Flogging Molly's Dave King talks history, songwriting and the Tempe show | Phoenix New Times


Why Irish rockers Flogging Molly are all about the live concert experience

The Irish music legends will play at Marquee Theatre this week.
Flogging Molly are coming up on 25 years of Irish music.
Flogging Molly are coming up on 25 years of Irish music. Katie Hovland
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Over the past quarter-century, Irish punk band Flogging Molly have built their reputation on their 1,000-plus raucous, balls-to-the-wall performances in the U.S. and across the globe. Every show is like St. Patrick's Day, and lead singer and band founder Dave King would have it no other way.

The band fully went back on the road after COVID-19 in fall 2021, and King says the difference was palpable.

“When we first started back, you could see the people really didn’t know what to do,” he says. “You could feel the tension in the crowd. We didn’t know what to do: ‘Can we mosh pit, is it OK to dance, is it OK to sing?’”

It'll be OK to do all of that when Flogging Molly stops at Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Sept. 6.

King and the rest of the seven-member group (King's wife, fiddler Bridget Regan; bassist Nathen Maxwell; accordion player Matt Hensley; guitarist Dennis Casey; Spencer Swain on mandolin, banjo and guitar; and drummer Mike Alonso) have made an indelible and inimitable stamp on popular music through their catalog of eight LPs, from 2000 debut hit album "Swagger" up to last year’s "Anthem," their first on the Rise label.

Most recently, the band delivered an EP in March that includes one new track, “Til' the Anarchy’s Restored” (also the name of the album). Like many of their past numbers, the song has a somber, yet resilient feel and tone.

The songs on "Anthem" came together in a post-COVID frenzy, King says, because the band were eager to put the pandemic behind them and get back to business quickly.

“I was getting really frustrated, 'cause I thought we’d be back on the road after six months, maybe naively,” King says. “So, I started writing again, and noticed that the songs were coming together really quickly. So, when we started rehearsing, things were flying around; I mean we were doing a song a day.”

One of the aces in the hole for the band was the opportunity to reunite with legendary producer Steve Albini, who had last worked with the band on "Swagger" and "Drunken Lullabies" two decades earlier.

“The process itself was no bullshit; it was plug in, get in your position and then let’s go. And Steve is epic at recording that. There was absolutely no other way we were going to do it," King says.

"Anthem" has 11 solid numbers, each crafted in a feverishly paced 14 days yet still tight, well-written and what fans expect.

“It definitely has some piss and vinegar in it,” King says proudly. “Being apart for so long, we didn’t want to meander around and spend hours and days going through songs. It was a song a day. It was like back in the beginning almost.”

"Anthem" is cut from the same mold as all Flogging Molly albums. The opening salvo is “These Times Have Got Me Drinking” and other tracks are standard Flogging Molly-style irrepressible numbers, such as "Life Begins and Ends (But Never Fails)" with bodhran beats, “(Try) Keep the Man Down" and “Lead the Way.”

One of the more retrospective songs is the history-based “A Song of Liberty," which pays tribute to seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic who were executed for free Ireland from British rule.

"What those men, women and children [did] back in the early 20th century was responsible for our freedom, the real beginning of Ireland getting its own voice. I just wanted to sing about that,” King says. “You can see the enthusiasm at live shows in peoples’ faces.”

Another country heard from during the whole process of promoting "Anthem" came in the vein of video production creativity from longtime loyal Flogging Molly fans Olya and Vira Ishchuk, better known as the Mad Twins. The sisters, who come from war-torn Ukraine, created an awe-inspiring video for “A Song of Liberty.”

“We knew their work really, really well,” King says of the Mad Twins. “What they did for us was beautiful; the work they put into it, and they did it while they were being bombed in the Ukraine, it was just heartbreaking. They’re in America right now, and hopefully they get full-time residency here. I cried when I saw the video.”

Although Flogging Molly are synonymous with Irish music, "Anthem" made a surprising debut at No. 13 on Billboard's Americana/Folk chart (their first album to appear on that list). Still, albums are not where the band's heart is, King says.

“Albums are a pathway to our live shows,” King says.

King, who doesn’t take his band’s success, longevity and fame for granted, closes with this: “To be here after 25 years, we’re gobsmacked. It’s like we’re still doing this after all these years. To go on stage every night is like a celebration. Every crowd is completely different, and that’s what keeps you going.”

Flogging Molly. With The Bronx and Vandoliers. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8, Sept. 6. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. Cost is $39.50 plus fees for general admission and $67.50 plus fees for balcony access.
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