After nearly a decade, Celtic folk punkers Flogging Molly have become a St. Paddy's Day staple in Tempe. The band's anthems -- "What's Left of the Flag," "Devil's Dance Floor," and "Salty Dog" -- pull double duty each year at Tempe Beach Park, serving both the energetic moshers and the waves of bros looking to pound rounds of Guinness and shout at each other.
"It's the best place to be doing that day in the country," says multi-instrumentalist Bob Schmidt on why Flogging Molly keeps coming back to Tempe (this year marks the band's ninth stop). "Just about everywhere else you go, it's freezing cold and nobody's going to congregate outside for more than five minutes."
We recently caught up with Schmidt to discuss Flogging Molly's annual St. Patrick's Day shows and how its most recent album,Speed of Darkness
, deals with social issues.
Up on the Sun: You guys are about to play in Tempe on St. Patrick's Day for the ninth year in a row. What keeps bringing you back?
Bob Schmidt:There's not a lot of places [in the country] you can play an outdoor show and cram in a bunch of people in the middle of March. It works out really well doing it in Phoenix because it's just a great outdoor party and everyone has a good time. You can bring a bunch of bands and have it go all night. The Town Lake is a beautiful area.
What else do you guys like to do when you're in town?
The university restaurant and bar area can keep you well occupied for a couple of days. We've got a couple guys who like golfing, so there's great golfing in the area. I've got bunch of friends at Fender, so I spend some time over there, and they've been in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas for a long, long time. Every once in a while, we'll do the hike up the hill there where the radio tower is and get a little exercise in. I always have my bike with me; I'll bike up and down the river path. Before the show, generally we're out in the bars and restaurants down the block for a couple hours in the late afternoon, just hanging out and seeing people and eating some food and drinking some booze.You started your own label to release Speed of Darkness. What was that experience like?
It's a fairly steep learning curve because there's a lot of stuff that you've got to keep your eye on. We were lucky to get a lot of good people involved with us that were able to keep their eyes on those things. You go into it knowing that you're pretty much basing your business on a model that's failing, so your expectations are fairly low. We don't go in there thinking we're going to make a million dollars or anything because nobody's selling records right now. It wasn't really a business venture to try to make more money than we would have with a major label; it was more about having the control of our output and owning it and having it be an asset to us rather than signing it away to somebody else just to pay for our album recording, which is essentially what you do in the label business.
Speed of Darkness' lyrical content is a bit more political than your previous works. The narrative focusing on Detroit is great; do you think you'll follow a similar approach for future albums?
The world is always changing, so I don't know. I always feel like it's more of a social album than a political album because we're not really talking about politics. We're talking about the way politics affect people's lives. That has always been very important to us, so I think that that aspect of it will always go forward.
That narrative with Detroit was so parallel with the narrative of what's happening in Dublin at the same time, but just on a much different scale and a much different scope. It happened much more quickly and kind of wildly in Dublin, and it's happened much more slowly and gradually in Detroit over the course of 60 or 70 years. Whereas in Ireland, it happened in four or five, but it was such a contrast between those two cities having essentially the same effect on people that it was intriguing and worth talking about.
The thing that shook us the most was that the reality of people's situations was not being portrayed in mainstream media. It was important for us to meet all these people that we know around the country and around the world and have them tell us their stories, and how disparate the scene they were painting was from the scene we were reading about in the papers and being told about in the news reports.
Everybody was touting this recovery and that the economy was on the rebound and that everything was looking up and blah, blah, blah. Yet, the people that we were talking to were losing their jobs, and their companies were closing, and their neighborhoods were falling apart, and people were having to move and losing their homes and all this other stuff, so it became really important to us to give these people -- who I believe were feeling extremely disenfranchised by America and the "American dream" -- a voice.
Flogging Molly is scheduled to perform Sunday, March 17, at Tempe Beach Park.
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