By GWEN OREL
While St. Patrick’s Day is still a few weeks away, in the Irish world, “the season,” as they say, is here. Ushering it in to Montclair is Flogging Molly, a Celtic-punk band that has been on the scene for more than 20 years. They play the Wellmont on Thursday, Feb. 28. Led by Dave King, of Dublin, now resident with wife Bridget Regan (who is in the band) in Detroit and Wexford, Ireland, Flogging Molly’s music is influenced by The Pogues, The Dubliners, The Clash — and Johnny Cash.
Their songs touch on Irish themes of immigration, references to the Catholic Church, patriotism, and Irish history including the Celtic Tiger and bust. A few songs, such as “The Hand of John L. Sullivan,” about a 19th Century Boston boxer, look back at Irish American history. This tour supports the band’s most recent album, 2017’s “Life Is Good,” the band’s sixth studio album. “Life Is Good” was recorded in Ireland, and produced by Grammy Award-winner Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Beck). The seven piece band includes Dave King (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bodhran), Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle), Dennis Casey (acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Bob Schmidt (banjo, mandolin), Matt Hensley (accordion, piano, concertina), Nathen Maxwell (bass guitar), Mike Alonso (drums, percussion).
How did you get started in music?
My parents, when I was a young child, they were musical. Every Saturday night they would go to the pub, and bring back half the pub with them. My mother was a fine piano player. We had one in the house, although we only had one room and a kitchen. I was always encouraged to be part of that, and sing a song. They got me a guitar when I was 7 or 8. They wanted me to always enjoy myself. I’ve been trying to bring that party atmosphere to wherever we go.
I heard everything: the Dubliners, a lot of late ’50s music, Nat King Cole, Johnny Cash, all sorts of things.
What’s different about Irish punk? Is there something different about it?
I think it stems from a period in time where that’s all the irish really had, to be able to play music in their homes. Everything was taken away, but they couldn’t take away our music. It has that spirit in it. The songs may sound very downtrodden, but if you listen to the lyrics, there’s always that change, that sarcastic humor. There’s an atmosphere that cuts above what people were going through at the time. The Dubliners, the Pogues carried on that torch. I would love to think I’m part of that.
To me Irish music is always punk music whether it’s the Clancy brothers or the Dubliners, Bothy band or Planxty.
It’s soul music. It’s an attitude. It’s hardcore. They don’t give a damn what anybody’s thinking of them.
You’ve been around a while. How have you changed, and what keeps you going?
Me and bridget met almost 26 years ago. It’s been a very organic experience. We met in a little pub in L.A. called Molly Malone’s, which is where we got our name from. We used to play at Molly Malone’s every Monday night. We felt like we were flogging it to death.
Our first venture was five shows on West Coast, that was a tour for us, L.A. to Seattle. Now, we’ve already done five weeks in Europe, then four weeks in the states, then a week off, then New Zealand, Japan, Austria. We’re booked up to the end of the year.
It’s the audiences that keep us going.
Being on tour is a very mundane life. It’s very regimented. You wake up, have a cup of tea, go to do sound check, have a shower.
When gig comes along, the show itself, there’s always something different that keeps the spark still there.
It changes every night.
People love having a good time and celebrating as much as they can in this kind of climate that we live in. The only reason we tour is to play in front of people.
Is “Life Is Good” different from your earlier work?
I think it’s a growth. We develop on every album. I think it’s important for a band to keep that spirit going. You have to challenge yourself as musicians and songwriters. The title track, “Life Is Good,” we’ve started to play that on this American tour, and it’s going down really well.
It’s a big more, maybe melodic. It’s about my mother who passed away a couple of years ago. We’re all human beings, all lost someone near and dear to us over lifetimes. Lyrically, there has to be life and passion.