When I think of punk rock, a few bands come to mind. One in particular, hailing out of Boston, always knows how to get the energy flowing. If you haven’t heard of Dropkick Murphys, you are either living under a rock or need to get your ears drained. Naturally, many of you associate them with St. Patrick’s Day, which of course I do as well. On the contrary, if you’ve seen them live, they are a band for all 12 months of the year. Performing one of the most energetic, pleasurable live sets I have ever seen, they are embarking on their 20-year anniversary tour. It’s crazy to imagine they have been an active band for this long, but amazing to think they are getting the recognition they totally deserve.
I recently had the chance to chat with Matt Kelly, drummer of Dropkick Murphys, and we chatted about their tour, fans, music, and so much more. Check it out below!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. I can honestly say that you guys are one of the best live bands I have ever seen. It must be crazy to think you are on your 20-year anniversary tour. What a milestone, congratulations!
My pleasure, Maria. Thanks, that means a lot! Yeah, it certainly doesn’t seem like 20 years to me!
I imagine you guys have played almost everywhere, are there any venues on this tour you are looking forward to hitting the most?
Oh man, that’s tough. Some venues, like Stubb’s in Austin, for instance, I’m looking forward to because we get all-you-can-eat barbecue (drool, drool…). But some, like The Tabernacle in Atlanta or the Aragon in Chicago, are just beautiful old venues with a lot of history about the places. Other places are in great neighborhoods that might have a good record shop, bookstore, coffee shop, bar, grocery store, cool historical sites, whatever! There’s usually something interesting around venues if you look hard enough.
Over the past 20 years I am sure you have made some incredible memories. Are there any specific moments that hit your heart the most?
Well, there are two: one face-melting but selfish and one just mind-blowingly humbling and awe-inspiring. The first was getting to share the stage with the legendary Australian rock band Rose Tattoo in Sydney, Australia. That was and still is a highlight of my musical career as a fan. They just commanded the stage and played their streetwise outlaw rock and roll with aplomb. Among my top five gigs ever… the BEST.
Second, although under unfortunate circumstances, was the support shown to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing by our fans. We made a special t-shirt to raise funds for the victims through our charity, the Claddagh Fund [claddaghfund.org], and our fans bought over $300,000 worth of the shirts in a matter of days, with all proceeds going to the 60 victims and/or their families. That just blew our minds that people could be so generous; it’s a testament to the goodwill of humanity that often gets overshadowed by the scumminess of the few.
Wow, those are both amazing! On the contrary, it seems as if you guys have accomplished basically everything a band in your genre could ever imagine! Do you have a bucket list of things you have yet to do?
Play with AC/DC, play with AC/DC, play with AC/DC!
Haha, ironically enough, that is on my bucket list as well. We are the same! Being an avid listener, I feel a lot of your songs were written to be heard in a live setting. What I mean by this is, the crowd is such an important element to the songs. Would you agree with that, or is that more of just a fan perspective?
I, and the rest of the band, agree 100%. The live setting is THE way to experience the band— and I’m not talking YouTube… I’m talking about being there and singing your hearts out and enjoying yourself in the moment. We’re always firing both barrels, but when a crowd responds with that kind of energy it gets taken to ecstatic heights. It’s like doing good deeds: it’s a reward unto itself. The songs have always been written with crowd participation in mind, from day one!
This may be hard to answer, but what has changed the most in the industry since you first started out as a group?
Everything. Although we’ve always approached what we do as “play the best, most exciting live show you can every night and be loyal to your supporters,” that’s what every other group outside country and R&B has had to come to grips with these days to stay afloat. When we started out, the industry worked like this: bands were taking tour support—monetary help—from labels, who were throwing money at the groups anyways only to be recouped through album sales, and touring to promote and ultimately sell albums. This was what bands had done for the past 30 or so years.
Now, since album sales have all but dried up, the only way these bands can maintain is by a lucky viral video on some social media site, and actually getting out there and touring. There are many, many other factors to it, but that is what I’ve noticed in particular. The music industry as we knew it has turned onto its head…
When playing live shows, I have always noticed that your fan base is forever changing. I mean, they have grown with you over the past 20 years, but there are always fresh young faces in the crowd, too. That has to be a cool feeling!
Yeah, although you do see some of the same people coming to the gigs 20 years later —which is amazing in and of itself—we also see their kids and sometimes even grandkids coming! In addition to that, it really is amazing to have maintained an actual musical relevance with younger people. I hope it’s because they sense the honesty in what we do, and enjoy our little beat combo.
With so many cool things happening for Dropkick Murphys right now, can I ask if there is new music on the horizon?
Yeah, we’ll be playing three or four new songs on the road this trip, and we’ll be recording for a new album in April and May. So keep your eyes peeled for a new album in the coming year!
That makes me very happy! You guys have toured and played with so many amazing bands. Who are some artists that you are into right now?
We have, and we’ve been lucky to have, made friends with a lot of really good people in those bands over the years. As far as what I’m listening to, jeez… Let’s see. On the turntable, CD player, and the iPod it’s been a mix of Mott The Hoople Live (30th Anniversary Edition), The Boston Strangler Fire LP, Iron Maiden Beast Over Hammersmith CD, Skinfull Good Intentions… Bad Ideas LP, Live By The Sword L.B.T.S. 7″, Magic Circle Journey Blind LP, AC/DC Powerage LP, East End Badoes Hard Hits For Herberts 7” and Forever Proud LP, The Ruts The Crack LP, Dr. Feelgood Down By The Jetty LP… oh man, that’s just the last few days. I’ll not bore you with any more of my musical B.S.!
Thanks for that, now I have some new music on my radar! After the tour ends, what can we fans expect? At some point, you guys deserve a break!
Break?! Nahhh! Until now we actually hadn’t toured since August so we’re ready to go! After this tour we’ll continue writing and working on a new album to be released before next spring. After that, we’re going to Europe in June for festivals and some of our own gigs. I’m really looking forward to seeing friends and familiar places as well as hitting some new places we’ve never been to before.
You can catch Dropkick Murphys on their 20th anniversary tour at Webster Hall in NYC on March 9 and 10, and the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on March 13. Keep an eye out for new music and many more things to come! For more information, go to dropkickmurphys.com.