Flogging Molly's Frontman Dave King on Humor and Music
Flogging Molly's sound and sentiments boast the same rebellious streak as the Pogues, Black 47, and the Dropkick Murphys, bands that stir Celtic traditions and add an ample does of insurgency. Their geographical bond stretches across a substantial divide, given that founder and frontman Dave King is a native of Dublin and his wife and playing partner, fiddler, guitarist and band co-founder Bridget Regan hails from Detroit.
Their songs resonate with unfettered urgency, relentless abandon, and an emotional resilience that speaks to the heart of today's troubled times. That stalwart assurance is underscored by the group's instrumental make-up, a raucous collision of guitar, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, bass and percussion. Then there's their seven albums bolstered by both brash, defiant anthems and a certain poignant point of view. Their lyrics connect King's childhood memories of Ireland's ethnic strife to vivid reflections of today's modern malaise. The band's most recent album, tellingly titled Speed Of Darkness, takes that upstart stance even further, while putting focus on an economic plight that's common to Ireland, America and in fact, the rest of the world.
"I think there's a lot of hope in the album," King comments when asked about what would seem a somewhat dreary release. "When you write about circumstances as awful as people have gone through in the last few years, there has to be a sense of humor to it as well. I tried to convey that. I don't have the answer to these problems. For a band like Flogging Molly, it's social commentary, something we're very aware of because you can't get away from it."
In fact, King and Regan say they've seen that anguish firsthand. "We've become part of the community, both in Ireland and in Detroit, and that's why, when we're walking the dog and we see all these houses boarded up, we're struck by the spirit of the people. It's incredible. There are people trying to do things, to change things and that's how we'll overcome all this."
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Having taken their name from the L.A. bar Molly Malone's where they established an early residency, the band quickly built an enviable reputation for a boisterous and blistering live act that often drives their audiences to a state of near delirium. Happily then, you don't have to be Irish to appreciate those saucy sentiments.
"I'd like to think it has something to do with our sense of humor," King suggests when asked about the band's appeal. "Or maybe what we Irish have been through. As when the Dubliners (a traditional Irish folk band) sang about gaining our freedom. I remember how those people would sing about those conditions and they would do it with a sense of humor. It's the spirit that they had.
"You shouldn't be afraid to say what's on your mind. I'm certainly not. When I was writing the lyrics, I was discovering pretty nasty things, but there's a certain sense of humor in it, and I think that's hugely important. Between humor and music, those are like the only two things that people have to get them over these kinds of situations or to get them through it."
Nevertheless, King and company have also witnessed the devastating effects the economy has had on the places they play. "When you're in a band like we are, we're touring a lot and we're very fortunate because we do get to tour a lot. We've noticed over the last year or so of touring, we always have our little hot spots in every area, where we go to visit when we're in town, either restaurants or a bar or whatever, and we've seen that a lot of those places that we used to go to are gone. It's really sad. It's frightening."
Happily though, a Fogging Molly show can provide some tonic for the troops, an exhilarating, no-holds barred rave-up that inevitably lifts the spirits of those suffering through the depths of despair. "There has been a lot for people to take on these last few years," King suggests. "But we go out and do shows, and we still see that great spirit in people. They come to the show and they really let loose for two hours, and it's wonderful. There's an upside to seeing the human spirit the way it can still enjoy itself."
Inspired and enthused, King has reason to be grateful these days. "We're very fortunate to do the sort of thing that we do," he insists. "To make the music that we've wanted to do, we've always had to take risks. It is a big risk. We've sunk everything we've had into this. There's no retirement plan here. There's no nest egg here. But it's something we really wanted to do."
Likewise, while a Flogging Molly performance can be draining for all involved, King claims he never tires of that feeling that comes from standing on stage before an appreciative audience.
"There are times when I feel absolutely trashed because maybe I went too hard the night before or something like that and I go urrrgh," he admits. "But I look out into the crowd, and they're there to have a good time, and I go, you know what, I'm sure as Christ going to give them a good time. That's what it is. It's that inspiration. We're very lucky like that. The people that come to see our shows, they're just phenomenal."
Flogging Molly headlines the 9th Annual Green 17 Tour. 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, February 12, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $44.20. Call 800-653-8000, or visit ticketmaster.com.
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