A group of progressive folk rock musicians is releasing new songs from their album “Tales From the Swindling Serpent,” and no, they are not selling snake oil.
Known as The Bards, the trio is John Bachkosky on violin, Greg Mazur on keys and Kevin Strasser on guitar, with all three members contributing vocals.
Their 14-song record is a follow-up to their self-titled debut that was released in November 2021. They also recorded “The Bards Crawl,” a five-song EP of Irish folk tunes that dropped last March.
Severna Park High School graduates, Bachkosky and Strasser performed together in Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival and formed a band, DeD Walrus. After college, they partnered with fellow University of Maryland student Greg Mazur to form a new band, The Bards.
For the second album, they start with a story of swashbuckling characters from an army.
“They come to the pub and they’re totally downtrodden about a loss they just had in battle, and then we kind of play these characters and our job is to cheer them on,” Strasser said. “So, in that record, you are going to hear a lot of fantasy influences, video game music, Irish folk, and then, of course, we can’t help but let a little prog rock slip in there.”
Every song relates to the tavern in some way.
“It’s got vibes of a concept record, but there are a few songs that pull back from the action and then explore people drinking at the bar and all that stuff,” Mazur said. “It’s sort of a compilation of random pub stories, a lot of which are comedic, uplifting. Whenever we explore some darker themes, there is some sort of punch line usually.”
The Bards released the album’s first single — “A Bottle of Whiskey, A Bottle of Rum” — in October, with a companion music video depicting scenes from their performances at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
They enjoyed that experience and playing Irish tunes in Annapolis.
“Two years ago, we started with a lot of Irish tunes because they are simple and easy to learn, and they’re a lot of fun and upbeat,” Bachkosky said. “A lot of people know them, especially in the Annapolis area. We did things like ‘The Wellerman’ and ‘Drunken Sailor,’ and things like that you didn’t have to change too much to do live and that ushered in our original stuff pretty well to a new crowd.”
So far, crowds have enjoyed “The Spark,” which is often used as The Bards new opener during live performances. The bandmates struggled to pick a favorite song from “Tales From the Swindling Serpent,” but they are excited for music lovers to enjoy the album in its entirety. Two songs exceed the 10-minute mark.
“There’s a 10-minute-long epic on this record called ‘The Pirate,’ very loosely based on a historical figure called Grace O’Malley and that’s where we started to stretch out a little bit,” Strasser said. “The folk element, it’s there, but the rock-metal-symphonic elements are starting to come through more on that one.”
After “A Bottle of Whiskey, A Bottle of Rum,” the next single to be released is “The Swindling Serpent” in early December. That song details how the tavern was created.
Another single will follow in early January and the entire album will be available for streaming in late January.
Fans who attend live shows can get a copy of the lyrics, along with artwork and short stories that give context to the characters featured on the album.
“So, you’ve got a small short story and you have the record, and the last song on the album is going to finish the story of both the record and the short story,” Strasser said.
The band said it will take more than a surface listen for people to pick up on all the narrative pieces. They are excited for people to hear the album, a culmination of a journey that took ample time and effort.
“We’re excited to engage people with this music and the short story Kevin mentioned too, and there’s two songs on here that are over 10 minutes long,” Bachkosky said. “We just want this to be an experience for people. We want people to enjoy all the pieces of it as it moves through this story we are telling.”
New music will stream on all major platforms: Apple, Spotify and Amazon, YouTube. Learn more about the band at www.thebardsband.com, find their content at www. youtube.com/@thebardsbandofficial or follow them on Instagram @TheBardsBand or Facebook at www.facebook.com/thebardsbandofficial.