Never dreaming their unexpected mix of Celtic-punk would forge a 15-year career of amped-up, politically-charged jigs, seven-member Los Angeles group, Flogging Molly has cultivated a fervently loyal fan base. Their DIY work ethic and emphatic, folk-infused protest songs have earned them number one chart positions, gold and platinum album sales, and an LP (2008’s Float) deemed to be “one of the most important CDs of the year, if not the decade,” by Alternative Press. Having recently released their fifth studio album Speed of Darkness, guitarist Dennis Casey explains how he and multi-instrumentalist members Dave King, Matthew Hensley, Nathen Maxwell, Bridget Regan, Robert Schmidt and George Schwindt are in it for the long haul, driven only by the foot-stompin,’ hootin’-and-hollerin’ love of music.
Where’d the inspiration come from to marry Celtic music with punk?
The band is Dave’s vision. Being from Dublin, he tells of going to the pubs with people who didn’t have much money; entertaining themselves by picking up instruments and having a few pints, jumping up and down and stomping their feet. He wanted to write from his experience and say something, so why not look to his heritage? He happened to like punk rock too. I think it really works.
There’s an inherent punk ethos to folk music that make the two fit pretty seamlessly.
Folk music is music for common people. It makes you jump up and down and hoot and holler. When you speed it up a hundred times and put some drums and a bass and a guitar behind it, it magnifies everything.
Did you ever imagine you’d be at it for so long?
(Laughs) No. I never, ever thought we’d be right where we are now, doing what we’re doing. I believed in it with all my heart, but I’d never had any success as a musician before joining this band and didn’t have notions of how it might go. I just wanted to quit my job and make music.
Are there challenges to not fitting neatly into the rock or pop genres?
We’ve always struggled. We started out in L.A. where there’s a lot of music industry people and they had no clue what to do with a band like ours – but then there’d be 200 people there just going absolutely f—— bonkers even though they didn’t get it. We’re a working class band and we’ll always be that.
Many bands say, ‘We’d be nothing without our fans.’ Is that true for you?
We have fans that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I respect and appreciate them, and we’ve grown together. Whether or not we’re on the radio, we’ve had years of going back to small towns and meeting people and playing for them and doing whatever we have to do. We’re not a pretty band put on covers of magazines and on MTV… but we don’t have to be.
Because a great live show is what keeps a band like yours going.
Exactly. You hit it on the head. After seeing us play, people become fans; I hear it so many times. The live show has always been ‘it’ for us, and with where the music industry is headed, a great live show is everything and there’s nothing that can replace it.
Some acts exist because they’re pretty and fit neatly into radio slots – but don’t do well in a live setting.
I agree. I’m generalizing of course, but there are so many pretty-looking bands that are young and attractive and have a silly little song that sticks in your head – and that’ll always be in vogue – but they’ve never had to work at it; they’ve never been on the road or paid their dues and you can see that.
Describe the dynamics of a seven-piece band.
On a technical level, less is more with seven people. There’s so many sounds coming at you that the less you play, the better, and keeping it simple allows the music to become festive… and really powerful. On a personal level, they’re my second family and the music keeps us together. None of us are childhood friends, or from the same city, and we’re not even the same age. I always say that if the seven of us were put in a room before being in this band, none of us would’ve talked to one another. But we’ve created a bond over the 15 years we’ve played together and we’re proud of that. It’s no easy feat to keep an original line-up for that long.
Next week, Dennis talks politics in music and describes what it was like to hang with Joe Strummer. Flogging Molly is on tour now with cross-Canada dates commencing September 23 in Newfoundland. For a complete list of shows, visit www.floggingmolly.com.
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.