Southie, Southie, Southie. Every time you read a story about Dropkick Murphys, the first thing anyone talks about is the band’s Irish South Boston roots. While it’s true that the group formed in Boston, that many of its members are at least part American Irish and that it practices in Southie, lead singer Al Barr wants to clear something up: “[With the band’s back story], it’s become this overblown, over-romanticized Good Will Hunting sort of thing.”
As it turns out, the members of this seven-piece band — formed in 1996 by bassist Ken Casey, original singer Mike McColgan and original guitarist Rick Barton — are from all over New England. And some, the Scotsdescended Barr for example, aren’t even Irish.
Still, the connection is there in the music: The screaming would-be bastard children of Celtic punkers the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys draw heavily from the sounds and instrumentation of Irish folk music (implementing bodhran, tin whistle and bouzouki, to name a few).
Of course, their roiling, rowdy take is anything but traditional. It’s souped up by some muscular sledgehammer-punk predilections and what seems like an entire cask of Jameson whiskey. Seeing Dropkick Murphys live, Barr says, “is like a rock band and a folk band having a giant bus accident onstage. It’s a bit of craziness meets camaraderie meets a lot of boozin’ meets a lot of fun. … Everybody kind of leaves their problems at the door, and comes in and has a good time.”
To the band’s credit, from the beginning, it’s attracted the attention of its influences. Lars
Frederiksen — of legendary punk revivalists Rancid — produced Dropkick Murphys’ first two albums, and by their third, Mob Mentality, they managed to get Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan to contribute backing vocals. Though their first encounter with the notoriously wasted MacGowan wasn’t exactly what they’d envisioned.
“We were all fans of Shane’s,” Barr says, “but things went so badly that Kenny actually threatened to knock the rest of his rotten teeth out of his mouth.” Barr laughs at the recollection. “Much to people’s surprise… Shane’s not the nicest guy in the world, but we did end up getting him to sing on the record. We gave him the call, ‘You’re in Boston, and we’re doing this record — would you sing on it?’ And we got him in a good mood ’cause he was like, ‘You bring the booze and I’ll be there.’” But MacGowan’s Pogues bandmate, Spider Stacy — who appears on the Dropkicks’ most recent album, 2007’s The Meanest of Times — was a totally different animal. In 2005, Dropkick Murphys did a Christmas tour of England and Ireland with the Pogues, and Stacy was side-stage every night watching them play. “He was so supportive,” Barr says. “He’s a man among men. Really, I’d say he’s a friend of ours. Every time we’re in London he comes out. So [for Meanest of Times], it was like, ‘Let’s actually get someone we like from the Pogues on the record!” After two years, including a long break this past summer to spend time with their families, Dropkick Murphys are about to begin working on a new studio album. In the meantime, fans will be tided over by the sequel to the band’s powerhouse 2002 set, Live on St. Patrick’s Day from Boston, MA. These St. Paddy’s
shows have been an annual tradition for the city and the band going on
10 years, and last March’s performance will soon be released as a live
album. “The band has changed so much,” Barr says. “We’ve put out
several records since [that first live one], and it’s time for part
Dropkick Murphys play with the Flatliners and the Insurgence at the Knitting Factory on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 8 pm. Tickets: $22; $25, at the door. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.