INTERVIEW: Dropkick Murphys (13/12/2016)

At this stage, Dropkick Murphys need no introduction. The Boston band have found success in every corner of the globe with their unique brand of celtic punk, and are preparing to release their 9th record ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ at the beginning of 2017. Drummer Matt Kelly spared some time to talk to us about the new record, how it fits in with the work of the band’s charity The Claddagh Fund and what plans Dropkick Murphys have in 2017.

DP!: Hey guys! ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ is out in January and stands as the 9th Dropkick Murphys record. How do you manage to maintain a creative mindset to write new songs year upon year? Does the storytelling within the songs allow the records to stay topical?
Matt Kelly: When you enjoy what you do, which we do, it’s likely a lot easier to stay creative than if you’re unhappy with your job! Also, with six songwriters in the band, there’re always ideas being tossed around. Not everybody is actively creative at once, but when that DOES happen, of course it’s great.
Storytelling is paramount in our songwriting. You’ll notice most of our songs are some sort of narrative. As far as being topical, sometimes songs tell a story and can be topical. The two can sometimes be exclusive of each other, as in ‘Barroom Hero’ and ‘4/15/13’. The former tells a story, and the latter is topical. It really depends on the song whether the two things come together.

DP!: The band’s work with charity The Claddagh Fund paved the way for ‘Rebels With A Cause’ and ‘Paying My Way’ which look at children that have been given up on and the way out of addiction, respectively. How important is it for Dropkick Murphys to write about real world issues?
Matt: Those issues hit close to home in various degrees for the members of this band, and the opioid crisis in New England is around every corner, everywhere you look.
As much as we like to write funny, nonsensical stuff like ‘First Class Loser’, ‘Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced’, and what have you, there is a serious side to the band and we also have often written about real-world issues, people, and places. Coming to our gigs is for the most part escapism, but some things just need to be addressed. We don’t like soapboxing, so we try to live by example, and a big way to do that is through The Claddagh Fund.

DP!: Is it songs with this honesty and authenticity that fuels the punk genre and enables it to still thrive in 2016?
Matt: The way I look at it, you can’t unring a bell. When punk music really got going in the lat ’70s, social commentary started creeping into lyrics, and became a raison d’être for a lot of bands. That (sometimes annoying) ideologically-driven lyrical content will most likely never go away. There are always young kids coming up, whether misguided or not, with big hearts who want to have their say and/or address the wrongs of society. I think that the generation gap and disenchantment of youth are here to stay, so you’ll always have a need for the outlet that is Punk Rock.

DP!: ‘4/15/13’ covers the tragic events of the Boston Marathon bombing – As music ambassadors for Boston, how important was it to pay homage to the people that lost their lives that day? How do actions like writing a song benefit the community of a city after an incident like this?
Matt: It was the worst tragedy to happen in Boston since God-knows-when. The band wanted to write a song about it, but where to start? We wanted to express our sorrow, empathy, sympathy, and outrage, but it’s such a touchy subject. The last thing we wanted to do was write something coarse which USED people’s sense of loss, outrage, and what have you…
If anything, the actual writing and recording of the song was an exercise in healing and understanding for us. You obviously have to address your feelings towards the subject when you’re writing the lyrics… and the music along with it needs to express the mood of the obviously weighty subject.
Without trying to come off as too deep or as self-serving, I hope that upon listening to the song, people will sense the gravitas, seriousness, and sorrow that we’re trying to express.

DP!: Do you think the pride and loyalty you guys show to Boston resonates with people around the world for their own town or city?
Matt: Being proud of where you come from is a “local patriotism” which stems from love of your family, branching out to your neighbourhood, your friends, and yes your city.
I could only hope that our example of town pride resonates with others in their respective cities or towns.

DP!: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is a huge anthem for some football teams in the UK and your cover of the Carousel track appears on ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ – what made you pick the song to cover?
Matt: Our reason for doing a rendition of that song is tied in with the lyrical themes of ‘Rebels With A Cause’ and ‘Paying My Way’: it’s a reminder to people going through the living Hell of drug and alcohol addiction that you DON’T have to do it alone. There are millions just like you who have gone through it and succeeded, and no matter how many time you may fall, you can get back up and there’s always somebody to give you ten fingers on your way to redemption.

DP!: They play ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ at the local Ice Hockey home matches – where’s the craziest place you’ve heard a Dropkick Murphys track?
Matt: I’ve heard it at rival NHL teams’ home games… which confuses the hell out of me!!! However, the craziest place I’ve heard that song was ON THE BEACH! Some years ago, my wife and I were walking along the Sugar Bowl/Pleasure Bay in South Boston and we saw some goofball trying to impress a couple cuties in bikinis with his acoustic guitar. As we got closer, we both realised that the guy was singing ‘Shipping’! My wife cracked up; I was mortified.

DP!: A long EU tour awaits after the release of the record with a sole UK date at Brixton Academy, what is the rest of the year looking like for the band? Will we see you at the European Summer festivals?
Matt: Well, after the European tour, we’ll be heading back to the States to tour up to the week of St. Paddy’s Day. That week will be a bunch of gigs in Boston. After that we’ll be heading into the studio again to record the rest of the songs for a NEW album, and then to Europe for summer festivals. After THAT, we have a big co-headlining U.S. tour with some good friends of ours… watch this spot!
When we’re done with THAT, you might be seeing more of us on Old Blighty. “Stay tuned, sport fans!”

Dropkick Murphys play Brixton Academy on January 27th and you can read up about their charity ‘The Claddagh Fund’ here.

’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ is out through Born & Bred Records on January 6th, and you can pre-order it up on iTunes on the official Dropkick Murphys merchandise store (here).
You can keep up to date with the band online by following them on Facebook (here) and Twitter (here).

Interview by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)