Deacon Sean calls Bar Brawlers his best lineup 

>You wouldn’t expect to find Wonder Woman (if she existed) or Michael Jackson anywhere near Indianapolis cowpunk band Deacon Sean and the Bar Brawlers. But there they are, or at least their likenesses, hanging in the band’s practice space inside bassist Jake Petroff’s suburban garage. It’s proof that not all band members live the life they sing about in their song; their outlaw country isn’t always autobiographical.

But sometimes it is. Take the case of Deacon Sean himself. A former punk rock kid in the Blacklisted, he went on to front the Drunken Deacons and Snake Handlers before forming the Bar Brawlers. Guitarist Scott Burke has been along for the ride ever since joining the Drunken Deacons as a replacement. Petroff and drummer Chris Duggan have worked together since high school, having come up in the grunge age. Duggan met Sean through a motorcycle group, and brought in Petroff to complete the lineup.

Given Sean’s past, it’s not difficult to understand how he evolved into a rockabilly singer. He calls it his punk rock retirement plan.

“I like playing more traditional country and rockabilly, but wanted something more energetic,” Sean says, looking street tough in rolled-up jeans, scuffed black boots and a prison-yard build.

He’s found it in the Bar Brawlers, a lineup Sean calls his best yet. Petroff and Duggan joined the proceedings a year and a half ago, starting out on a three-piece set and the requisite standup bass. Duggan has since added some drums and Petroff has moved to electric bass, giving the band more firepower. Add Burke’s blistering leads and Sean’s grizzled tales of being rock bottom and rebellious, and you have the makings of a shit-kicking jubilee.

It shines through on the Brawlers’ self-titled, self-produced debut CD. The album perfectly captures the band’s rowdy side on the raging jangle of “No Surrender, No Regrets” and the chugging “Train, Train,” while also laying low on the slow, jaunty “Old #7 Waltz.” Some of the songs date back to 1993, when Sean was still a punk.

“They sound completely different now,” he says. “I’m proud of every song on the album.”

Discovering twang

With the exception of Burke, who has his own variegated past in music, and of course Sean, the Bar Brawlers represent a distinct change in sound for the other members.

“This is first band I’ve been in that country was even applied to the name,” Petroff says.

What brings everyone into the fold is what the name and music represent. And that, they say, is having a good time.

“The other bands I was in, everything was so serious,” Burke says. “This is about drinking beer and playing music.”

Even through the drunken revelry, those in attendance are actually paying attention rather than treating the band as background noise. It’s working in multiple scenes, too.

“One of the coolest things about this band is we can play at the Melody Inn to the hipsters who hang out there, but we can also play at like some bar in Lawrence for bikers, and they love us just as much,” Petroff says.

Following a self-imposed period of isolation while recording their CD, the Brawlers plan to play out much more around town, starting with their CD release show Friday. But as far as record deals and actual tours (“They’re not fun. Then it turns into work,” Sean says), don’t count on them pursuing either with any sort of gusto.

“I’ve already been cursed with a long life,” Sean says, adding that someone once told him if the good die young, he’s going to live forever.

“We’ve got our feet firmly planted in reality,” Burke says. “But if it did blow up ... We’d probably all end up in body bags.”

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