Flogging Molly: ‘We’ve Outlasted a Lot of Bands’ – Exclusive Interview
Flogging Molly are greeted by adoring fans everywhere they go in this country. It’s not surprising, considering how many Irish-Americans and Celtic punk fans there are in the States. What does come as a shock is how big the band is across Europe, Asia and South America.
What started as a few friends jamming every Monday night at Los Angeles bar Molly Malone’s has become a band with a near 20-year history and a global reach. Touring on the back of the excellent fifth album ‘Speed of Darkness,’ Flogging Molly are ready to hit a dozen more countries by the end of 2012.
Frontman and band founder Dave King took a few minutes to tell Diffuser.fm about where the band has been and where its going.
Since Flogging Molly began, there has been a proliferation of bands mixing Celtic folk and punk rock. Did you try to pioneer this sound from the beginning?
Not at all. We just do what we do. It’s great to see others doing similar stuff, but we never had a vision of what we wanted to sound like.
Could you imagine when you got started that you’d be doing this almost two decades later?
Again, not at all. The first time in rehearsal I felt something with the band that I’d never felt before. It was real. It was honest. That in itself was something. But anything could have happened. I had no idea we’d come this far.
When your debut studio album, ‘Swagger,’ came out in 2000, fiddles and accordions were rare on rock albums. Now bands like Dropkick Murphys, Gogol Bordello and DeVotchKa are mixing all kinds of folk with punk. Do take credit for some of this?
I would like to take some credit [laughs], but not all. I started doing this acoustic guitar thing at Molly Malone’s, and one night I met [wife] Bridget [Regan]. She told me she was a fiddler, and the next day we got together and played. It sounded great right from the start.
Being an Irish expatriate, were you missing that traditional sound?
If I went back to Ireland, I couldn’t come back to the States because of visa problems. So I was stuck away from my friends and family. To play this kind of music was so great. As I said before, we didn’t decide to carve out a niche or a sound, it just happened. We had 10 people at our first show. The week after that it was 20. From there, things just kept getting bigger.
You broke nationally playing the Warped Tour from 2000 to 2004. What did those high school punk kids make of your sound? It’s not exactly Green Day.
Every stop we did on that first Warped Tour we got these looks like, “What the hell are all these fiddles, accordions and banjos doing on stage?” There were some skeptical faces. Then we got started [and] it was all smiles and dancing. They loved it.
The Dropkick Murphys are criticized by the old guard for being a Pogues rip off. Do you get that same kind of backlash?
Of course we’re influenced by the Pogues and people like that. As a songwriter, I listen to the best songwriters. How could I not be influenced by Shane MacGowan and Tom Waits and Nick Cave? Everyone is influenced by the artists they love — the trick is to make it your own, and we do that.
You just got back from Japan. What do they make of you over there?
They love it. It’s crazy. The first time we did a festival in Japan we played with this band String Cheese Incident. The stage was in a huge field at the base of Mount Fuji, and when we walked out on stage all we could see were tents in the distance. We started playing, and suddenly there were all these tents unzipping and people running down the hill towards us. Suddenly there was something like 20,000 people there.
Does it shock you to think an L.A. bar band playing Celtic-flavored punk can play to crowds around the world?
It’s insane. This year we’re going to Brazil, Russia and China. It just goes to show you that there are no barriers in music.
What’s been the strangest show you’ve played?
Croatia was ridiculous. The promoter had to change the venue five times to find a place that would fit us. Finally they put us out in a car park by a train track. We’re in the middle of playing. and I see this bright light coming towards us and I have no idea what it is. Then I realize it’s a train and it’s filled with kids wanting to see the show. This blew all our heads off. It makes us believe in what we do at the end of the day.
You’re 50 now. How long do you think you can keep this up?
As long as we’re still evolving as band I want to keep going. And I feel like we’re still evolving. At the beginning we were a joke band to the music industry. But we’ve outlasted a lot of the bands that had major label record contracts. That’s a hard fight we’re still fighting, but we’ll keep at it.
Watch the Flogging Molly ‘Don’t Shut ‘Em Down’ Video