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."
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."