By Cory Olsen
Flogging Molly, formed in Los Angeles by native Irishman Dave King in the mid 1990s, took its name from an Irish pub called Molly Malone’s, where they spent their early days as the house band. Front man King, with his distinct Brogue and acoustic guitar, continued to add members to the band from a wide range of musical backgrounds. Many of the current band members are a diverse group of musicians King met at Molly Malone’s and asked to join the band, each member adding diversity and nuance to their complex sound. The current lineup is founder and vocalist / guitarist Dave King; King’s wife, Bridget Regan, on violin, tin whistle and vocals; Dennis Casey on guitar and vocals; Matt Hensley on accordion and concertina; Nathan Maxwell on bass and vocals; Spencer Swain on mandolin and banjo and Mike Alonso on drums.
As the band grew, so did their following. Known for their rigorous touring schedule, the band spends months on the road every year playing to packed venues of all sizes, performing at music festivals and headlining one of the most unique cruises imaginable.
Style of music
The band recently took the stage with their unique assortment of instruments at Huntington’s Paramount Theater. The result was raucous punk rock verve, blended seamlessly with Celtic melodies and a sea of undulating bodies, electrified by the energy that Flogging Molly brings to every show. The attendees ranged from school age kids to seniors, the result of having drawn fans with their eclectic sound and energy for approximately 25 years.
While many bands may fit neatly into a particular genre, a band as diverse as Flogging Molly can be more difficult to classify, but it is often referred to as Celtic punk. Longtime Flogging Molly guitarist and former Long Islander Dennis Casey put it this way: “It’s kind of hard to do in a tagline because we’re people with really diverse backgrounds and we bring all kinds of influences to it, but Dave King, being from Ireland, I would definitely say there is a Celtic element of the band for sure as well as the instrumentation. He writes a lot about Ireland. And so I would say that’s a pretty good summation of what we are”.
Spend some time listening to the bands seven studio albums, and the band’s range immediately becomes apparent. From the slower more acoustic folk songs such as “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” to the strident electrified “Seven Deadly Sins” to “Whats Left Of The Flag” where King’s mournful lyrics and solemn acoustic accompaniment are set ablaze with a strum of Caseys overdriven guitar, Flogging Molly maintains a continuous musical thread through a diverse palette of songs.
Spending a lot of time on the road is a large part of what Flogging Molly has been known for. Over the years they’ve been all over North America and Europe and have toured in Japan. Casey had this to say about touring in Japan: “I remember we played Japan and the first time we went there…It’s such a completely different vibe. And I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do that.” He added “playing that far (away) and then having people know your music it was just kind of mind boggling. It blew me away, wow, our music is resonating halfway around the world.”
For a group of musicians who spend so much of their lives traveling and interacting with large groups of people, the recent pandemic had an enormous impact on the band. Casey put it this way: “in the beginning, there is this chaos, like What the hell’s happening? We were on tour and we went into California and, we saw it coming and then, everything shut down and so there was this state of fear, and the unknown, everybody staying home and realizing I may never do this again. What I do for a living is very people oriented, people in large groups.” As a father of four Casey was also quick to point out the silver lining: being able to spend time with his family. “The pandemic was a blessing and a curse for our band, because in the more than 25 years that we’ve been doing this, we never got to spend a lot of time with our families, and this is just the way I looked at it. We all did. I got four kids. I was gone most of their lives, to be able to stay home that long was what’s so beautiful for me.”
In addition to the time spent with family, members of the band also extended a life line of sorts. King and Regan streamed songs from in front of the fireplace of their home in Ireland, and Casey posted a series of guitar lessons on the band’s YouTube channel. Whether they were aware of it or not, they provided a much welcomed continuity at a time of uncertainty for many fans of live music.
With the lockdowns and restrictions behind us, hopefully for good, one of the most unique aspects of their touring is back up and running. Salty Dog Cruises is a multi-day Caribbean cruise started by Flogging Molly nearly 10 years ago. The cruise features multiple bands, tattooing, a half pipe, even music lessons with Flogging Molly. Casey put it this way: “I was really skeptical in the beginning when the idea came up. I remember I got on the boat and the first two people I met were from Belgium and I was like …this could be pretty good. It’s just it’s a big party. There’s the vibe that people are just there to have a great time.” If there’s one down side to Salty Dog cruises, it’s that those considering booking a ticket don’t have much time to ponder the decision. The cruise usually sells out within weeks.
Flogging Molly’s latest album Anthem was released this past September. For more information, see www.floggingmolly.com.
Dennis Casey’s Fresh Tunes For Flogging Molly Fans
In recent conversation with Flogging Molly guitarist Dennis Casey, he was asked to recommend three bands that a fan would enjoy but that they might not have heard of. These were his recomendations:
Formed in London, and currently opening for Flogging Molly and Anti-Flag on their current tour. Their fast paced folk influenced tunes will have any packed barroom hoisting their beer and shouting along to every song.
This Dublin, Ireland band started in 2017. Their lyrics alone are well worth a glance, but coupled with their incredibly catchy post-punk style melodies, they will likely become a favorite of anyone who listens.
Hailing from Bristol, England, Idles are intense and driven. With their raw, often frenzied lyrics, propelled forward by breakneck rhythms, Idles are a force of nature. Amidst the chaos of each song, however, they manage to maintain a cadence that draws you along as only a great band can do.