Formed 16 years ago by frontman Dave King, a former heavy metal singer who wanted to simultaneously embrace his Irish heritage and still cling to his heavy metal roots, Flogging Molly started playing Irish punk rock before it was popular to play Irish punk rock. It brings its annual Green 17 Tour to town this week and accordion player Matt Hensley phoned in from his San Diego home to talk about the tour and the band's influences.Nine years ago you started a tour that builds up to St. Patty's Day. How has the tour evolved over the years?
We just started it because of the type of music we play. St. Patty's Day gigs for us are like Christmas gigs for Santa Claus. We started touring around that time. Our manager wanted us to really do it for real and advertise it as something cool. We try to get bands we want to break and help. Early on, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones helped us by taking us out, so we're trying to do the same thing.
You don't get tired of dealing with the drunks?
I don't. We were doing that before we were even a band. We've been a band for 16 years now, so if none of us liked it, we would have gotten out of it a long time ago. [Singer] Dave [King] will tell you that every day is St. Patty's Day when you're playing in Flogging Molly and he's not that far off.
Does Dave King still tell stories from his metal days?
Yeah. Absolutely. He told me a story about playing with AC/DC and he was trying to lasso the microphone. He was trying to do something like Roger Daltrey used to do, spinning the microphone like a badass rock 'n' roll dude. He didn't tell the roadie to tape the mic. The mic wasn't taped and it fell off and flew into the crowd and all of sudden he hit someone in the head with the mic and he had no mic. He was dancing around trying to figure out what to do.
So how does his metal background inform what you do now?
He's a wiser man for going through that. When we started Flogging Molly, he said he didn't want to be in a typical rock band. He's been ripped off by a million people. He's looking for a down-to-earth family and to do it for real. That's been his ethos from the get-go. People tell us we need to write a radio hit. It would be great, but Dave is not looking for it, the band is not looking for it. I would celebrate but we're not going after that. In old rock n' roll days, you were trying to write that hit. We're certainly trying to write beautiful songs but we want to make sure the fans are happy and we're happy with what we're doing. We're just a good-time drinking band.
What were the early days like when you had a standing residency at an L.A. bar?
It was at Molly Malones and that's where it all started and that's where we all met Dave King. That's when we started grooving. We would sell that club out and people would go crazy. It was through all that that we realized we could do this even though people in the music industry said we were just a glorified pub band. We were like, "Fuck you." We come from that but every great band that everyone has ever heard of in the history of the world starts at the bar. The Beatles and fuckin' Stones started in pubs. I'm never ashamed of that. Of course we started in an Irish bar. Where else would we start?
Are you a big fan of The Pogues?
I'm a huge fan of The Pogues. I don't think I would have fallen in love with my instrument if it weren't for them. I spent many a bleary night listening to The Pogues. You can cover any Pogues song and you're covering an inspired piece of genius. It's hard to go wrong there. I'm constantly doing Pogues covers when I sit in with bands at small clubs.
What other music do you regularly listen to?
I seem to go in spurts. I can never really lock it all down. I like old reggae from the '60s, which has always been big for me. Eighties ska music and Two-Tone stuff. Bad Manners are always on quick play for me. As an accordion player, I love Flaco Jimenez and the Texas Tornadoes. I like a lot of world music. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Colin Haye solo stuff. He even covers some of the Men at Work stuff and he's a genius.
Float seemed like a real turning point for the band. What was the key reason why that album became such a critical and commercial success?
The song "Float" had some radio legs. People who had never heard of Flogging Molly heard that record and became fans. I'm too close to it to be objective. I listen to all of our albums and I have a special place in my heart for all of them.
The band's been going strong for 16 years now. What's the key to keeping it together?
It's crazy. When we got together, we were serious. It wasn't some half-ass joke. They weren't going to take no for an answer. Now that we're doing it, what else are we going to do? We are like a crazy, drunken alcoholic family that travels and plays music for people. That's a great thing to be a part of. We put smiles on people's faces and I can't think of anything else I want to do. I am going to keep on truckin' as long as we can do this.