If you know anything about the American Celtic punk scene, the odds are you’ve heard of Dropkick Murphys. A veritable standard in the scene, the Murphys are in their seventeenth year, have recently released their eight album Signed and Sealed in Blood, and show no sign of slowing down. Based in Boston, the band has taken their joyfully rowdy brand of barroom punk all over the world, especially enjoying their gigs in Paris, Germany, and Chicago. But as lead singer Al Barr told me when we spoke over the phone recently, “It’s always nice to play home… or to play a place that you can try and get back home [the same night].” Since the band is known for their amazingly relentless touring, no one can blame them for occasionally wanting to play close to home. In fact, looking at the amount they’ve toured in the past couple years, it’s remarkable they even had time to think about recording a new album. “It’s different every time we make a new album, usually one person has lyrics or a melody and someone else attaches themselves to it or someone comes with a whole piece and we build around it.”
Signed and Sealed in Blood is not really a drastic departure from its predecessors but in a world where an unfortunate number of rock bands are jumping on the synthesized, auto-tuned pop bandwagon to some degree or another, that kind of consistency can be a hard to find comfort. “You will always know what to expect with a Dropkick Murphys album,” Barr reassured me, “Basically if it ain’t broken don’t fix it…but the challenge is usually to us first, does it float our boat? Do we enjoy making [the music]? Then we take it from there.” That’s not to say that the band’s music is exactly the same as it was in 1996, nowadays they have moved from straight punk and embraced the influences of the Celtic heritage they had grown up with and the interesting array of instruments that allows them to reinvent traditional sounds and tunes into an authentic yet distinctive style of music. Because of that there have been numerous line-up changes, including the band expanding four to seven members, so that they could recreate the sounds that they had experimented with on their records. “We felt cheap if we couldn’t recreate our music live, so we just kept recruiting until we could.” And as the band has evolved and time has gone on, the members themselves have grown together, working together more as people, blending their ideas and various musical influences together and working more as a unit than as band of separate entities.
So how does one go about coordinating seven people much less keeping such a large band together through all that touring? Well, as anyone who has ever tried to orchestrate anything with seven people will tell you, it’s a mess. But when we’re talking about touring with a band that big, you have to have great people working for you who can work out all the logistics, and as for keeping everyone together, Barr will be quick to tell you that there’s no recipe but that “you’ve got to get to a place in your career with balance, [you need great] friendships, work ethic, and an ability to tour. It’s a challenge but we’re like a big family. You’ve just got to try and respect everyone’s faith.”
Dropkick Murphys will be playing Freeborn Hall at U.C. Davis on April 14th at 8 p.m. We will see you there.
Photo compliments of Kerry Brett