want people to take away the fact that we’re more than just a rock ‘n’ roll band. We’re a cultural troop, so to speak. And the performance is enough to make people step out of the bubble and think. The different instrumentation and the fact that we’re men wearing kilts — the people love it. It’s always fun to watch people’s reactions.

•  Hannah Mitchell, a senior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for GetOut. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or

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