The Dropkick Murphys may need no introduction. For 16 years now, they've been thrashing out their Celtic punk sound, solidifying their status as Boston legends in their own right.
Deemed Fenway Park's unofficial house band, the Murphys are now headlining their own St. Patty's Day tour, putting on a two-day festival in Boston, and making stops in Australia and at Coachella. They've also reaped critical praise for recent release Signed and Sealed In Blood, the band's eighth album to date.
Ken Casey, Dropkick's badass bass player and part-time vocalist, was kind enough to shoot the shit with Rocks Off in anticipation of their Houston show, schooling us on everything from laryngitis to the meaning of "Massholes," and why it's impossible to be a cool parent.
Since 16 years with the Dropkick Murphys has got to be the equivalent of a thousand years of normal-folk knowledge, I've compiled some of the more important lessons from Ken's thoughts in this little piece that I like to call "Lessons from a Dropkick Murphy."
See below for enlightenment, suckers.
Lesson No. 1: Laryngitis is no excuse for a sucky Houston show.
Lost my voice a little bit, but we'll be good to play Houston. Dallas and Austin might suck, but Houston will be great.
Lesson No. 2: Eight may be Dropkick's magic album number.
Eight albums, yeah... if we haven't figured it out by now, I guess we'll never figure it out. We try to learn from all of the experiences, and sometimes it feels like we kind of just got things right in terms of making an album, so...
I guess you don't want to keep repeating the same thing, and with our last album the writing was so complicated and it was about keeping all the stories together, and this album was so fun and spontaneous.
I think that's why we turned it out so quickly. You can kind of tell we're having fun, you know what I mean? It comes across in the recording.
Lesson No. 3: Tattooing your favorite band on your arm (or back, or chest...) isn't always something you'll need lasered off in three years. (On having fans tattoo the Signed and Sealed in Blood album art on themselves for their video for "Rose Tattoo")
I mean, as a guy myself who has his favorite band tattooed on his forearm, I know the kind of dedication it takes to have something like that tattooed on your body. Over the years, I've seen thousands of people with tattoos of bands.
Talk is cheap, but when people do something like that, it's just very inspirational, so we kind of wanted to try to document it, you know?
Lesson No. 4: Be nice to sopranos, you growling altos...they add excitement to the mix.
We usually just go into the practice space and try things every which way they might possibly work. I'm the higher-toned voice and some songs sound better when Al's singing 'em [vocalist Barr]; some sound better when I'm singing 'em; it all depends on the nature of the song.
We do a lot of it together at the same time; when it works it sounds like one voice, and that's the best of both qualities, you know? You've got the higher, a little excitement, plus the fullness of his voice, so it works.
We're pretty chill with whatever we're doing, whether it's songwriting or singing or whatever. We always know that we've got songs to sing, and we've got songs to write, so we pass 'em off. It's like, "You want this song? You want this song?" Sometimes people are trying to get rid of the songs instead of claim 'em. It's kind of funny.
Lesson No. 5: Coordinating the travel plans of seven people and a bunch of gear isn't as easy as it seems.
There's two great markets we've not been to, South America and Southeast Asia. It's where we've really been wanting to go, and it's really been difficult to coordinate with the seven people and the gear.
You know, all the instruments and everything; people will say, "Well, if you can't all come, can't five of you and your guitars come? Just bring one roadie and a guitar? Forget the banjos?"
And it's like, what? We're trying to find ways to make things work; we have huge goals for us and we're always trying to get to places we haven't been to. We're very keen on going to places we've never been, so if we can make it...
Lesson No. 6: No, your kids will not think you're any cooler if that mid-life crisis garage band you started takes off.
We tour now more than ever, but that's the nature of the business. You invest so much time, and your family is obviously the most important, but you know these are the exchanges and it's great to have a job, but we definitely don't like to be away from our families that often.
You gotta provide, and we'd like to keep tours to like three weeks and be able to come home for a couple of weeks, but we've got a great new album so we have to get out there and promote it.
There's definitely been a change; they used to come out and visit, but the kids are older and in school and stuff and they've got their friends. No matter how cool your job is, your kids think you're a loser no matter what.
Lesson No. 7: "Massholes" is indeed a valid term.
Texans -- they're so nice, but I don't know about the accent. I could see that getting annoying if I had to hear it for a long time. I like it there, though. Maybe it'd be different if I wasn't always in the big cities; if I had to rope cattle or something, it might be worse.
We're known as Massholes up from where we're from, and we're hard to understand, I hear, so what do I know about accents, anyway.
See? Told ya you'd learn somethin', didn't I?
Dropkick Murphys play House of Blues with Old Man Markley and Revilers tonight at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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