Flogging Molly


Flogging Molly: “We felt we might never work again”

Born in LA, but of strictly Irish stock, Flogging Molly are named for the local Irish bar where their career started: by their own admission, Dubliner frontman Dave King and his band played Molly Malone’s a slightly daft amount of times.

Since then, the folk-punks, who combine heavy Irish trad influences with politics and punch, have soared to international acclaim and a heady touring schedule that means Dave and his wife Bridget, also in the band, live a large part of their marriage on the road. In fact, these days, that lifestyle is a relief: early in Covid times, King and the band feared they’d played their last show.

“People are starting to get out a bit more and the atmosphere at shows is unbelievable,” King says. “This hit everybody in a shockwave. We were packed up in trucks and had driven to the first show of an American tour in California, and the tour was cancelled on the day of the first show at the start of a major US tour,” he says of Flogging Molly’s harsh Covid experience.

“Bridget and I got a flight to Dublin and drove to our house in Wexford. We thought it might be two months, six months… then we felt we might never work again. We shrugged that off and went to New York and locked ourselves in a basement and wrote an album in 14 days. We just went for it, there was a real sense of urgency.”

“We just wanted to get together as a band and it felt almost like the last hurrah, but also like going back to the beginning, all the shackles off, like the early days. The album [which will be titled ‘Anthem’ and is due in September] has that about it. One song is completely live, the rest of them are just three or four takes and a few things patched up here and there.”

“The thing for me is that the music is very rock and very raw. The lyrics are simply about hope. No matter what the subject is, I think as a songwriter there needs to be hope in the lyrics. There are a couple of songs about the pandemic, because that’s what was going on when we were writing. I can’t ignore things when I’m sitting down writing.” 

“There’s one song, “We All Stand Alone Together’, which I wrote in my house in Wexford sitting alone, looking down the lane, and thinking about the beauty of people caring for their older neighbours,” he says. “‘Song Of Liberty’ has a video by two of our friends from Ukraine, a very powerful animated video. That also gives hope. It’s their piece of art, telling their story through our song.”

The new and the old, though, combine in modern day Flogging Molly. “We might actually be going back to playing Molly Malones, around the time the album’s out,” King laughs. “We might even film it and get it out there. These last few shows have been really positive, especially Europe. There’s a wonderful atmosphere at gigs and festivals.”

“The guestlist in Dublin is always pretty big,” he continues. “The last show we did in Dublin was the last gig and the best gig of the tour. It was electric. I still get really nervous and have to do everything in a routine before I go on stage. It takes a couple of songs, before that I’m useless.”

“We’ve been very lucky to be doing what we’re doing,” he concludes. “We’ve had some great results, like two top ten albums in the US charts. Our gigs are great. We’re lucky and honoured to be doing it. It’s great to be back.”

Immigrant Song: Flogging Molly Fly the Flag…

“This is my natural home,” Dave King of Flogging Molly tells us as he sits in his Wexford living room telling us tales of international Irish punk over the phone. “I wish you could see where I’m sitting. It’s beautifully, so quiet, so soulfully Irish.”

King’s tale is a familiar one to our shores. He left his native Dublin as a late teenager, in search of something bigger, and a chance of success. He was drawn to LA, and found himself a regular in a bar called Molly Malones. There, he performed, met his wife Bridget, and eventually encountered the rest of his future bandmates. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, King – at the time a rock vocalist with a band called Fastway – became the frontman of cult Celtic punk band Flogging Molly.

Flogging Molly’s music is a distinct fusion of Irish trad and embittered punk, as well as of the political and personal. One of the band’s biggest hits ‘What’s Left of the Flag’, for example, superficially seems to be about raising the tattered relic of a country high and proud, but is actually a tribute to King’s late father.

Latest album ‘Life Is Good’ – at first glance a deeply sarcastic reference to the bitterness within – is actually a tribute to his mother. After what King describes as “a hard life,” she turned to him on her deathbed and asked him to live his to his full, as she had. He’d always seen her as struggling, but she felt differently.

“I lived in LA for 16 years and it’ll always be the band’s home,” King explains. “Things are different today. I’ve been back in Wexford for 13 or 14 years with Bridget, though we live some of the year in Detroit, too.”

“We spend a lot of our lives on the road. You have to, that’s our bread and butter as a band. We’re just back from South America, and we were in the same airport three times in 30 hours. It gets a bit mad after a while, but we still have loads of ideas. I was on my phone yesterday, looking at notes from last year. When I’m touring, I write them down and then shut them off. I just add sayings to my phone and leave it at that.”

Review: Flogging Molly @ Olympia Theatre, Dublin

DAVE KING doesn’t care what you think, and it might just be the best thing about him.

His band, well-travelled Celtic punks Flogging Molly, sit halfway between a session and a riot; a chaotic, unapologetic, ramshackle fusion of Irish trad and punk rock angst.

Based out of California (and largely made up of Americans) – but led by King, who was raised in long-fallen Dublin 4 tenement Beggar’s Bush – Flogging Molly have made a career out of morphing trad stylings into songs about drink and national pride, love and hopelessness. Dublin is a spiritual home, a loose party at the end of a summer-long European tour.

King’s trademark is a husky, snarling yet somehow warm voice, a quick turn of phrase and cutting lyrics. Fuelled by on-stage cans of Guinness, he wiggles with his guitar, gurning between vocals and throwing playful but pointed jabs, like the dedication of ‘Selfish Man’ to his brother, and a quip about so many of his mates coming down that nobody’s actually paid to be in a packed Olympia.

The highs are in the raucous choruses; ‘What’s Left of the Flag’ is a glorious embittered ode to Irish identity, flowing into a manic ‘Rebels of the Sacred Heart’ and melodic slowed-down celebration of the booze, ‘Drunken Lullabies’.